27 pages 54 minutes read

Kristen Roupenian

Cat Person

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 2017

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide

Summary: “Cat Person”

“Cat Person” is a modern realist short story written by Kristen Roupenian. It was originally published in the December 11, 2017, issue of the New Yorker, the edition used for this guide. The short story was Roupenian’s first publication in the New Yorker. She has since published numerous essays and book reviews with the magazine, possibly due to the fact that “Cat Person” went viral on Twitter in December 2017. “Cat Person” was also included in Roupenian’s first short story collection, You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” and Other Stories, published in 2019.

Content Warning: This short story deals with topics of consent, sexual assault, and violence against women.

The short story follows Margot, a 20-year-old art student. Working at an art theater, Margot meets Robert, a 34-year-old man whom she doesn’t find completely unattractive. Out of boredom, she flirts with him, giving him a hard time about buying Red Vines. He responds grumpily, but then returns the next week to talk to her. Robert asks for her phone number, and they text and joke for the next several weeks, with Margot feeling like she constantly has to impress him. At one point, Robert takes her out to a 7-Eleven and buys her snacks (importantly, no Red Vines). He only kisses Margot on the forehead, which makes Margot more enamored with him. When she goes home for winter break, she even jokes with her stepfather that she will marry Robert.

When Margot returns to school, Robert is distant via texts, although they eventually agree to see a movie about the Holocaust as their first date, much to Margot’s dismay. Margot feels that Robert is acting weird and the whole thing is uncomfortable. Despite this, she agrees to go out for a drink after the movie, although he picks a speakeasy where she can’t get in. She cries, and after berating her for being young, patronizing her, and shoving his tongue down her throat, they go to another, grungier bar. Robert buys her three beers, and she suggests they leave the bar. Robert says he’ll take her home and accuses her of being drunk. She pursues him and they make out in his car.

They go to his house, and she recognizes that he is a stranger who could murder her. She is disgusted when Robert undresses, but feels that she can’t say no to sex because she has pursued him. He orders her to undress, which she does. When he is too rough and she flinches, he asks if she’s a virgin. She laughs, and he responds coldly. They continue having sex. It is about as uncomfortable and awkward as sex can possibly be, as Robert keeps losing his erection and whispering weird and uncomfortable things in Margot’s ear that are nothing like the sensitive man she wants him to be. Margot is clearly uncomfortable and also trying not to laugh; for example, she imagines telling her next imaginary boyfriend some of the things Robert says to her, believing that this will give them something to laugh about. Robert seems completely oblivious to her discomfort.

After he finishes, she marvels at herself. He tells her of his feelings for her, including his previous (and completely unwarranted) jealousy of her rekindling a love with a high school boyfriend while she was home over break. She is disgusted and has him take her to her dorm, even though he tries to get her to stay the night.

Over the next few days, he texts her and she does not reply, although she thinks about it. Eventually, Margot’s roommate Tamara texts Robert on Margot’s behalf to say she’s not interested. Margot and Tamara go out for a drink, and Robert replies that it’s fine, which makes Margot feel a lot better. However, a month later, Robert shows up at the seedy college bar where Margot and her friend hang out, and Margot’s friends escort her out of the bar. The whole scene scares Margot, especially when Robert follows it up with a flurry of text messages that quickly escalate into him calling her a “whore,” to which Margot seemingly does not respond.