L.A. ad wiz Mark Moll is a football-watching, beer-drinking, pickup-hoops-playing guy’s guy who also happens to be a devoted cat owner. Now more than ever, men are proud to call themselves Cat Guys.
Name: Mark Moll.
Height: 6′ 4″.
Weight: Somewhere over two bills.
Voice/laugh: Booming. Baritone.
Occupation: Freelance-advertising creative director (best known as one of the brains behind Domino’s Pizza’s famous, unprecedentedly honest “Pizza Turnaround” campaign).
Occupation #2: Cat Guy. Yes—cat guy, i.e., a football-watching, beer-drinking, Vegas-frequenting, pickup-hoops-playing guy’s guy who also happens to be a proud, unapologetic cat owner.
But Moll’s not alone. Now more than ever, men are proudly coming out of the litter box, as it were, and admitting that they’re unabashed cat owners, thanks in part to his latest TV and online marketing effort for Los Angeles–based nonprofit pet-rescue and -adoption organization Much Love. It’s garnered attention everywhere from the Huffington Post and New York Daily News to the L.A. Egotist and, of course, ICanHasCheezburger.com—just about every pet-related website on earth.
This week, February 7–13, has been Cat Guy Week in Los Angeles. “For too long man and his canine friend have dominated the human-pet relationship headlines,” reads the Much Love site. “And while there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s another union that often goes overlooked. There are men in this country … who are proud to be known as Cat Guys.”
So as Cat Guy Week ends, it’s the perfect time to chat with Moll and ask him what it means to be a Cat Guy, about the Much Love marketing campaign, and find out if he takes any shit from guys for not being a “real man” and owning an English Bulldog.
Mark St. Amant: Just to clarify, what kind of guy are you?
Mark Moll: A beer-drinking, sports-watching, loud, sometimes obnoxious, outgoing guy’s guy.
MS: When did you first realize you were a Cat Guy, too?
MM: My mom brought home our first cat when I was 7 or 8. Her name was Tiki. She was a nice cat.
MS: As a Patriots fan I instinctively loathe any cat that shares a name with a New York Giant. Were you afraid to “come out” as a cat lover to your buddies?
MM: No. There’s no shame in being a cat guy. And if someone did give me a hard time, I’d know it was all in good fun. Isn’t it?
MS: So why cats?
MM: I think cats are the perfect pets for guys. They’re self-contained. Independent. Don’t demand a lot of your time. They let guys be guys. They don’t jump on you when you get in the door or have to be taken outside to poop at 6 a.m. in the middle of winter. They’re just so easy and chill. What’s not to like?
MS: Put another way: why not dogs?
MM: I like pets that don’t always need a play toy. Dogs are always all over you. They always have to be taken here or there. Kinda needy. And they slobber on your face. Don’t get me wrong, I love all animals, I just prefer to have a cat. But it shouldn’t be dogs versus cats. Why didn’t you ask me why not a bird? Or a ferret? Or a snake?
MS: Because ferrets and snakes are for stoners and mass murderers. Would you care to share your nickname with the readers?
MM: “Big Dog.” I know how ironic that is. Though some of my buddies have started to call me Big Cat.
MS: Can I call you Big Cat?
MM: No, you can’t.
MS: What is your single favorite thing about a cat?
MM: They are so laid back and couldn’t care less about anything.
MS: But isn’t that one of the complaints—that cats are aloof, moody little divas who don’t give a shit about anyone else and are only friendly when they want something? I have a 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter and that’s how she’ll be when she’s 13, and I’m dreading it. How can you invite this into your home?
MM: I think cats’ personalities are a result of how they are treated by their owners. If you’re not an ass to them, they won’t be asses to you. Cats’ being stuck-up and aloof is true, but that’s who they are. It all depends on how much love you show them. And maybe if you were a better dad, your daughter wouldn’t grow up to be a pain in your ass. Maybe you should get her a cat to make up for your parental shortcomings.
MS: Touché. Who have been your favorite cats throughout history, real or fictional?
MM: That’s a dumb question. There haven’t been any famous cats. Maybe it’s high time for one.
