If you’ve ever had a pet, you’ve probably questioned whether your dog or cat may be gay. You may have witnessed your dog mount another pup at the dog park, or observed your cat grooming just her female littermates while neglecting her males.
Because house pets rarely have significant others, these questions may be speculative. However, when considering the animal kingdom as a whole, particularly those critters who are free to roam without the confines of a human home, the idea of dogs and cats exhibiting homosexual behavior deserves more consideration.
Studying Same-Sex Behavior in Animals
Same-sex behavior has long been observed in animals of many types. The BBC reported in 2014 on a pair of male Humboldt penguins who nurture orphaned eggs at a zoo in Kent, England.
You may have even spotted your own pet cuddling up to a companion of the same gender. However, before we can determine whether pets can be gay, we must first establish what is considered “gay” in the animal kingdom.
Gay persons are those who are sexually attracted to people of the same sex. However, human sexual orientation is notoriously diverse and fluid, and scientists who study animal sexual behavior advise us not to compare our behavior to that of our pets for a variety of reasons.
Can Sexual Behavior Be Misinterpreted?
Is it possible for dogs to be gay? Can cats be homosexual? Another reason it’s difficult to get answers to these issues is that what is assumed to be mating behavior in animals may be misconstrued.
Male and female dogs, for example, will mount other dogs. While some pets may do this because they want to engage in sexual activities, there are a variety of other reasons they may do so.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA), mounting is more about playing, releasing stress, or displaying dominance than it is about sex. Also, keep in mind that dogs frequently mount humans and furniture.
Male cats (even neutered ones) may climb their pet parents and other household kitties to indicate who’s boss, according to PetHelpful. Having your pet neutered or spayed can often help avoid mounting and other aggressive behaviors.
Cats are also recognized for their grooming abilities, and they will frequently lick and sleep next to other cats. What appears to people as sexual conduct may in fact be a form of social grooming.
While there has been much speculation, there is no scientific evidence that certain animals, particularly house pets, are gay or not.
“Whether there’s any kind of same-sex sexual preference going on, that’s left entirely to the imagination in the sense that the data just [doesn’t] exist to demonstrate one way or the other,” University of Lethbridge professor Paul Vasey told the Washington Post.
According to him, being exclusively gay is “exceptionally rare” in the animal kingdom.
Measuring Puppy Love
When attempting to determine whether animals can be gay, scientists frequently look at two factors: exclusivity and longevity.
Exclusivity evaluates if these animals only have sexual intercourse with members of the same sex. According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, approximately 8% of rams appear to mate solely with other men, although domesticated sheep appear to be the only non-human mammal with deliberate same-sex mating practices.
According to the BBC, some animals, such as Japanese macaques, bottlenose dolphins, and bonobos (one of our closest primate relatives), mate and snuggle with partners of both genders, displaying more fluid behavior that is closer to what we would term bisexuality.
When studying same-sex behavior in animals, scientists also take longevity into account. Female albatrosses, for example, frequently create lifetime bonds with other females.
However, dogs and cats rarely engage in sexual behavior for extended periods of time. Unspayed cats, regardless of sex, will go into heat multiple times a year and may attempt to be mounted, massaged, or licked by another cat.
Because cats and dogs do not have long-term mates like humans, measuring longevity can be difficult.