I like my cats to still have skins. It’s a personal preference.

I have about 8,000 notes on my phone that make almost no sense whatsoever because I write them in the middle of the night when I’ve had too little sleep and too much to drink, and then I look at them later and think, “What in the hell is wrong with me?”  This is one of those notes:

They say there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but isn’t one way enough?

I mean, there’s probably more than one way to take off your pants but that doesn’t mean you should try it. I suppose you could roll up the legs until they’re like a weird speedo and then slip them off but that seems like waste of time.

Also, why were so many people skinning cats when this phrase was popular? And why is it still with us today? Does it mean something I don’t know? Is it like “spanking the monkey” or “choking the chicken” or “flogging the dog”? Is it weird that I can’t think of anymore animal cruelty euphemisms except for ones about men wanking? Is the cat skin one a euphemism for girls? Because ew. I was considering calling my dad to ask how to skin a cat since he’s a taxidermist but now I’m worried I might accidentally ask my father about masturbation.

These are things that keep me up at night.

Oh, hang on.  I just thought of another one…”Doing the snake.”  That one’s not about wanking but it really seems like it should be.

152 thoughts on “I like my cats to still have skins. It’s a personal preference.

Read comments below or add one.

  1. My question is why anyone would want to skin a cat? Can’t we just leave the cat (an their skin) alone and intact?

  2. I’m afraid to ask anyone a question now. I don’t want to get in trouble with HR for accidently asking about masterbation.

  3. Doing the snake? Um, I think that one will need further explanation. Is it about a clogged drain? Taxidermy? What?

    (I thought it was a well-known dance move, but I can’t find anything about it on the internet and now I’m thinking I confused it with “doing the robot”. ~ Jenny)

  4. UNLESS I preface every question with, “this isn’t about masterbation…”

    That’s probably a solid strategy.

  5. Your notes are way more coherent than my notes. And also way more entertaining.

    Skin the cat is a really dumb expression. Did they do a lot of cat skinning what that expression was invented? Weird. I think you should totally ask your dad.

  6. Its not doing the snake, its doing the worm, Jenny… 😉

  7. There are multiple methods in which one can employ to relieve a feline of it’s hirsute exterior.

    I think that sounds less threatening.

  8. I always wondered what people were doing with all these cat skins? I wasn’t aware that cat fur coats were a popular item, but history is weird and scares me sometimes.

  9. I just had to google “doing the snake” because I’m dense like that. Still got nothing, someone enlighten me.

  10. I dunno, “leave me alone, I’m skinning the cat” sounds like it would be a lot more effective when yelled through a locked door versus “I’m having quiet time” should you be taking a moment to “talk to a little man about a boat” They tend to leave you alone if they think you’re mutilating animals.

  11. I made the mistake of reading this while was class was quietly working on an assignment. That was a misstep. Seriously. I laughed so hard I cried, and then I had to explain to 9th graders why I was laughing, and they didn’t think it was funny, and now they think I’m weirder than they initially thought. So thanks, Jenny.

  12. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel ” always bothered me, wouldn’t it just blow holes in the barrel and all the water drain out? Wouldn’t it be easier and save bullet $$ if you just dumped the water out? Big fan of “two birds with one stone” though cuz I hate birds waking me too early and who had time to look for rocks?

  13. are you confusing “doing the snake” with “doing the butt, heeeeyyy!” you know the song? because that’s how i said it in my head.. heeeyyy!

  14. I have an old friend who used to call it “punching the clown in the nose” and I would at first laugh and then grimace. Men are strange.

  15. I definitely think you should add pregnanchicken.com to blogs you love. You’ll love this one and she recommended your book to me!

  16. I’ve heard “Don’t kick the mule when it’s down” but doing the snake? I like your phone notes. You should corral them into a book — would make an edifying read, no doubt.

  17. Skinning the cat referred to whipping someone with the Cat O’ 9 tails. “More than one way” meant there were multiple ways to whip someone.

