Copyright 1993, Sarah Hartwell

Much study has gone into wool-eating and the conclusions are (a) we don't know, (b) it's a 'Siamese thing', (c) it's roughage, (d) it's the flavour and (e) your guess is as good as ours. One of my cats displayed a quite different attitude towards wool - he far preferred to mate with it. Okay, so first things first. Late-neutered tomcats can remain sexually active for quite some time and intact toms have been known to mate with small dogs, large rabbits, wigs and even string shopping bags, but this particular late-neutered tom maintained a steady sexual relationship with one particular pullover a period of several months. When 'blue jumper' went in the wash he was never tempted into be unfaithful with 'brown jumper' or even 'mauve pullover' (and the later was remarkably attractive, even though I say so myself).

At the estimated age of 10, a rampant 'presumed feral' tom was trapped and neutered when local people could no longer put up with his feline terrorism. Their own cats were forever having wounds stitched after a run-in with Scrapper. By the time he was trapped, Scrapper himself was much the worse for wear and his many distinguishing features included cross-eyes, one cauliflower ear (the other was hairless and had the texture of leather), a crooked tail with feeling beyond the break (though he could move it, he just never noticed if someone trod on it, something which happened regularly since he couldn't work out where he'd put it in relation to nearby clumsy humans), a drooping lower lip, no teeth, an infected dew claw (later removed) and numerous patches of white fur or no fur from old wounds.

After neutering he became a changed cat and I adopted him as a pet. Perhaps he'd been a pet in some long-ago time, or maybe he'd just sussed out that this was the cushy life. He was extremely mild-mannered, easily intimidated by other cats, very attached to his human 'mum' and could be described as looking (and behaving) like a well-loved teddy-bear. If neutering had apparently knocked the stuffing out of him (excuse the innuendo), then Affy-cat was about to knock the stuffing back into him.

Two years after Scrapper joined us, I somehow acquired a 5 month old female from a friend's back garden. The intention was to trap, spay and rehome her. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and my "trap-spay-rehome" intention is now one of the flagstones on the pavement to hell. It really wasn't my fault. I enlisted Scrapper's help in taming the ginger fireball, reasoning that the best person to tame a young feral is an ex-feral who knows the ropes, so to speak (though in Scrapper's case he'd evidently been on the ropes several times as well). Little ginger Affy (who later grew into monstrous ginger Affy, but that's another tale) became attached to an initially unwilling Scrapper - her hero, role model, big brother and personal trainer.

It is possible that Affy re-ignited Scrapper's sex-drive, although Scrapper showed no signs of sexual interest in the spayed female already sharing our home. Maybe the fact that Affy was close to sexual maturity and neutering before the age of 6 months was anathema to most vets in the area meant that he got a whiff of pheromones though to be truthful, his reawakened interests were not actually directed towards Affy, but towards woolly jumpers.

The preferred object of his desire was a blue acrylic/wool-mix C&A jumper which was often left folded on the end of the bed. It later became known as 'Scrapper's girlfriend' while Scrapper earned himself the nickname of 'jumper-humper'. But I'm getting ahead of myself. At first we thought one of the cats was sucking wool, possibly upset by the arrival of Affy. Either that or someone was peeing on the jumper for reasons best known to themselves and well-documented in behaviour books. When we arrived home from work, that jumper was on the floor and soggy in places, but the sogginess was definitely not urine. Later on, we found the jumper halfway down the stairs, or in the other rooms.

One afternoon we arrived home early and caught the culprit in the act - gripping part of the jumper in his mouth, Scrapper had mounted the other end and was happily thrusting away. It was quite obvious that things didn't work as they used to. Gone were the days of 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am' and after a good ten minutes of thrusting, he realised that nothing was going to happen and sat down to wash himself. This didn't deter him from trying again ... and again ... and again ... though like a lad with a girlie mag, he had obviously kept his interest hidden from his family. Once his little fetish was in the open, he became quite shameless about when and where he carried on his affair.

Thankfully, he was not attracted to the jumper when I was wearing it. You see, it was a favourite of mine - the right shape thanks to years of wear, nice and comfy and neither too thick nor too thin. I rather enjoyed wearing it if I could peel the cat off of it. When I took 'blue jumper' off, however, it was fair game. Scrapper was on it in a flash, like a sex-starved menopausal male who had just met up with a teenage nymphomaniac (and about as successful in those pre-Viagra days). He was particularly ardent if blue jumper bore my scent. Perhaps I should be flattered. He became deliriously happy if both the jumper and I were in the same room and he would 'talk' to me, through a mouth full of wool, while attempting to mate with it. If I spoke to him, he thrust away with renewed vigour with a happiness that can only be described as orgasmic (but, being neutered, orgasmic in a sort of faked way).

Eventually, I relinquished claims to that much abused jumper and it was donated to Scrapper to drag around the house and general abuse. Judging from the number of odd places that jumper ended up, he was certainly into sex in strange places! I wondered if he used to drag his feline wives around in quite the same way.

About 8 months after beginning his affair with a jumper, Scrapper developed kidney problems and had to be euthanized. By that time he had lost interest in jumper-humping. Whether he just wanted a final fling with something that didn't fight back, or whether there was some other underlying cause I don't know. However, his daily dalliances with a pullover seemed to fulfil his not-quite forgotten sexual urges and he certainly seemed quite content with his unusual choice of partner!