Domestic and stray cats should be referred to as ‘he’ and ‘she’ or ‘him’ and ‘her’ and not ‘it’

We should use the personal pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ or ‘him’ and ‘her’ when referring to cats when we don’t know their name rather than ‘it’.

Cat deserves respect

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

And if you don’t know the gender of the cat you are referring to you should write “he or she” or “she or he”. Alternatives are ‘he/she’ or ‘(s)he’. If you’re writing about a non-specific cat when, for example, describing cat behavior, you can take your pick between “he” or “she”. I tend to vary it. There is a habit in writers to refer to unspecified cats as ‘it’ or “he”.

However, in recognition of the equality of the sexes it is only fair to refer to an unspecified cat as “she” or “he” in equal numbers.

Examples: “I loved my cat. He made a fine companion.” “My neighbor had a cat. He or she was very feisty and I miss seeing him/her”.

It makes things far more personal to use the personal pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’. Although I agree that it can be clumsy. It adds status to the domestic and stray cat. When you use the pronoun “it” you create an object, almost an inanimate object. Too many people already do that when it comes to their treatment of domestic and stray cats.

It may be seen as being pedantic to insist on using a personal pronoun when referring to a cat. Also, it may also be seen as humanizing domestic and stray cats, which is not a great thing to do. However, it does bestow upon the cat a respect which they deserve. It does help in ensuring that domestic and stray cats are treated humanely and decently. There is a need to use all the tools at our disposal to improve animal welfare in general and cat welfare specifically.

Note: these are my personal views. I am not following anyone else’s ideas and neither am I complying with any conventions. I am just doing what I think it correct.

Dr Desmond Morris

It is interesting to note that the great Dr Desmond Morris who wrote perhaps the best book on domestic cat behavior ever, Catwatching, tended to use the pronoun “it” when referring to domestic cats.

I disagree with him but excuse him because it is an old fashioned way to refer to a cat. It indicates by the way that we have moved on in respect of our relationship with the domestic and stray cat.

Awareness of animal intelligence

Humans are gradually becoming more sensitive towards domestic cats and respect them more. There is an awakening to the intelligence and emotional capabilities of domestic and stray cats. They demand respect. They demand to be treated humanely; even the most unpleasant looking abandoned feral cat. In fact, we should respect such a cat more than any other because he or she is the most vulnerable, living the toughest of lives, therefore in need of our help more than any other.

Further, such a cat reminds us of our failings in allowing unwanted cats to be created. In penance for our failings we should respect the most vulnerable of stray and feral cats.

P.S. ‘Stray cat’ in this article refers to domestic strays and feral cats.

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5 thoughts on “Domestic and stray cats should be referred to as ‘he’ and ‘she’ or ‘him’ and ‘her’ and not ‘it’”

  1. Shows how much Wikipedia knows. 😉

    Growing up I was thought to speak proper English. Both of my grandmothers were school teachers. Even to this day, I still adhere to their traditional standards of speech.

    Traditionally when referring to someone of unknown gender, the proper pronoun was always masculine. Even today, it is still the proper way.

    (I know, all those feminists are going to rant over this one. Too bad! Get over it! 😋 I’m a woman who knows following tradition does not dehumanize or make me less of a woman.)

    • I used to use the masculine pronoun but in light of a huge push for female equality (it’s in the news all the time) I now give equal use to both male and female. And we are talking about cats not humans.

  2. I totally agree with you Michael. Every cat is a personality, a “he” or a “she.” Using the impersonal pronoun “it” devalues a sentient being in my opinion.

    I disagree with the English Grammar guide about using the word “it” to refer to animals, and also babies.😮

    I also disagree with Wikipedia’s “Gender in English” article, which condones using the word “it” for babies and animals. This article was even updated September 18, 2018.😲

    • The word ‘it’ for babies is inappropriate today. I find it absurd. Once again it is treating an ‘animal’ – the human animal in this case – in a derogatory way as far as I am concerned.


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