In ‘Cat Person,’ the audience accompanies college student Margot through the nerve-wracking early days of her new romance with Robert, a much older man. Although the latter put up a charming front over text, his interactions with Margot in real life end up leaving the girl feeling anxious about the possible dangers a man who’s a near-stranger can pose. Therefore, with their budding relationship, Margot’s concerns increase about the likelihood of her whirlwind romance turning into a newsworthy episode of a date gone wrong.
Due to the dynamic between Margot and Robert, the viewers only ever encounter the man through Margot’s perception of him. For the same reason, many details surrounding his character, including whether or not he’s a cat owner and specifics of his personal life, remain shrouded in mystery and intrigue, compelling the audience to seek an explanation about them. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Robert and Therapy
At first glance, Margot and Robert pave a regular path in their relationship. The two meet at Margot’s place of work— the movie theater’s concession stand, where the man asks for the younger girl’s phone number. From there, the two engage in regular texting, getting to know each other better and establishing a rapport. Although their brief in-person meeting goes horribly due to Margot’s fears of being alone with an unknown older man, their flirtatious courtship continues for weeks.
Nevertheless, once their relationship escapes the digital confines, bringing the man as a tangible being in front of Margot, her feelings for him take a hit. Over text, Margot fantasizes about the kind of man Robert may be. She was never smitten by him, using his likable aspects— like his height, beard, and cats— as a crutch to remain interested in the man.
Yet, the initial attraction wears off after the first date. During the evening together, Robert takes her out to watch a film he loves but that she has no interest in. He recites the dialogue instead of the entertaining conversation she attempts to start, and he doesn’t try to get to know her better. Simply put, Margot realizes the actual Robert is nothing like the Robert she has been texting and building up in her mind.
Still, Margot’s imagination is a rich resource. Therefore, after being denied conversation to learn Robert better, the girl creates a made-up scenario in her head of Robert at therapy, discussing his and Margot’s relationship with his therapist. In her imagined scenario, she justifies Robert’s choices with the idea that he’s likely extremely shy and wants to impress her.
The idea expands upon itself later when the pair share their first kiss— an awful ordeal where Margot learns that Robert is a bad kisser. Even so, she can’t help but feel a tenderness toward the man’s inexperience— a thought so bizarre she ends up accompanying Robert to the therapist’s office in her mind to work through the thought’s implication.
As such, with Margot’s sudden inclusion in the therapy sequence, the narrative clarifies its imagined nature. The idea of Margot using made-up scenarios to explain facets of Robert’s character showcases how little the girl actually knows her date. Furthermore, it also highlights that the most appealing aspects of his personality— such as a sensitive side that contemplates which movie to watch as a first date with Margot— are fabricated in her imagination.
Robert and His Cats
During Margot’s early interactions with Robert over text, the latter tells her about his two pet cats, Mu and Yan. Initially, their existence is only used as a throwaway detail that Margot shares with her friends, and over time, their significance dissolves within the plot. Margot isn’t overtly a cat person, and her conversations with Robert explore many other avenues.
However, once Margot sleeps with Robert at his house— a decision she regrets as it unfolds— she begins questioning her attraction toward the man. Consequently, Margot discusses her situation with Taylor, her outspoken best friend who has been suspicious of Robert from the start due to the age gap between them. During the conversation, the former realizes that while she was at Robert’s house, she didn’t notice any cats lounging about.
The revelation strikes as a warning sign to Taylor, who remains steadfast in her belief that lying about having a cat is an unavoidable red flag. If Robert truly has no cats but lies about the same, it could mean he’s pretending to be someone he’s not to gain Margot’s affection. Since cats are such complicated pets, women may have an inclination toward men with cats, believing them to be sensitive and caring— two things Margot already deluded herself in believing about Robert.
For the same reason, the likelihood of Robert’s lying about his cats becomes instrumental in his chances of being a serial killer. In the end, Margot and Robert’s relationship goes down in flames, with a blunt rejection and the latter’s ensuing aggressive, insulting text messages and stalking behavior. Thus, Margot decides to put a tracking device on Robert’s car as a self-defense technique. In order to do so, Margot recklessly sneaks into Robert’s house, a decision that leads to an explosive conclusion upon her discovery.
Nevertheless, in the altercation between the two, Margot also discovers that Robert does own at least one cat that zooms out from inside the closet. Nonetheless, the cat’s final reveal gets overshadowed by the discovery of Robert’s familiar dog, who reveals that the man has been stalking Margot from the very start. Thus, even though Robert’s elusive cat— that brings the film its title— reveals little about him, his relationship with his dog ends up uncovering a menacing aspect of his character.
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