NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Fur Better Or Worse

Signs of spring are everywhere: Chubby buds add haze to bare branches arching over Fifth Street. Geese honk high up in their northbound express lane. Frisky squirrels play hopscotch on our porch roof.

And our cats are taking off their winter coats … and flinging them into every corner of our house. Or “their house,” as they prefer to call it.

The three phenomenal felines who permit us to live among them are greeting spring with their usual epic round of shedding. As bona fide animal lovers, Russ and I are more than familiar with this counterbalance to our lovable roommates’ virtues. It’s not so much that their cast-off fur gets on our nerves. Our nerves are fine. It’s our furniture, our floors and every square inch of black fabric in the closets that generate a jolt of irk.

The fur-kids do a fairly good job of collecting their own stray hairs for much of the year. They attend to their grooming with the passion of a Kardashian, then sprucing up each other. They keep the loose ends in internal storage, then recycle them for us … gacking up cigar-sized hairballs with proud abandon, usually in the middle of the night.

But the dawn of spring tells another story. Even the prissiest of pussycats can’t seem to keep up with the floating clouds of winter insulation.

Like cat-lovers everywhere, Russ and I have tried countless strategies for controlling their annual explosion. We’ve fed them gourmet foods guaranteed to keep them in top-notch trim. We’ve dosed them with vitamins and tiny shots of cod liver oil. We’ve even built a world-class collection of grooming aids ― nubby gloves, stiff-bristled brushes and the indomitable Furminator, a medieval-looking combing device that one cat loves, one avoids and the third flat-out dreads even more than the vacuum cleaner.

And still the fur flies. Now, at the peak of the season, lighter-than-air tufts of our companions’ crowning glory infuse the very atmosphere we breathe. Tumbleweeds of fine fur bounce about in the breeze. No surface, however well-tended, remains truly clear for longer than a minute … computer screens, glasses left on the kitchen counter, couch upholstery and, mysteriously, the magically magnetic wool coats hopefully hidden behind closed closet doors.

Fur better or worse, we’ve come to accept the situation. We try to focus on unfluffing our own flanks instead of fussing over the cats’. Thus we enter the season of sticky lint rollers and damp towels and favoring tweedy camouflage.

And our number is legion. You can spot us cat lovers without too much trouble. We’re the folks who seem to develop nervous tics in public, plucking at hairs on our lapels. We compulsively pick at our clothing in polite company. We avoid direct sunlight, which makes every hither-unsuspected hair stand out like a glowing filament. We brush and rub our clothing whenever we leave the house, hoping to dislodge the loose layer of fluff before we must face civilians.

Somehow, nothing makes my previously undetected cat frizzies stand out as much as walking into a dignified meeting populated by meticulous grown-ups … or welcoming guests at home who (horrors!) are wearing black wool.

One thing about our compulsive picking and nattering at flying fur: For cat people (and you doggie types, too), it’s like a secret handshake. We can spot each other a block away. Instead of shrinking in embarrassment, I’ve progressed to a smile and a shrug. All it takes to forge a lifelong bond is pulling a roller from your purse.

It really seems that such an abundant natural resource as shedding cats should have some practical value. I think I’ve glimpsed it. Captured by the mystical link between adoring kitties and knitting, I’ve searched out several fiber experts online who can spin pet fur into yarn. Three bags or so should do it for an average-sized scarf; a sweater requires about a bushel. If lowly rabbits’ fur can be turned into precious angora, surely our housecats must have fashion potential.

In the meantime, I seem to have already taken an involuntary half-step in that direction. Cats worship balls of yarn. Mine cannot resist reveling in the knitting on my lap. It’s said that in days of yore, lovelorn maidens were advised to knit strands from their own heads into garments to bind their loved one’s heart. If you dress in anything made on my own cat-coveted needles, prepare yourself for a long, passionate feline friendship.

Leave a Reply