Like many of my peers, I’ve been cleaning my mother’s home as she downsizes for her next phase of life. Sitting amidst a lifetime of books, china, knickknacks, and photographs, I realized how the needed actions can be daunting for parents and adult children alike. Particularly perplexing for me were decisions about furs. Here’s what I learned, and how I solved the ethical problem gnawing at me.
The Problem of Fur
We may already know about the cruelty of creating fur coats, collars, and hood trims. But a rare few realize the scale: Over 100 million animals are killed yearly for their fur. Most are not procured from the wild but instead created by killing animals who spend their lives on so-called “fur farms." I’ll spare you further details, but if you’d like to know more, check out these facts about the fur industry.
Both my mother and my husband’s mother had mink collars and hats in their possession, which were handed down from prior generations of women for whom wearing fur was still fashionable. Most of these accessories sit on shelves in closets these days. But what if some good could come from them? I considered giving one fur hat I found in Mom’s closet a sacred sendoff, burying it in my yard so it returned to the earth. But a friend had a better idea—donate it for use with orphaned or injured wildlife who miss their mothers and can feel comforted lying nestled in fur while they recuperate.
So, I reached out to the organization Cuddle Coats to learn more.
An Interview With Cuddle Coats on What to Do With Furs
Sarah Bowen: How did Cuddle Coats begin?
Amy Leinen, Campaign Manager: It started with a fur-lined glove lying in a parking lot. The finder, Dallas Rising, the Animal Rights Coalition Program Director at the time, thought the glove could be a place for a small critter to cuddle up inside. This moment inspired the foundation of the Animal Rights Coalition’s Cuddle Coats campaign in 2013.
What needs does the program serve?
Cuddle Coats repurposes fur to comfort wildlife at over 40 wildlife rehabilitation centers and rescues across the country.
It is an “end of human use” program, giving back to wildlife impacted by the exploitation of their bodies, including their skin and fur. Through our partner organizations, Cuddle Coats uses donated furs to offer comfort, warmth, and rehabilitation to injured and orphaned animals before their release into the wild. Fur that was once brutally taken from animals can now be used as a source of care and compassion.
For people who foster cats or dogs, would you recommend they use any unwanted fur coats with those species? Why or why not?
We prefer that the furs go first to wildlife to benefit from. Occasionally, rescue groups have requested furs to provide comfort to the kittens in their care. If we have extras, we have shipped boxes to them.
A negative I can see of dogs or cats using unwanted wildlife furs would be them associating the furs with toys to chew on.
Cuddle Coats accepts furs at least one foot by one foot in size. Any recommendations for those of us with our mother’s or grandmother’s fur collars, which are about two feet long but only 6 inches wide?
Sometimes we can make use of smaller fur items, such as collars and muffs. We just don’t advertise this as much, since most of the places we connect with need larger pieces. Additionally, some of the smaller items, such as stoles and collars, have the legs and faces of the animals still attached, so we can’t use them. Perhaps burying the small items (minus buttons, snaps, etc.) would be best.
How to Repurpose a Fur
Resources for Helping End the Fur Industry
For more on aging with your parents, read How Do You Mother Your Mother?