  18. I should add– I discovered this blog when you had posted the story of how you found Copernicus the monkey at the consignment shop. I was proctoring a final exam at the time, and my laughter/crying wasn’t appreciated. I should know better than to read your blog at work. But yet– here we are. Me reading your blog and students thinking I’m a weirdo.

  19. Wait you typed all of that on your phone in the middle of the night? That is impressive. My phone notes to myself all look like “Adifsoijvc aeiovd asgoewa faoosg eooafdsfew”. The fun part is deciphering the code of what each letter was supposed to be.

  20. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, there’s just no way to do it so the cat’s going to like it.

  21. When I was little and it was time to get ready for bed and my parents would change my clothes they’d say skin the cat when they would take my shirt off. This makes me uncomfortable now.

  22. The origin of the phrase is “there’s more than one way to skin a catfish” as they’re known for their scaleless skin being quite difficult to remove. Takes a bit of “elbow grease”, if you’re looking for additional ew factor.

  23. Sure you weren’t thinking of ‘draining the snake’-i.e. common boys’ expression for urination?

  24. I always thought “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” sounded dirty; especially since some British guys call girls “birds”.

  25. I was horrified by that expression when I was child and then when I found out it was about a cat o’ nine tails and whipping people I felt better about it. Which says a lot about my hierarchy of living beings. Skinning a cat: NOT OK. Flaying someone with a whip: Whatever.

  26. I think (though i haven’t verified) that “more than one way to skin a cat” comes from the time when parchment (made of animal skins) was used. Cat skin was commonly used to make parchment and thus books and whatnot.

    Anyway. Now that i’ve gone all historical here, i’m going to try to come up with a dance called “doing the snake.” I might get fired (or at least written up or maybe just really strange looks from coworkers), but totally worth it 🙂

  27. Thanks for the laugh during my mental health break here at work. Any euphemism is good in my book. I don’t care what it’s yanking, skinning, pulling, whacking or beating. And I wish I could even wake up in the middle of the night with a cohesive thought. To actually write something down? You really need to get some rest.

  28. I have actually had to skin a cat (for science! Anatomy class required it in nursing school), and I can tell you…One is already too many ways. Seriously What the fuck is wrong with people?

    Also it takes forever to get the smell of formaldehyde’d cat out of your nose and off your hair.

  29. I’ve always heard it was about catfish. Like that line in an old Alabama song “bending over skinning cats”… actually umm that sounds pretty masterbatey too. Wow now I’m wondering if they were a bunch of dirty old men….

  30. but there’s probably only one way to skin a cat correctly, right? And I think there’s only one way to take your pants off that allows you to put them on again… otherwise they’re probably being cut off after a tragic accident and you won’t want to wear those bad luck pants again!

    And your blog link never works for me 🙁 is it because i’m on blogspot?

  31. I always say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat. The cat’s not gonna like it any way you go, but…”

  32. A friend of mine on facebook ( I use the term loosely) just posted a picture of his shaved cat. It was terrifying. I also have notes that I write to myself so I’ll remember things, but then I read them and just remember that I’m crazy as fuck.

  33. “‘Scuse me, I gotta see a man about a dog”
    “Wait, what?”
    “I have to see a….fuck it, I have to pee.”
    “Wait, why are you seeing a man? Is that a gloryhole? What’s a dog doing there? WHAT IS HAPPENING?”

  34. My husband and I turn anything that sounds remotely dirty into sexual innuendos, and some that don’t even sound dirty at all but we make them work anyway. Then a high five is involved. Yes, we’re 12…

  35. There is another expression in Spanish about cats, but it’s “Don’t go looking for the 5th leg on the cat.” It means basically don’t look for what’s wrong on a perfectly normal cat, or don’t fix what’s not broken…but it’s another one that always befuddles me a little.

  36. I’ve heard of “Doin’ the cockroach.” But I’m not so sure about that one either, anymore. I’m questioning everything in life.

  37. My high school science teacher had a drawer full of dead cats.

    He would keep the skins after the AP bio class dissected them.

