So, you like a cat lady. You’ve been trying hard to win her over — good for you! But beware: Cat ladies cannot be won over by silly flowers and meaningless chocolate.

by Stef Dela Cruz

They are beautiful, feisty, and incredibly perceptive…plus, they value their singlehood. My heart goes out to you—after all, you have good taste. Just take these insightful dos and don’t’s, contributed by amazing single cat ladies, with a grain of salt. Remember that nobody is perfect… not even a cat lady.

1. DO learn to love cats. Do you want to know how well you’ll get along with a cat lady? Meet her cats. “I once had a partner whom I thought loved my cats. The minute that person’s compassion [for my cats] disappeared, whatever love I had disappeared as well,” shares Ves Pedraja, gallery manager and single fur-parent to five cats and one “honorary cat” (a dog who loves her feline companions). Finding out early on if you’re cat-parent material will save you time, not to mention heartbreak.

2. DON’T lie to a cat lady – like a mouse, you will get caught. Cat ladies tend to be discerning, what with their felines serving as living lie detectors. Be warned: Their cats will hiss to expose your lies. To Ves, her feline babies deserve all the credit for warning her against people who want to deceive her. How a person deals with animals can also be quite telling. “My grandmother always says that you could judge the character of a person by how he or she treats animals.” Her granny has a point.

3. DON’T say there is no such thing as a “cat-mom.” You think single cat ladies are miserable, delusional people? You can laugh all you want at the ridiculous stereotype, but the joke’s on you. As much as cat ladies don’t shun love and the prospect of having kids, their cats give them a lot of affection— sometimes in the form of scratches and bites, because let’s face it, cotton-candy love can get boring—that they can be absolutely happy being single and childless. Why shouldn’t they? They can be quite maternal towards their cats. They treat their cats as family, not as pets. “What I like about being single is the independence I have. I don’t have to answer to anyone,” says Reilina Villacarlos, a biology graduate taking up her master’s degree in environmental and conservation biology. She has had no boyfriend since birth, not that she needs one.

4. DON’T attempt to win over a cat lady’s heart with money. Put down that ridiculously expensive gold bracelet before anyone (that’s you) gets hurt! As much as they deserve financial stability, cat ladies are not impressed by things that glitter. Giving them expensive presents—and not much else—is not going to help your cause. Reilina relates to the elegant simplicity innate to felines: “[Cat ladies tend to be] low-maintenance.” Give a cat a crumpled piece of paper and he’ll be happily preoccupied for hours. Give him an empty box and he will immediately curl up in it, whether he fits or not. Cats, just like their humans, know how to cherish simple gifts, regardless of the price tag.

5. DON’T keep secrets from a cat lady. Cat ladies know when you’re keeping something from them. You see, they’ve had male training, thanks to their secretive cats. When cats get sick, they don’t want anyone to know. They act like nothing’s wrong, purring and meowing the same way they do if they’re healthy and well. Their humans have to be exceptionally good at telling if their cats are keeping a health secret. “Cat ladies (and gents) are trained to be more attuned to silent signs,” says Ves. But don’t worry; although cat ladies are good at deciphering signs, they know how to keep a secret.

6. DON’T ever make a cat lady choose between her cats and you. Between a dashing, young man and an old, grumpy fur-baby, a cat lady will have absolutely no qualms choosing the latter. “I got pregnant last year with this guy who claimed to be a cat lover,” says Nes Delos Reyes Seril, a single mom and certified cat lady who likes to garden at night. “Right from the start, I made it very clear that my cats and dogs were a package deal and asked him to never make me choose between him and my babies. But he still did.” She called it quits—no surprise there. Ava Marie Lorraine Cruz, a toy photography enthusiast and purrent to four cats and a dog, wants to remind fellow single cat ladies to get their priorities straight. “Always remember that the cat has been with you before any prospective partner.”

7. DON’T say dogs are better than cats. I know dogs are adorable—there’s no need to convince me or the other single cat ladies out there. In case you haven’t noticed, most cat ladies actually have dogs under their care. However, never make the mistake of saying cats are not as affectionate, loving, or loyal as canines! When a cat lady finds out you have been perpetuating the misconception, she just might feed you to the dogs.

GO GET HER, TIGER! I used to be a dog person. I never even had a cat until seven years ago when a grumpy black cat named Merlin came into my life. That was it for me. I grew to love the testy cat in all his grumpy glory—it was like falling down a rabbit hole and realizing that the only way I would ever get out of it was as a changed person, as someone who cherished purrs, feline head butts, and the occasional love bite. Falling for a cat lady is the same rabbit-hole adventure. Good luck, fearless mortal, and may her cats learn to love you back!

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s February 2017 issue.