Monday, March 7, 2011

Fur

First, I need to report that Tucker is fully recovered from the problem he was having with his skin just under his tail. He had licked that area hairless and part of it developed an infection. He is now cured and the cone that he was forced to wear has been discarded. The troublesome area is now growing back its hair and he has not bothered it for some time.

And that leads me into this article’s subject: cats’ fur. Every cat seems to have its own kind of fur: colour, of course, length, texture, pattern. My three (plus one) are a good study of the contrasts that can occur.

Let me start with my first and oldest cat, Tungsten. She’s orange and white. The orange seems to be darker now than when I first got her. It may be my imagination, but I recall thinking that she could not have been termed a ‘ginger’ cat because I figured ginger was a brownish-orange, and she was a brighter hue. That was when I initially got her. Now I look at her and she does seem a browner orange. Is it just the light? Am I simply more familiar with my cat and cats in general? In any case, I suppose she is a ginger cat, a fuzzy Creamsicle, orange and white. She has a large white patch on her throat and chest that I’ve always thought of as a bunch of lace.


An interesting feature are the large outlines of circles, one on each flank. I don’t know where these target-like designs have come from, but I keep her away from windows during hunting season... She has the ‘M’ pattern on the top of her head that gives many orange cats a worried or contemplative expression, though in her case, it may actually reflect her thoughts sometimes.



Her fur is very soft, and though it would be classed officially as ‘short’, it seems medium when she sheds it. The individual hairs themselves change hue along their lengths, and along the back of her neck and spine, the hair grows in rows that are easily seen when she bends. This continues on her tail, which is ringed, the rings representing not just different shades but segments in growth.


Josie’s fur was coarse when I met her the first time, and it remains the coarsest of my cats’. It’s a short coat that keeps close to her skin - though that doesn’t mean it isn’t ready to jump off in every direction when it sheds. It’s longer underneath her, but that may be due to her belly being bigger than it should. The fur seems to have smoothed a bit over the time she’s been with me. She came from a temporary home that had a large population of cats and, though she was well-cared for, she may have been nervous and anxious with so many living there, and that may have led to a reaction in her fur. Unlike Tungsten, my Chubs’ hair comes off easily when she’s petted.


Her colouring is mostly white, though it varies from a pure white to a beige or ivory, similar to a polar bear’s almost pale-yellow coat. She has oval-shaped patches not of black but of tabby colouring, flecks of brown among the black, and a tail that’s more obviously ringed than Tungsten’s, though only on its top. And under her tail, light brown. But she doesn’t like people looking at that part...


Renn’s fur is, as I’ve mentioned in another article, long. It’s soft and spreads out on his body. It’s long everywhere, even growing out in tufts between his toes. It straggles quite a bit in places, like the hair of an old man who never combs or brushes. But Renn takes care of his coat, grooming himself conscientiously. Surprisingly, he has never had a problem with hairballs and, in fact, I think he’s the only one of the cats who hasn’t thrown up during his time with me. (I'm surprised at that because I would have thought with that hair, he’d be leaving little gifts all over the house. And who knows, today my luck may run out.)


He is a black and white fellow, with broad patches of each colour, the black hair straighter and less clumpy than the white. Yet among his black hair are individual white strands that grow longer (faster?) than the surrounding black. Unlike Tungsten and Josie, my big boy’s hair doesn’t always come out in my hand, but I can always tell where he takes to sitting or lying. Fine black hair, enough to weave a curtain for a high school auditorium, is left behind. And look at the length of those whiskers!


Finally, my foster-cat, Tucker, may look black and white, but he’s really black and white and dark tabby. His fur is short but softer than Josie’s, with a slightly different texture for the dark-hued than the white. The tabby nature of the colouring expresses itself principally on his sides, where stripes of flecked hair march vertically along his ribs.


He, like Josie, has a medium-brown patch under his tail. Is this a common trait for tabbies, or for cats with an element of tabbiness in their genes? He is white underneath, and his whiteness is purer than Josie’s, with none of her beige. He, like Renn, has single strands of white hair that grow longer than the surrounding black.


You may wonder at how much time it took to notice all these characteristics of my cats, and how much time I spend watching them. But sometimes, when I am sitting on the couch, with one cat on my lap, another on his back against my right side, a third on the arm of the couch to my left and the fourth staring at me from the top of a cat-tree, it’s difficult to do anything else but watch them.


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