Recently, the internet has been ablaze with emails showing photos of everyday felines apparently "painted" by their owners in a variety of decorative colors and designs.
The email goes on to say that each custom paint job can cost up to $15,000 - and grows out in about 3 months!
The website, whypaintcats.com, encourages visitors to leave comments about the images.
The response of viewers is passionate.
Naturally, irate cat-lovers are aghast at the very idea of any owner having their favorite feline painted!
Others are simply perplexed, and many are downright incredulous after viewing the photos in the widely forwarded email.
One writer objected, "I don’t see how a cat would remain still long enough to be painted. This can't be genuine."
"I find this dangerous and abusive," wrote another.
Emotions were running high. But don't get your back up. There is no real cause for alarm...
Though the cats are real, the hair colors are not. The striking images came from a tongue-in-cheek volume entitled Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics (Ten Speed Press, 2002).
Written by New Zealander authors, Burton Silver and Heather Busch, this is the third volume of cat-related deadpan visual humor by the duo. Previous publications include their remarkably entertaining Why Cats Paint (1994) and Dancing with Cats (1999).
In media statements the authors are careful never to admit that the images have been doctored or manipulated.
"We never comment on the techniques used to create our art, because that's not the point of the work," Silver said in a interview in 2002. "We see our role as that of encouraging discussion amongst readers and provoking them to question their value systems."
However, about earlier books, the authors have been more candid. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, author Silver commented on Why Cats Paint, which calls itself "a critical examination of artworks created by cats". Silver said, "It's a spoof. A cat is totally its own person, like an artist is totally his own person. You can't force a cat to paint."
Nor, as anyone familiar with feline ways knows, can you force a cat to be painted. Perhaps that is the essence of the joke.
So, don't try to paint your cats at home - leave it to the professionals! Professional Photoshop artists, that is...