Feline Reactions to Bearded Menby Catherine Maloney, Fairfield
University, Fairfield, Connecticut, Sarah J. Lichtblau, University of Illinois,
Champaign, Illinois Nadya Karpook, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Carolyn Chou, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Anthony
Arena-DeRosa, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
subject reacts to a photograph of a man with a full dark semicircular beard.
AbstractCats were exposed to photographs of bearded men. The beards
were of various sizes, shapes, and styles. The cats' responses were recorded and
Findings of Prior InvestigatorsBoone (1958) found inconclusive results
in studying feline reactions to clean-shaven men. O'Connor and Brynner (1990)
found inconclusive results in studying feline reactions to shaven heads. Quant
(1965) found inconclusive results in studying feline reactions to bangs. Seuss
(1955) found inconclusive results in studying feline reactions to hats. Ciccone
(1986) found inconclusive results in studying feline reactions to hairy legs.
Other related studies (Smith/Brothers 1972, Conroy 1987, Schwartzenegger 1983)
have since been retracted because the investigators were not able to reproduce
Norquist (1988) performed a series of experiments in which cats were exposed
to photographs of Robert Bork (not pictured here), a man whose beard is
confined largely to the underside of the jaw. After viewing the Bork photograph,
26% of the cats exhibited paralysis of the legs and body, including the neck. An
additional 31% of the cats exposed to the Bork photograph showed other types of
severe neurological and/or pulmocardial distress and/or exhibited extremely
violent behavior. Because of this, we did not include a photograph of this type
of bearded man in our study.
MaterialsFive photographs were used in the study. The photographs,
reproduced here, display a range of different types of bearded men. (As noted
above, one type of bearded man was, however, excluded from use in this study.)
The test subjects were female cats, all between the ages of four and six. 214
cats participated in the study. Three cats died during the study, due to causes
unrelated to the bearded men. Fifteen cats gave birth while viewing the
MethodsEach cat was exposed to the photographs. One photograph was
shown at a time. Each photograph was visible for a span of twenty seconds. The
photographs were presented in the same order to each cat.
While each cat was viewing the photographs, it was held by a laboratory
assistant. To ensure that the cats were not influenced by stroking or other
unconscious cues from the assistant, the assistant was anesthetized prior to
each session. The cats' reactions were assessed for changes in pulse rate,
respiration, eye dilation, fur shed rate, and qualitative behavior.
ResultsThe results are presented in Table 1. The quantitative results
are average values calculated over the entire feline subject population. The
qualitative results are broken out by percentages of the subject population.
Pritchett: + 3%
Fur Shed Rate:
52% attacked photograph; hissing; spitting;
generally agitated behavior.
14% had no visible response.
2% attacked photograph.
1% licked photograph.
94% had no visible response.
79% attacked photograph; hissing; spitting;
generally violent, agitated behavior; chaotic
tail twitch; screeching; incontinence.
2% had no visible response.
7% attacked photograph.
91% had no visible response.
Wiener: (100%) No visible response.
These interpretations are not categorical. They are
subject to several obvious qualifications. The most notable are listed below.
- Cats do not like men with long beards, especially long dark beards.
- Cats are indifferent to men with shorter beards.
- Cats are confused and/or disturbed by men with beards that are incomplete
(e.g., Bork) and to a lesser degree by men whose beards have missing parts
Qualification A. This study excluded photographs of men with beards confined
largely to the underside of the jaw (see above discussion of Robert Bork). While
data are available from studies conducted by other investigators, those studies
made use of a different methodology than the one we used in our study. We are
therefore hesitant to interpret our findings in light of the "Bork" findings, or
Qualification B. This study was conducted with photographs of bearded men. In
a future study we intend to investigate feline responses to animate bearded men.
A large number of factors might produce significantly different results in the
two studies. In particular, there has been speculation that bearded men produce
pheromones which could have a significant effect on cats.
AcknowledgmentsThe author wishes to thank The MIT Museum Collection for
allowing us to use photographs from its Bearded Men Collection and for
generously granting permission to reproduce the photographs as part of this
research report. Special thanks to Sally Beddow for assistance in selecting
appropriate photographs (the Collection includes more than 71,000 photographs of
bearded men) and to Warren Seamans and Kathy Thurston. Special thanks also to
Lisa Yane for coordinating the scheduling, travel and housing arrangements for
the feline subjects and for obtaining medical clearances in connection with
anesthetizing the research assistant.
- Bork was a nominee to the United States Supreme Court. Because of Bork's
distinctive beard, his photograph has been used in reaction studies with dogs,
rats, and planaria (flatworms) and in bombardment studies with pigeons.
- We excluded all data pertaining to the fifteen cats who gave birth while
viewing the photographs. The reproducibility of the GAVE BIRTH/DID NOT GIVE
BIRTH data will be addressed in a separate, future study.
- Photographs do not, of course, produce pheromones, but they do emanate
airborne scents derived from chemicals used in the photo developing process.
Our study with animate bearded men will employ a strategy to eliminate this
imbalance: before being shown to the cats, each bearded man will be immersed
in a photochemical bath.
- Boone, Patrick, "Cat Reactions to Clean-Shaven Men," in Western Musicology
Journal, March/April 1958, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 4-21.
- Ciccone, Madonna Louise, "Feline Responses to Hairy Legs," in Midwestern
Sociological Review, January 1986, vol. 32, no. 1, pp 51-79.
- Conroy, Gary, "Feline Responses to Ponytails," in Urban Sociology Review,
November 25, 1987, vol. 21, no. 36, pp. 302-321.
- Norquist, Winthrop Grover, "Feline Reactions to Supreme Court Nominees,"
in Journal of Feline Forensic Studies, vol. 12, no. 8, August 1988, pp.
- O'Connor, Sinead, and Brynner, Y., "Feline Responses to Shaven Heads," in
Journal of Head Trauma, May 30, 1990, vol. 42, no. 17, pp. 309-324.
- Quant, Mary, "Cat Responses to Bangs," in Tonsological Proceedings, May
1965, vol. 3, no. 5, pp. 251-262.
- Schwartzenegger, A., "A Study of How Cats Respond to Body Hair," in
Mind/Body Review, December 1983, vol. 3, no. 12, pp. 25-108.
- Seuss, Doctor, "Feline Responses to Hats," in Veterinary Developmental
Studies, July 1955, vol. 32, no. 7, pp. 54-62.
- Smith, J., and Brothers, Joyce, "Feline Responses to Healthy Adults," in
Health Advice, September 1972, vol. 51, no. 9, pp. 32-33.
NOTE: After this report was published, the authors continued
Their latest report
(including newly discovered historical photos of cats reacting
to Abraham Lincoln, Csar Nicholas, and others)
can be seen in the Sept./Oct. 1999 issue (vol. 5, no. 5)
the Annals of Improbable Research.
Sree Tips on Hoax Sites
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