Dogs are “HE” and Cats are “SHE.” Or, are they?


I’ve recently found myself in conversations with other writers about male vs. female wording in writing. We’ve discussed what dialogue or point of view narrative sounds male and what sounds female.

I have a female “voice,” and so my male characters suffer with gender identity. I’m working on it. I’m also a little fussed by it because part of me doesn’t want to profile males or females that way. I think women can think in clipped, unemotional, factual ways. I believe men can be emotional, feeling, and long winded. I could look up poems by Longfellow and Frost or Nebraska’s own Kooser, and it would point out nicely how emotional a fellow can be.

kooser11But I’d only prove myself wrong. Read Ted Kooser’s Tattoo. See if this doesn’t make the point for men writing like men even when they write with feeling and emotion.

I got thinking this morning about cats and dogs. I do this every day because they surround me. I have many theories about how these two species and their personalities, quirks, and little lives can so often be compared to our own.


I’m one of those people who have always identified cats as female and dogs as male. But, upon deeper thought this morning over my bowl of cereal, I decided for lo these many years, I’ve been wrong.

You see, I think most men seem to be born with some kind of inborn confidence and inner respect for themselves. They lean to the understanding they must be right. They believe they can solve the issue at hand (that they have the ability). Even when they end up being wrong, they don’t beat themselves up about it. They shrug it off. Say it probably wasn’t their fault. Fault doesn’t seem to be a part of their DNA.

I don’t think this is the case with most women. We doubt ourselves. Constantly. It’s as though we’re born apologizing. We assume we have a lot to learn, and we mix emotions in with every issue, complicating things. Fault is innate. Thanks a lot, Eve.

Of course, this is just my humble opinion and could be right or wrong and only applies to some and not all… (Not something a man would say, I suspect.) I’ll just go ahead and take this moment to apologize. (I’m guessing you expected me to say those things, but I could be wrong. Sorry again.)

This is my new take on the issue of cats and dogs and what gender pronouns I should be giving them.

Cats are actually far more like men than dogs. Cats don’t seem to have guilt or remorse. You can’t shame a cat. I can shake my finger and speak sternly to my cats when they knock over a glass of water or dump a potted plant on the floor or dismantle an entire Christmas tree. All they do as I scold them is lay on the floor with a smug expression as they twitch their tail. They then raise a leg and lick their private parts in comment… “Yeah, Lady. This is what I think about what you’re sayin’.”

If a dog made a mess, he’d (note the gender pronoun I chose there?) be hiding under the table with the most regretful expression. All you would have to say is, “Did you do this?” I know my dog would avert his eyes in humiliation. He’d probably hide under the bed all day just thinking about what he’d done.

So, from now on when choosing a pronoun to describe cats and dogs, cats will be “he” and dogs will be “she.” I will try to think more like a cat when I’m writing my male characters. Or I could just ask my husband, “What would you say in this situation?” That would work, too.


7 thoughts on “Dogs are “HE” and Cats are “SHE.” Or, are they?

  1. Your thought process is spot on for this one. Males are like cats. I never thought about it before, but after reading this, I’ll never look at cats and dogs the same again without chuckling to myself.

  2. I just tend to say “he” for any animate creature for which the sex is not known, or not immediately apparent. I do the same with drivers on the road, regardless of how they’re behaving. And I feel bad about the automaticness of that assumption, since roughly half of those animals and drivers are female. (Rather more than that in the case of ants!)

    I think you’re right that the cat personality has more in common with what we think of as typically male in humans. Cats are independent, self-assured, and basically assume that they own the world and everything in it. Dogs, on the other hand, are highly social. They need interaction and approval, and that is more like what we associate with women.

    I’ve also worried about writing male characters. My protagonist is male and most of the characters he interacts with are male. Am I getting them right? Female readers don’t seem to have a problem, and I’ve had fewer male’s read it. So I worry that the men are going to think that my men are all a bunch of moody, dithering wimps!

    • says:

      That’s probably one of the best things about being in critique groups. You can’t get away with anything. And that’s good. I’d rather have a bunch of friends correct me than a bunch of readers. In the end, it’s all about the reader. I do think there are men who are incredibly in touch with their emotional side and women who aren’t.

      Right now I’m writing a character who is a man’s man, so I’d best take the lace off his tighty-wighties and “man” him up.

    • says:

      I think so! I also think it’s been done. Think even about To Kill A Mockingbird and Scout. It’s the classic Tomboy. I just need my language to match my characters and boy do I put myself in my characters! Too many “feels” as the kids say.

  3. I often address cats as ‘she’ and dogs as ‘he’ too. But your argument has persuaded me, and I think I should stop doing that. You make an excellent case!

    Enjoyed reading Ted Kooser’s Tattoo. Thanks for the link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.