Friday 29 May 2009
Fake Tans: How To Tell Them From The Real Thing
On their recent holiday, my parents took the above and below photos of a black cat they came across. I find that, with them, things like this happen more and more often: they say they're not massively fussed about cats these days, but it's really just a front they put on in the crooked belief that it will be a deciding factor in pulling me back from the brink of getting even more cats than I already have. In reality, they're always off on some adventure, and returning from it with photos like the two here. They call these adventures "walks" but from what I can work out they're essentially moggy-finding missions in disguise. Huge, previously untamable whiskery beasts will just mysteriously "appear" and clamber on top of my dad's back as he sleeps on a remote Derbyshire hillside. My mum will walk down a green lane and suddenly find a needy tabby at her heel. Personally, I don't know why the pair of them don't stop skirting the issue and just go ahead and get another cat to finally replace The Slink, but I suppose they're happy in their denial, and that's the important thing.
Anyway, my mum was telling me about how nice this cat was. "And of course it had that tan that some cats have," she added.
"What do you mean?" I asked
"You know, that cat tan. You can see it there - the ginger bits on the black."
"But surely that's just a black cat with a few bits of ginger on its fur."
"No, no. That's tan. It's obviously very keen on lounging in the sun, and that's why it's got it."
"But how do you know?"
"Oh, you can just tell. It obviously didn't have that colour in its fur originally."
I've done some research on this, and while it's led me to find a few cat forums where people are talking about buying special suntan lotion for cats, they seem to be referring to be stuff to put on their cat's skin, and not their fur. Then again, as my mum pointed out as our discussion continued, human hair changes colour with lots of exposure to the sun. But Shipley spends a huge amount of time basking outdoors in hot weather, and the only difference between his black fur now and his black fur when Dee and I first got him eight and a half years ago is that it is flecked with a few more streaks of grey.
I'm not entirely convinced by my mum's theory, but I'd be interested to hear anyone else's experience of cat tanning. If it is a genuine, common phenomenon, it might also explain exactly why Ralph starts to get so sensitive at this time of the year and invariably heads off to hide in one of his favourite bits of foliage. Maybe he doesn't have a special summer version of Seasonal Affective Disorder after all. I mean, I knew he was vain. But could it be that he's also a spiritual goth, and simply keen to keep his immaculate (and, to be quite honest - though I would never tell him this - not remotely goth in the first place) fur from harm?