Essays on memoir, music, and more from Beatrice M. Hogg

Fake Fur?

(Thinking about my late cat, Smokey, who died in March 2010. Years ago, I wrote this about him.)

When I am in my bedroom trying on clothes, my cat Smokey lies on the bed and watches. Like a feline fashion editor, he observes each outfit as I saunter from the closet to the bedroom mirror. But when I try on one of my fake fur items, everything changes. His head jerks upward as if yanked by an invisible puppeteer. His eyes get as wide as blue marbles. He jumps off the bed as if his tail is on fire. The last thing that I see is the tip of his long tail as he dives under the bed. The show is over. I won’t see Smokey again for several hours, not until he is sure that the fluffy garment has been stowed away.

For years, I was puzzled by his strange reaction. Then I noticed that my seal point Himalayan and my fake fur animal print jacket were a similar color. Did Smokey think that eventually he would become part of my wardrobe? Was he afraid that my next off-white and brown coat would be made of real Himalayan cat fur?

Smokey doesn’t hate all fake fur. He sleeps on the furry leopard print throw I keep on my bed. He doesn’t mind fake fur as long as it is sedentary and non-threatening. But when I put on a fur garment, it appears to come to life. My big fur hat—scary. The leather jacket with the fur trim—frightening. The denim coat that reverses to fur—terrifying. Smokey doesn’t know the fur is fake, all he knows is that it looks too familiar.

No wonder Smokey watches me so closely when I dispose of his fur after a good brushing. He checks to make sure I throw it in the trash can. He is afraid I will hoard it and sell it to clandestine feline fur buyers. Maybe Smokey imagines there is a giant shearing machine somewhere, where Himalayans and Persians and other longhaired cats are lined up like sheep. Years ago, when my other cat come home from the vet after a hip operation, his left side was shorn of fur. So Smokey knows cats can be shaved. In his mind, he hears the buzzing of the razor and watches the bales of plush fur pile up to the sky. Sometimes Smokey’s feet twitch when he is asleep. In his dreams, maybe he is running from a furless fate, hiding from those who want to harvest his coat to make coats for nearly hairless humans.

I read a story once about a woman who knitted sweaters from the fur of her beloved Himalayan. But Smokey has nothing to worry about, as I don’t own any knitting needles or electric shears. His fur will remain where it belongs, on his body, my furniture, and my rug. Of course, he doesn’t know that. In the future, I’ll try on my fake furs in front of the bathroom mirror, away from the sight of my skittish kitty. My bedroom fashion shows will be fur-free from now on.


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