MS: No famous cats? Ever heard of Garfield? Tom of Tom and Jerry? Felix? Sylvester of Sylvester and Tweety? Maybe it’s time you brushed up on your feline history.
MM: [blank stare] Yeah, I was thinking of real cats. The ones you mentioned are all animated. Looks like when I was out playing and learning how to be a guy you were inside watching cartoons.
MS: Moving on … Tell me about Much Love?
MM: It’s an animal-rescue organization in L.A. that’s very active in helping cats and dogs get adopted. They have a lot of connections with Hollywood celebrities and work tirelessly with other Animal Shelters in L.A. to make sure no animal falls through the cracks.
MS: The Interwebs tell me that Robert DeNiro and Christian Bale are just two of many well-known Cat Guys. I’m sure as hell not gonna tell Christian Bale that being a Cat Guy is weak. We’ve seen his temper.
MM: Exactly. I’d love to see someone tease Travis Bickle, too. That wouldn’t end well.
MS: How did you get the other Cat Guys to be in the short films?
MM: Much Love reached out to their list of guys who have adopted cats through them. We got Christopher Coppola, star of the “Biker” commercial and Nick Cage’s brother, via contacts at [New York–based production company] Ghost Robot, and the director, Keven McAlester. They are all really Cat Guys. We didn’t hire actors or have scripts. We just turned the camera on and they told us about their life as a Cat Guy. It was all 100 percent off the cuff and honest. This is how guys really feel about their cats, and it’s as strong as guys feel about their dogs.
MS: Have you personally ever rescued a cat?
MM: Believe it or not, yes. I saw a cat in trouble in a tree in Santa Monica and got him to safety. I was happy to save that cat. Even though I didn’t know him, he was someone’s baby and I was happy to help. Sorry, that’s not a funny story. Maybe you can spice it up. Add in some flames or a cat driving over the cliff in a car.
MS: See, there’s another famous cat: Toonces! What are your cats’ names?
MM: Beans, Freeze, Noodle. Don’t laugh. I know those aren’t exactly what you’d call masculine.
MS: Do you feel like a second-class citizen because you can’t take your cat for a walk like guys with dogs can?
MM: I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little jealous. But cats can’t walk on leashes. Believe me I’ve tried. But it’s funny you bring this up. We had a funny script early on that had a guy—an actor—walking into L.A. City Hall and demanding to know why there aren’t any cat parks, why dogs get all the attention, that it’s blatant “cat-ism.” But we scrapped it for the spots we eventually produced, which I think are also funny in a “real life” way, but are much more honest and true to what Cat Guys are all about.
MS: Did you have any other script ideas?
MM: There was another where a guy buys his lawnmower from his neighbor. He pays with a check … that has a cute little cat on it. The neighbor just stares at him in disbelief.
MS: Did you ever have cat checks?
MM: My wife got them for our joint account. Uh, next question, please.
MS: Have you ever felt the need to hide the fact that you’re a Cat Guy? Like on a first date? Because I imagine that could go one of two ways: “Aw, he likes cats, he must be so sensitive” or “Wow, this guy’s not into girls.”
MM: Never. Ever. Why would I? Truth is, women love guys who have cats. It’s true. I married one. A woman. Not a cat.
MS: Tell other guys what is so special about cats. Convince them.
MM: I don’t need to tell them anything. Guys who own cats just know. And anyone who doesn’t should just come over and hang out with my cat Noodle and they’ll be instantly hooked.
MS: What do you say to people who say Cat Guys must be soft?
MM: Not sure. It’s lame to think that. And if you feel like telling Chris Coppola or one of the other Cat Guys in the commercials that they’re soft, be my guest, tough guy.
Point taken. While the urge is to make silly “pussy”-related jokes or, as we’ve done for centuries, default to canines as “man’s best friend” and the ultimate symbol of masculinity, the fact remains that Cat Guys are here, their ranks are growing every day, and outfits like Much Love are doing tremendous work to make sure cats (and dogs) are finding good homes. So I’ll just leave you with one of Mark’s favorite quotes, from Chris Coppola in the “Biker” commercial, referring to his cat: “He’s more of a man than most men I know.”
—Gallery photo jenschapter3/Flickr