Would you date your cat?

Thoughts on Meow, The Secret Boy, the show that gets more screwed up the more I think about it.

How much do you love your cat? Do you work hard to buy them the most premium, grain-free, high-protein, lovingly batch-baked kibble? Do you stock up on Churu meat tubes? Is your house more cat tree than human furniture? Have you semi-permanently ceded two-thirds of your bed and duvet?

Maybe you’ve answered yes to all these questions. Maybe you really, really love your cat a lot. Light of your life. Highlight of your day. Endless boops and cuddles. 

Now, another question: would you want your cat to be your boyfriend? Like, not in a “he’s such a cutie-pie my cat is my boyfriend” way. Like, your actual boyfriend. 

I never thought I would have to consider this question. Then I watched Meow, the Secret Boy.

Meow, the Secret Boy is sometimes also known as Welcome, from its Korean title, 《어서와》. It stars Shin Ye-eun as Kim Sol-ah, who works as a graphic designer but harbours a dream of becoming a webtoon artist. Her father is somewhat emotionally distant and about to remarry, leaving her at a bit of a loose end. Sol-ah has long had a crush on Lee Jae-sun (Seo Ji-hoon), and it’d once seemed as if he was returning her affections… before he totally ghosted her and started dating someone else. Sol-ah does not think of herself as a cat person; she sees cats (and cat people, like Jae-sun and her father) as aloof and solitary, not like the warm, loving dogs (and dog people) she yearns for.

But you know what they say: you don’t adopt cats, cats choose you. Sol-ah ends up taking in a gorgeous white cat she names Hong-jo.

So far, so cute. (SO cute.) But there’s something different about Hong-jo. He can turn into a human. To be more specific, he turns into a human who looks like L from the K-pop boy group INFINITE. (Because he’s played by L from the K-pop boy group INFINITE.)

Sol-ah grows fond of Hong-jo as time goes by. (No surprise there; again, LOOK AT HIS ICKLE FACE AND BOBA EYES.) But she’s also getting to know her new housemate and step-brother, Bang Gook-bong. Only the man she’s growing closer to, thinking he’s Bang Gook-bong, isn’t Bang Gook-bong at all. That’s right, he’s Hong-jo. 😳😳😳

The show is a very easy watch with 24 half-hour episodes. It’s incredibly sweet, splitting the world into cat people (introverted and perhaps misunderstood) and dog people (loyal and loving, but maybe sometimes a bit much). Everyone is looking for connection; they just have different ways of going about it.

For Sol-ah, who was feeling lonely and unfulfilled, Hong-jo turns into a great source of comfort, as does “Bang Gook-bong”. The “welcome” in the show’s title is a reference to the feeling you get when you come home and there’s someone there to welcome you, even if that someone is a pet. It feels so soothing and safe to know that there’s someone who loves you, who waits for you and is happy to see you when you get home at the end of the day.

As a proud cat mum, I can totally identify with the awesome feeling of being greeted by my three boys every time I come in the door. I could relate to Sol-ah’s desire for company and companionship. But Meow, the Secret Boy goes beyond that, because L is the first male lead. And first male leads get the girl.

Okay, I’ll admit that I went along for the ride at first. Sol-ah and Hong-jo/“Bang Gook-bong” look really sweet together; he’s incredibly devoted and clearly fills a need that she’s had for a long time. There’s no bullshit with him, unlike with Sol-ah’s first love Jae-sun, who struggles to communicate his feelings, which is why their budding relationship was messed up in the first place. And Hong-jo, the cat-boy cat, teaches Sol-ah to live in the present, to follow her heart and enjoy the moment rather than being so preoccupied with and worried about the future. It’s a lesson we all need. (At least, I do.) So yes, I did kind of ship them while I was watching Meow, the Secret Boy.

That said, after the first flush of show cuteness, and after the show’s ending slapped me back into reality, I was like, waaaaaaaait a minute… She’s in love with her cat? Like, not a man trapped in a cat’s body, but an actual cat?

This is where I start thinking about my own cats. They wake me up at 6am for food. They turn their noses up if the brand or flavour isn’t correct. They eat me out of house and home; one just cost me an arm and a leg in vet bills. Another will not let me go to the bathroom alone. They’ve figured out how to open the shitty doors in the flat, so sometimes a cat kicks a door open while I’m in the shower and all three of them pile into the bathroom. 

It is very clear that they are my children, not my boyfriends. And since Meow, the Secret Boy takes pains to emphasise that Hong-jo is a cat—a fish-eating, cardboard box-loving, sweet but occasionally sassy cat—I can only assume that he gets into these typical cat shenanigans too. Also… as the cat owner, Sol-ah has to clean Hong-jo’s litter box. She’s cleaning her boyfriend’s poop. Think about it. Cute as they might be, that’s a big nope. Cannot. Andwae.

I enjoyed Meow, the Secret Boy while I was watching it. It’s a cute, whimsical story. I liked the supporting characters too. But the more I think about it, the more the central romance cannot be. You can’t date a cat! You just can’t! 

To put it incredibly crudely, he licks his butt with that tongue. That’s just fact. (Not about L. But about cats.)