  38. I’m glad I’m not the only one that puts random drunk thoughts in the notes on their phone to write about later. I’m still trying to decipher a few

  39. When you dissect a cat, which I did in high school, you need to peel off (skin) the cat so you can get to the muscles, etc. They do not come pre-peeled. Fun? no. All kinds of icky? yes.

    (Your science teacher was totally cheap. They come pre-peeled if you pay extra. It’s weird that I know that. ~ Jenny)

  40. Catskinner used to mean the driver/handler of the mules used for wagon haulage. I am way too old.

  41. OK so I’m at work and I’m not going to read all the comments and get fired… so I’m sorry if this has already been brought up…. The Snake is the weird side to side wriggling dance Axl Rose used to do back when he was coked up and skinny. Also, my former roommate and I used to use the term, Petting the Kitty for lady masturbating… so, there’s that. I DO in fact say the cat skinning thing on a regular basis, but I always then wonder why my mother is still speaking thru my mouth when I’ve been gone from Kansas for over 12 years. I’m going to kill a teeny bit more company time now to look up the origin of cat skinning, because I’m a serious word/phrase origin geek. PS I love you!

  42. Now I really want to roll my pants up like a weird speedo before taking them off to see how much time it really does waste. I’m thinking quite a lot if I try it will my jeans because getting that roll up my thighs might be difficult. I will most likely try it will my pajamas. Yes. That will work.

  43. My ex used to say “just hold the tail while I skin this cat.” Yep, its one of the reasons he’s now my ex…

  44. Of course, I often wonder about our fascination of mutilating cats, either alive or dead. If you aren’t skinning them, you’re measuring the size of a room by swinging its carcass around.

  45. Just leave all the poor animals (and penises) alone.
    And why are such violent euphemisms used to imply urination and male masturbation? Seriously.
    If you’re yankin’ on it that furiously (and maybe still not achieving your goal) that you’re referring to it as “choking” or “beating”, maybe you should consider adult films in a fetish genre.
    Or you could, I don’t know, get a hobby…

    The philosophical feeling I am left with every time I read one of your posts from middle of the night or random daydreaming notes, can never be replaced, Jenny.

    Thank you for making me feel just a tiny bit more enlightened and a little less like I’m the only crazy one out there.

  46. I was surprised, when I went to look at euphemisms, how many I’d never heard before. So, your post ended up being highly educational. The world is a strange, strange place.

  47. So those people that ‘let the cat out of the bag’ – do they skin the cats first? Or are they trapped in a bag, then taken out to be skinned? That seems cruel. I’m so confused.

  48. I’ve never thought of the cat skinning one as a euphemism, but now it seems like it must be. Otherwise it’s just mean. Although, as a euphemism it might be mean too, since I don’t exactly know what it might be a euphemism for…

  49. Woodchucks chucking “wood” has always been questionable. Why would I want to know HOW MUCH wood a woodchuck could chuck? I’d really rather not think about it.

  50. When my husband wanted to buy a camping trailer, I said ok but it has to have enough room to swing a dead cat. When we went looking at them, I looked over at him and he was standing in the middle, making little arm motions to visualize if it met my criterion.

  51. While riding on Small World at Disney World one day, I noticed one of the animatronic figures chocking the chicken. Literally, it had grabbed a chicken by the neck and was pulling the chicken’s head out and in strangling the poor bird. I pointed it out to my wife and she hit me in the arm when, during a second ride, I took a photo of it. I needed proof! http://www.techydad.com/2011/04/wordless-wednesday-why-my-wife-jabbed-me-in-the-arm-for-taking-a-photo-during-the-small-world-ride/

  52. I bet most of these originated from England….except in the deep south it would the French version that didn’t translate to English very well.

  53. I am the owner of Louise the Python. Who is here with Jenny’s book:
    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7245/7103154875_9c47aafe80_z.jpg

    In this house, DOING THE SNAKE refers to taking 50 pounds of itchy pissed shedding girl out in the yard and peeling her shed off by hand, holding my hands around her while she slowly moves through them. The skin comes off in giant sheets and it’s like peeling off a very long sock. That’s attached to a leg that is enraged with the itchiness of what shedding feels like to her.

