Like a lot of pop culture phrases, the term "cougar" can mean different things to different people, leaving many to wonder what is a cougar? According to Merriam-Webster, the basic definition of a cougar is "a middle-aged woman seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man."
This can be interpreted in a variety of ways. For one thing, what one person considers "middle-aged" might be totally different from how another person would describe it. However, the universal definition seems to be an older woman who prefers dating a younger man.
But that's not all there is to cougars. The women who fit this demographic come in all shapes, sizes and ages.
What Is a Cougar? 10 Things You Should Know
As modern women have become more independent and unapologetic about asking for what they want, it's become quite normal for women to transcend norms and date younger men. Unfortunately, there is still a double standard in the dating world. While older men who date younger women are simply called "men," the media likes to put a label on older women who date younger men.
Hence, we have the term cougar. Among some circles, it goes even further than that. For example, some websites state that women in their 30s who date younger men should be called "pumas" while women in their 50s who do the same should be nicknamed "jaguars." Some dating books for meeting cougars also have their own terminology.
Labels aside, scores of younger men have discovered that dating an older woman offers a range of perks.
1. Cougars are active and adventurous
Many older women do not feel or look their age. A lot of them have no interest in dating men who spend all day complaining about back pain and watching game shows in their recliners. These women prefer dating younger men with whom they can still enjoy themselves. They go to places where cougars can seduce younger men who want them.
Often, once these women reach their 40s and above, they begin to feel that men their own age can’t keep up with them. Many find it particularly tough to find a 40+ man who can match their sexual appetite. After all, while a man’s sex drive tends to peak in his teenage years, many women don’t become truly ravenous in the bedroom until their later years.
In short, some older women prefer younger men because they want a partner who shares their interests.
2. They aren't always divorced or single moms
Some guys define a cougar as an older divorced woman who is on the prowl after leaving an unsatisfying marriage. Other men assume a cougar is a woman who's raising her children on her own and needs to unwind from life's stresses with a younger man.
Both of these assumptions can be incorrect.
The truth is that a woman’s existing family isn’t what makes her a cougar.
Some cougars are divorcees with or without children. Others simply prefer being single.
So what is a cougar? Really, anything she wants to be. In past decades, a woman was defined by her marital status and her children. Today, however, women are judged on their own merits. They don't necessarily need a marriage and children to feel valued in society.
However, if a woman wants those things, she should feel empowered to go after them—whether it means marrying a man the same age, waiting for romance until she's built a career or having fun with a younger guy whenever she feels like it.
So when you're creating your Match.com profile to meet cougars, don't discount the mature women who don't necessarily fit your usual understand of what a cougar is. They're so diverse!
3. They look for single guys in specific places
If you are a guy who wants to date cougars, you know they can be tough to meet sometimes, especially if you haven't taken a look at our favorite places to find cougars looking for younger men. They are not in the same bars and clubs as younger women, nor do they use the same online dating sites and apps. These women are so busy with their careers and lives that it’s usually easiest to meet them online. That’s where we have had our best success.
In our annual review of the best online methods to meet cougars, we consistently rave about three sites.
Cougar Life is an obvious pick because it specifically caters to cougars and the young men who are into them. It’s a useful site where you can find both a date or a fling.
AFF is a site where young men can find cougars who just want sex. While it’s not specifically for cougars and younger men, a lot of the women who use the site are at least in their 30s.
eHarmony is our top pick for meeting cougars looking for a more serious relationship. Cougars love this site because it helps them meet men they’re genuinely compatible with.
4. What is a cougar? Not her outfit
When you're out looking for cougars, do you try to find women wearing certain outfits? Just because an older woman prefers dating younger men doesn't mean she has to dress a certain way.
Rather, a cougar can take on various shapes and forms. She might be the CEO in a power suit or even the high school gym teacher in a tracksuit.
