Petting A Cat Will Put Hair On Your Chest

By Bill Hall

Never pick up a cat in late summer while wearing your diet shirt.

My diet shirt is navy blue. Our cats are mostly white. Now my navy blue diet shirt is mostly white because I picked up one of the cats in late summer. Let me explain:

I have learned over the years that there are two ways to look slim. One is to keep your mouth shut when there is food around. That is to say, eat less. Torture yourself.

The other method is to wear a navy blue shirt. I have learned that practically every time I wear a navy blue shirt, somebody says to me, "You've lost weight."

Not true. But a dark blue shirt makes a person look slimmer. By now, I have quit a collection of navy blue shirts.

Unfortunately, I also have a small collection of white cats -- two, to be exact. I picked one up and suddenly I had hair on my chest -- on the outside of the shirt, the blue shirt, of course, the one that shows less of me and more of the cat hair.

But what's going on here? Why are the cats shedding at the end of summer?

They are getting a head start on winter. They aren't just shedding; they are starting their winter coats down there in the thick of things under the summer hair that is now on the outside (of me as well as of them).

If a cat waits until the weather turns cold to start putting on its winter coat, the coat won't be thick enough for the first frosty morn, not to mention the hammerlock of full winter.

That is the odd thing about Nature. She plans ahead and then some. It is no coincidence that right now, in the heat of summer, when cats are shedding and writers are hiding their paunches behind dark blue sports shirts, plants are preparing for next spring.

Go check the bushes. If you check flowering bushes and trees, you will find that many of them are already developing the buds that will turn into flowers next spring and summer. Rhododendrons, for instance. Dogwood trees, for instance.

They are getting ready to roll next spring. They like to bloom early and get an early shot at the breeding help from the bees when the bees are fresh and eager. So they grow buds now -- flowers to be -- simply because it is easier to grow buds in summer than it will be in the well-named dead of winter.

Then, as the days shorten and the fall chill enters the air, the flowering shrubs and trees will use those conditions to toughen and winterize the buds. Buds can't grow in winter but they usually can survive all but the worst winter.

Cats can survive winter, too, and quite well, though that is a trifle surprising. If you waste a lot of your life observing cats, as I try to, you will get the impression cats came from warm places and not winter places like these northern states. If you notice, cats almost always go to the warmer place to sleep. In winter, they live mostly inside, if you let them. In summer, they disappear outside for most of the day. And some periods of the year, when you have just driven the car, they sleep on the hood because it is warmer than any other place inside or out.

Cats are mostly jungle animals. Of course, that is also true of our kind. We come from the jungle, the warm jungle that is friendly to the type of ape that doesn't have enough fur to keep warm in any other climate.

However, we were resourceful enough to devise coats and other coverings that allowed us to move north and learn to live in these places. Jungle cats have developed similar tricks -- the ability to grow a winter coat.

We can actually do a bit of that as well. As we enter the winter of our years, when a person is more susceptible to chills, we tend to grow more hair on our bodies. Men especially. Hair may vanish from the head with age but it accumulates on the body, and not just among cat huggers in dark shirts.

Of course, we have also discovered and made use of fire to get our kind through the winter. Cats have discovered and made use of what a patsy our lonely race is for a little affection. So we sit in the winters of our time with cats in our laps, each one of us warming the other while waiting impatiently for the distant flowers of spring.



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