    Doing the snake once meant making a video to complement a comic drawn by Bizarro… a circus act with slow animals moseying through a hoop.
    http://bizarrocomic.blogspot.com/2011/02/snake.html
    And the 1 min youtube I made “Burmese python jumping through hoop FAIL” set to jaunty circus music, is over here…

    If Jenny or others can think of a completely silly video involving Louise the Python and something Bloggessy to illustrate “doing the snake” OUR way, bring it on and I’ll deliver.
    BIG HUGS!

  54. Ever since I had to actually skin a cat, I have been mildly annoyed by this phrase. My biology teacher accidentally ordered dead cats with skin on instead of pre-skinned dead cats. I ended up skinning Sam by myself because my lab partner kept running from the lab in tears. I told her if she couldn’t skin a cat, she’d probably never make it through med school.

    Anyway, there aren’t that many ways to skin a cat. Maybe there are, but it all comes down to “tear off the skin” and none of them are pleasant, especially if your lab partner can’t help because she’s sobbing uncontrollably. Maybe all those other ways to skin a cat involve more than one person. I certainly never discovered them.

  55. Actually your list makes more sense than my list; which I don’t keep – but I should. I forget 99.9% of the weird and brilliant ideas and concepts I have. Here are just 2, the two I can recall, having.

    Elephants disdain other elephants named Bert!

    Potatoes are kept in brown sacks in the dark because of their eyes.(?)
    (This made me wonder if refrigerators are soundproof because that is where we keep our corn.)
    #Facts_I_Learned_While_Dreaming

  56. So is saying “like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs” actually discussing the popularity of well endowed men? I will never euphemize again.

  57. I’m too hesitant to google “Doing the snake”. I feel it might lead to some crazy bestiality sites and knowing my luck, my computer will crash and I’ll have to get the computer fixed and the first thing the technician will see when he gets the computer working is a snake being used for unmentionable acts…and advertisements for pony shows.

  58. Your phone note reminded me of my grandpa Lewis’ writing to his local newspaper’s op-ed column so often it was practically his own column. He did this in the exact manner that your phone notes seem to take (stream of consciousness, half-baffling). The big difference being of course that this was pre-cell phone, he sent it to someone, and they published them! I’ve often thought of gathering them up in to a book. I would of course need to dig in to possible reasons for his wrtings at the time (communism, Hardees menu change, the propensity of lilacs to mildew).
    I think this style of writing is a particularly Southern thing….

  59. So happy that 90% of the office is at our trade show out of town, so no one saw me shoot tea out of my nose while I laughed hysterically. Your brain is a magnificent piece of art.

  60. There are different techniques to skinning a deer depending if you plan to keep the hide or just throw it away so why not have more then one way to skin a cat…but to add non animal quotes…..”you must wiggle your rod for proper penetration” (for welding), “I have to get proper head room before I pull the slack out” (railroader)…all sentences can be about sex if we try

  61. Pretty sure “doing the snake” has something to do with David Coverdale, since he named the band Whitesnake after his own “snake.”

  62. Wanda Sykes once did a whole dialogue on thoughts in the middle of the night. I was laughing so hard I nearly peed. My husband didn’t get it. It must a female thing…

  63. In the 50’s they used to say, “Give me some skin.” which meant to slide your hand over theirs. And they used to call people hep cats, or cool cats, so my working theory is that there are many ways to slide your hand over someone else’s, and no actual cats are harmed. I also could be delusional, but I prefer that, to killing kitties. Also, the phrase, “Like beating a dead horse” sounds like wanking, but isn’t…or is it? Again, I could be wrong.

  64. By “doing the snake” are you by any chance thinking of The Gator, the “dance” immortalized by Animal House? I think some people also called it “doing the worm.”

  65. Once again, thank you (and everyone who commented) for proving that soda can really shoot out your nose as you laugh hysterically and THEN try to stutter an explanation to your kids. These days, I just turn the laptop so they can see the blog I am reading and they nod sagely and walk away quickly, ha ha!

