Grow your own fur coat
What's the matter with humans anyway?

By Simon Teakettle
True North Perspective

Barbara Florio Graham is the author of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, and Mewsings/Musings. Her website is

Barbara Florio-Graham
Barbara Florio-Graham

The Lady Who Shares My Computer is pretty intelligent, and I've been able to teach her quite a lot in the 13 years we've lived together.

However, I must confess one failure. I can't seem to show her how to grow her own fur coat. She has some fur, of course, but only in certain places, which I find very odd. Because of this, she needs things called "clothing," which are unnecessarily complicated and require an amazing amount of maintenance.

For any kittens who happen to be reading this, I ought to explain.

Human beings have many wonderful qualities. They know how to open cans, foil-wrapped packages, and boxes, and will do this on command if you wind around their legs and mew plaintively. They have nice laps to sit on, usually leave room for you on the bed, and occasionally bring neat toys home in crinkly paper bags that are fun to climb inside.

But they are very strange creatures in other respects. As I already mentioned, they have these odd patches of fur, but not enough to keep them warm in the winter, so they have to wear pieces of cloth or other materials. What's really odd is that they don't only put on these fabrics when they go outside, but wear some pieces indoors, even when they're underneath blankets.

I've watched in amazement as they spend precious time when they could be watching birds at the feeder or seeing if the dog across the street has gone for his walk yet, doing all the silly things that seem to be necessary when you don't have fur.

As soon as they get out of bed, they remove their clothing and stand under some running water. I like to watch this from outside the glass, but although it looks like fun, I haven't yet made up my mind about whether I want to try it myself.

I've tried to demonstrate, over many years, that it would be much easier to clean their bodies with their tongues, but I've yet to see a single human lick anything other than their fingers. The inefficiency appalls me.

In addition, some of them actually remove hair from various places on their bodies with a shiny object. Now why would they do that?

Next, they put clothes back on. But not the same ones they wore to bed, or even the ones they wore the day before. This is the really silly part. They put some pieces of cloth on, then put other pieces over those, sometimes as many as three or four layers! Some of these are tied on, but others are held together by shiny teeth (I have no idea how these work) and others by things called buttons, which are great fun to play with if one drops on the floor.

Most of these pieces of clothing are smooth, but others are terrific magnets for cat hair (look out especially for anything called corduroy or velvet), and some have strings you can play with when the humans aren't watching.

A few of these clothes are actually made of fur, or at least something that looks like fur. I first discovered this when I was just a kitten, and my humans had a lot of people over. When I got tired of trying to persuade some of them to slip me a bit of crabmeat, I went into the bedroom to take my nap.

Guess what I found? All these fur things, many of them attached to other pieces of fabric, spread on my bed! I assumed they had been left there for me to wash. It took me a long time, and I was pretty exhausted by the time I finished.

Fortunately, I don't have to wash their other clothing. They do this in a big machine which makes them all wet, then they put them in another machine, which makes them all wrinkled, and then they lay them on a long, narrow table and use some heavy thing to make them smooth.

Have you ever heard of such nonsense?

Some cats are lucky enough to live with humans who don't like to do the smoothing thing on the narrow table. In these households, the cat gets to snuggle in the laundry basket full of clean clothes, which are then delicately decorated with cat hairs.

Most humans have a totally unreasonable fear of dirt. You'd never catch them rolling on the gravel path in the back yard to scratch their backs! I guess they don't know how good that feels. The two little girls across the street do, and often join me when I'm out there, but their mother gets angry because their clothes get dirty. She's going to wash them anyway, so what's the big deal?

I'm doing my best to educate these two little ones about how to grow their own fur coats, but although they listen to me and follow my example, somebody's always telling them to put their shoes back on!

What's the matter with humans anyway?

24 April 2009 — Return to cover.