Cougars aren't defined by their fashion or their career choices. They don't fit a certain mold or look a specific way. As with any woman, regardless of her age, an older woman who prefers younger men is a unique individual with various traits and life experiences.
5. What is a cougar if not a woman who tries to look her best?
For the average modern woman, age is just a number. Celebrities like Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lopez have shown that a woman can look stunning well into her 40s, 50s and beyond.
In fact, many women who might fit the "cougar" label are in better physical shape than their younger peers. They reject the notion that "growing old gracefully" means giving in to grays or swapping heels for "practical" shoes.
Because what kind of footwear qualifies as "practical" anyway? For the modern woman, getting older doesn't have to mean sacrificing health, wellness or any of the things that make her feel sexy and confident. These are things that you should keep in mind when you're making a move on a cougar.
Unsurprisingly, this can be a huge turn-on for younger men. They get the best of both worlds: the confidence of a mature woman with the grace and beauty of a woman who knows she looks good and isn't afraid to flaunt it.
6. What is a cougar? Sometimes, a woman who doesn't want to be labeled as one
What’s in a name?
Apparently, quite a lot. Not every woman enjoys being called a cougar, so it's important to be sensitive to a woman's feelings before tossing the word around. That's one thing to keep in mind when you're creating an online dating profile to meet cougars.
The reason is that "cougar" is sometimes viewed as a derogatory term. In some cases, people use it in a disparaging way to describe an older woman who uses her life experience to cajole or trick naive young men into a sexual relationship. When "cougar" is used this way, it describes a predatory scheme.
While the term has evolved over the years to encompass a richer meaning, there are still women who don't appreciate being associated with a phrase that has a negative connotation.
If you're a younger man who enjoys dating older women, be careful to gauge how a woman feels about the word "cougar." If she's not a fan, be sure to drop it from your vocabulary.
7. Cougars enjoy sincere compliments
Mature women don't have time for games. In most cases, they've "been there, done that" and are looking for a guy who's willing to be direct.
Keep this in mind before you try using a cheesy pick-up line or a false compliment. Instead, don't be afraid to spend time talking to an older woman. Once you get to know her, give her a genuine compliment that's not necessarily about her appearance.
For example, if she's worked hard to establish herself in her profession, let her know you admire her expertise. Or if she's a marathon runner or avid crossfitter, tell her you admire her strength and dedication to such demanding sports.
You can definitely compliment her appearance, too. After all, just because a woman hits her 30s or 40s doesn't mean she stops appreciating an honest compliment. However, make sure to keep your comments respectful and classy.
8. These women like to flirt
And, if you're fortunate, they'll take the flirtation to the bedroom. One of the benefits of dating an older woman as a younger man is you get to be the beneficiary of all her years of experience.
Additionally, a cougar is likely to be more adventurous and less inhibited in bed compared to a younger woman. Older women have perfected the art of flirting, and they have the experience to know when to push a little harder and when to pull back.
This can take a great deal of pressure off the guy. Instead of feeling like you have to lead the conversation, you can sit back and let her take charge. As many younger men have already discovered, it can be wildly sexy to let a woman hold the reins.
9. Cougars have cascades of confidence
Confidence is one of the sexiest personality traits—and cougars tend to have it in abundance. In the eyes of most men, this is the superpower that transforms beautiful women into goddesses.
A woman in her 30s, 40s or beyond probably has enough life experience to overcome any obstacle thrown her way. What's more, she's not intimidated by new challenges.
10. Cougars are successful
What is a cougar? While the term might have started out as tongue-in-cheek slang, its meaning has grown to describe an older woman who's successful and not afraid to flaunt it.
Most older women don't feel pressure to date or "settle down." Instead, they flirt and date because they want to. In some cases, they might have already achieved all the life milestones society expects people to achieve, such as a marriage, kids, or career. Unburdened by these expectations, they're free to pursue a romantic encounter or relationship purely for the pleasure of it.
So what is a cougar? Really, she's anything she wants to be.