  66. My boss always says there is enough of whatever she’s talking about to “choke a goose”. Where is this goose and why is she trying to choke it?! Poor goose.

  67. Hey, Jenny, do you listen to the (free on iTunes) podcast “Welcome to Night Vale”? It seems like the sort of thing you’re probably already all over, but just in case, thought I’d tip you off. It’s mostly witty with a side of eerie, just like you. I mean that in the best way possible, of course. I love you. Well, now this is awkward.

    (I don’t listen as much as I should but I do love it. Way behind though. ~ Jenny)

  68. big cat fur was very popular back in the 40s and 50s. now there are laws, thank god.
    I have some sort of big cat fur hair band from the 1950s that is cool but I can’t sell it…nor wear it b/c it’s illegal to sell…and too tight to wear…and too hot b/c I am in FL.
    I maintain that selling vintage fur keeps the fur of modern live animals where it belongs, on the live animal.

  69. The ritual strangulation of poultry, it is the way of my people.
    Also oldman @#67: Catskinner is what they call the driver of the large tractor (Caterpillar) at a logging operation.

  70. I love it. Notes on the phone might be better than answering the phone and not remembering the conversation. Especially when the reason for the late night call was bad news. Guess I didn’t say anything offensive.

  71. When I took A&P in college, we were told there really WAS only one way to skin a cat. Because we had to make it look like a little fur coat so we could wrap the cat back up again when we were done so it wouldn’t dry out. Because we dissected cats for an entire semester. Ick. I never should have scheduled A&P lab right before dinner. But, to be honest, I was a lot skinnier back then because you just can’t eat after that sort of thing…

  72. I’m glad I’m not the only middle of the night intoxicated philosopher. Maybe people used to wear cat skin hats, before “coon skin” became the vogue thing to wear on the prairie. Now, I’m going to be up all night thinking about this.

  73. If you do not like cats, maybe you just do not know how to cook them! (and then you will need to skin them, of course 🙂

  74. I’m so envious your phone keeps notes. Mine randomly deletes most of my notes. I wish I could ask it how it decides which ones get cut. I imagine I’d just end up with hurt feelings because probably it’s for the benefit of humanity.

  75. it’s kind of like “chewing the fat” meaning gossiping? Why would you chew on fat… yuck

    what if they were referring to polecats… ewww why would you skin a skunk either? I wouldn’t wear that hat if you paid me…. well actually depending on how much you were planning on paying me I might be willing to negotiate… but I deal in cash.

  76. You got me thinking and I had to go looking for phrase origins. I found this one: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/32123/origin-of-the-phrase-theres-more-than-one-way-to-skin-a-cat So I’m not sure if this is right, or if some of the other commentators are right. I read a lot of the pioneer/old west/adventure type books when I was a kid and I remember seeing that phrase a lot, but I still have no idea where it originally came from.

    Although having been woken by cats fighting each other in the middle of the night (the ones who deign to live with me), I could hazard another guess…

  77. Oh my God! This is hysterical, but I’m afraid to listen to the video!! LOL
    When my 17 yo daughter was with me just after her concussion and could do nothing except read real, non-Kindle books, she found Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. She LOVED it and read long passages out loud to me. It was awesome (once I got over hearing her reading so many curse words…)

  78. I always say, “I just threw a wrench at the monkey.” Apparently, according to my husband, that’s not how the saying really goes. But that’s how MY saying goes.

  79. I’m beginning to wonder if you have the ability to read my mind while I’ve been high on pain meds the past couple of weeks. Other than wanting my husband dead because I’m still in all kinds of pain all because I was trying to be a nice wife and keep the scalpel away from his balls (big mistake there!) I’ve been having lots of crazy thoughts like this while my brain has been high on the variety of medications I’ve been given the past couple of weeks. I don’t like taking those drugs at all, but I’m half tempted to try some writing while on one of them. I haven’t done it yet. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll bet I’m not half as entertaining as you are naturally.

  80. There was actually an environmental activist here in Australia, who I think has since passed who used to wear a cat skin hat!
    There is a very large problem of feral cats over here, and they kill the wildlife, so in cases like his I believe skinning cats is warranted, provided they don’t suffer when they end their life.

