Our cat Steve is part Siamese and part … something. He’s lynx-point–ish, which would suggest a tabby or two in his family tree, but I know there’s an alpaca or a chinchilla back there; he’s the hairiest cat I’ve ever met. We bust his fuzz with a Furminator (a tool I consider one of the great triumphs of western civilization), and after each grooming session I have a fistful of fluff worthy of a county fair sheep-shearing demonstration.
Cat-hair crafting has come into its own. Evidence in recent years includes books (Crafting With Cat Hair), Catster posts (Seven Crafty, Creative Uses for Cat Hair), and DIY communities (Felted Pet Hair Beads via Instructables.com). As a result, I feel like I’ve been hiding Steve’s light under a bushel. He has a real talent for generating hair; shouldn’t I be doing something with it?
This is how you become the lady with an ever-growing wad of cat hair in a plastic takeout container under her sink. I’ve looked forward to an eventual craft project, but I’ve also felt a bit like a reality show waiting to happen — Hoarders, maybe, or My Strange Addiction. Anyway, the wad got big enough for me to get started, so I no longer have to worry what my family would think if, say, my husband and I disappeared on safari and they discovered my hair hoard while cleaning out our apartment after giving up hope that we’d return. Hooray for DIY!
For my first visit to the Cat Lady Craft Cabin, I tried a felted ball project; it didn’t require much in terms of supply, time, or skill, and it looked like it might generate something useful.
Per instructions, I grabbed a tuft of hair, shaped it into a loose ball, and dipped it in a container of dish soap and warm water; then I rolled it between my palms to squeeze the water out and create a tighter ball, dipped it in a container of cold water to tighten it up a bit, and repeated. I made three dime-sized balls, thinking I might turn them into beads, and a larger ball, which I figured Steve might appreciate. (I shopped around a bit for fragrance- and essential-oil-free dish soap, because I wanted my crafts to be safe for the cats to fetch and chew.)
After several rounds of dipping and rolling, I squeezed the balls between paper towels and left them to dry on a window sill. (I also gave them a bit of a trim with some sewing scissors, as they were still quite fuzzy after their initial felting.)
To add color, I considered and rejected the purple dye I use for my own hair; it’s nontoxic, but it transfers easily. According to a veterinary specialist at Pet Poison Helpline, Kool-Aid is safe for dyeing cat toys, provided that it’s unsweetened (the sweetened varieties can contain xylitol, which can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in pets), so I dissolved a few packets in boiling water in microwave-safe glass bowls, let the balls steep for a few minutes, and waited for greatness to emerge. (Spoiler: the grape Kool-Aid was so dark and muddy that it made the cat hair look like another cat byproduct that shall not be named; I poured it out and used the cherry on all four balls.)
… And it worked!
What will I do with this newfound ability to harness the power of cat hair? Reader, that is a fine question. I don’t wear much jewelry, so using the felt balls as beads would be a waste. I like the idea of felted craspedia (aka billy balls), but Steve’s hair is fairly dark; bleaching it and dyeing it yellow sounds like a lot of work just to be able to tap a guest on the shoulder at my next party and whisper, “that flower arrangement is made of my cat.” By the time the holidays roll around again I might have enough hair to make a Pinterest-y garland, though they’re a little precious for my taste. Honestly, I’ll probably make more toys for the cats; I think Karl Marx would agree that they deserve to benefit from the mode of production we’re exploring here.
Read more by Lauren Oster.
About the author: Lauren Oster is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She and her husband share an apartment on the Lower East Side with Steve and Matty, two Siamese-ish cats. She doesn’t leave home without a book or two, a handful of plastic animals, Icelandic licorice mints, and her camera. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.