Skinny Cat

Unlike Phoebe’s Smelly Cat, the Skinny Cat goes beyond noxious and strays into the problematic.

This weekend we were hanging out with my daughter’s 6-year-old friend, who we’ll call Jane because that’s shorter and faster to type than her actual name.  We’re close to Jane’s whole family, and always have a lovely time together.  This weekend, Jane had a little stuffed cat with her.  She ran around with the cat tucked under her arm, nothing special or unusual.  I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the damn cat except as we were leaving:

Jane (squeezes the cat’s middle section as tightly as she can): Look!  My cat is skinny and pretty.

Robert: Hmm.  Looks more like the cat is hurting.

Jane (sucks her tummy way in and squeezes her hands around her tummy): Look!  Now I’m skinny and pretty too!

Hence the entrance of Skinny Cat into our lives and into my psyche.   So what’s the deal here?  Jane clearly has the impression that skinny is better than normal – even if you have to stop breathing to achieve it.

My immediate reaction?  Let’s play the Blame Game!  Here are some prime suspects on my list:

  • Jane’s mother
  • Jane’s father
  • Jane’s brother
  • Jane’s grandparents
  • Jane’s friends
  • Jane’s friends’ parents
  • Jane’s culture
  • Jane’s dog
  • oh, wait, Jane doesn’t have a dog any more.

And then I remember: Oh, wait, I don’t care who’s to blame.  But I do care, and very deeply because of my personal relationship with Jane, what each of those people is doing about Jane’s compulsion for…Skinny Cat.  (Followed shortly by Skinny Jane.)

I’m a vocal creature when it comes to talking about thinks like body image and sex.  (HA!  Who’d have thought, yes?)  But everyone else needs to be too.  I can only be in so many places at a time, but I am needed in so many, many more!  Like, for example, each and every time a 6-year-old turns another stuffed cat towards anorexia.  Nervously shuffling your feet and not responding to the child, not opening up a conversation about body image and body type and beauty is what keeps these stereotypes going.  Hoping it’s just a phase, that the child will outgrow it, is to ignore the heavy weight of this thinness-obsessed culture that we live in.

So here are the people you should be talking with about body image every time there is an opening:

  • Your parents, your children
  • Your brothers and sisters
  • Your nieces and nephews
  • Your grandparents, your grandchildren
  • Your friends, your friends children
  • Your culture
  • Your dog.  Yes, especially your dog.

Because it is through conversation and critique and openness that our society can kick our addition to Thin and Young firmly to the curb.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Thanks for your comments – I agree this is an issue that is horrifying and needs to be addressed. I’d suggest that everyone talk about BODIES – all the permutations of them and how some people think some of them are attractive and how some of them are healthier than others. I’d suggest we don’t struggle to say the word “fat” OR the word “thin” – we need to help especially our children talk easily about how they see their body and the bodies of their friends and family members. Thin can be scary and VERY unhealthy, fat can also be scary and VERY unhealthy, but most people in our world today who call themselves (or others) fat are not talking about people who are so fat that they are VERY unhealthy – they are talking about people who do not fit the skinny media culture. When we feel fat, we are much less likely to grow in healthy sexuality, so this is definitely a topic for you to be addressing, Dr. Rayne. THANKS!

  2. I just think it’s important to point out that people come in all different shapes and sizes and it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Trite, but true.

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