    Which of course begs the question, are moleskins really made out of the skin of moles, or were they originally?

  81. Let’s not forget “smack the pony” – not all animal cruelty euphemisms for masturbation apply to men only, women are getting in on the act too!

  82. Well at least this is WAY MORE INTERESTING than me thinking about how terrible I am every night as I try and fall asleep! So, that part is good! 🙂

  83. This is the funniest thing I have read in a long time!! Thanks! And thanks for being you! My best friend and I read your book and it totally reminded us of our ridiculous shenanigans growing up and how you just have to laugh or you will cry (a lot). I feel so much better knowing there are people like you in this world!

  84. I like ‘doing the snake’ and woud l even going so far as to suggest ‘wrestling the python’, but somehow I don’t think that’s where you were going with this.

  85. I hope you eventually make a post about the random half-notes you find in your phone, because I bet they’re fucking gold. Middle-of-the-night brain is probably the best brain, next to pregnancy brain.

  86. I always wonder about the origin & meaning of weird phrases. Usually, it doesn’t come from a good place. Like under my thumb, I believe, is derived from a rule/law that men could beat their wives w/ a stick no bigger than their thumbs. While we still use these phrases, when you really think about them, they’re pretty awful.

  87. I’m thinking that once our forefathers were done skinning cats back in the olden days, they took to swinging all those skinned cats about, and thus was born the phrase “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting (fill in the blank)”

    Or is that just me?

  88. Never buy a pig in a poke has, I think, the same origin as letting the cat out of the bag.

    Also, I always thought skinning a cat referred to a cat o’nine tails but cat fish skinning sounds plausible too.

  89. My husband’s family would sometimes use the phrase “Couldn’t pour piss out of a boot,” meaning someone was really incompetent. That has never made the slightest bit of sense to me.

  90. “doing the snake.” – that’s what she said.

    also, the hubs will randomly say, “hey, who’s fucking this cat?” when he feels i’m butting in too much. i’m assuming he means straight intercourse, because otherwise OH GOD.

  91. I cannot think of a wax/shave job bad enough on the lady-parts that a hot pink literal carpet patch would be preferable. If the person seeing you naked is turned off by asymmetrical pubic hair or razor burn, I can almost GUARANTEE that your rave cover-up will only make things worse.

    And if anyone ever told me that they’d replaced any hair anywhere on their body with something called “Michael Jackson’s hair” I would never touch them in even the most platonic ways again.

  92. So, I don’t know if anyone’s already said this or not, but “The Snake” is a dance. And, I can do it! It’s where you hold your arms out (like you have airplane wings) and you move your neck from side to side.

  93. I am so glad that I am not one of the commenters here who’s had to actually skin a cat for dissection. I could not do that. I’d be the lab partner running out of the room in tears.

    Also, Erin M. Miller @41, you are totally right. I agree with you completely.

    As for what you’d do with a (dead) skinned cat, I learned recently that cat skins were sometimes used to make banjos. I know, right? So weird.

  94. I have a note like that. It simply says “autoerotic asphyxiation”
    By the time I found it again (weeks after writing it) neither hubs or I could remember the sleep-bleary conversation that led to me making that note.

  95. My family always went with Anne mccaffreys
    “There are more ways to kill a cat than by choking it with butter.”
    (Dull drums).

    The fact that I know the quote and the short story makes me feel right at home here.

  96. Never change Jenny! This blog just picks me up on a bad day and makes a good day even better. I laugh so hard I could hurt myself!

  97. My high school cat dissection manual (so glad to see I’m not alone on this one!) listed two methods – in through the belly or in through the back. You should keep the skin in one big piece to wrap up your cat so that the muscles don’t dry out, but apparently whether your cat wore his skin like a snazzy coat or an artsy apron didn’t matter. I was the only one who didn’t get a pre-skinned cat; I opted for that since it meant I could be the one without a partner, and I was that kid in school, so I can only speak with experience of the snazzy coat option.

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