The fur or feather grooming or upkeep of animal characters is commonly used as a secondary sexual characteristic in fictional media. For example, the male animal character may have a small or medium tuft of fur or feathers on his head, whereas the female animal character would have a smooth-furred or feathered head. The male animal may also have longer whiskers than the female animal.
In fiction, female animals often appear better groomed, sometimes elaborately so in the case of showy, longhaired dog and cat breeds.
Male animals, on the other hand, appear “scruffy” or at least less well groomed. Sometimes, it is or is almost as though they don’t put much thought into their appearance. Sometimes, they are just naturally disheveled from doing stuff that girls don’t stereotypically do.
This trope shows up in animal characters based on wild animals as well as domestic animals.
Subtrope of Secondary Sexual Characteristics
and Tertiary Sexual Characteristics
. See also Women Are Delicate
. Often goes hand in hand with Pale Females, Dark Males
- Justified with the title characters of Lady and the Tramp. Lady is a pampered pet dog, Tramp is a stray dog (along with being wire haired).
- 'The Aristocats'' has pampered pet cat Duchess and scruffy stray cat O'Malley. This also extends to the kittens, with ladylike, prissy, Hair Decorations-sporting Marie and her scruffier, rough-and-tumble brothers.
- In The Fox and the Hound. Tod the male fox appears "scruffy" as an adult, whereas his girlfriend, Vixie the vixen appears better groomed.
- The titular deer character of Bambi and its sequel has a tuft of fur on his head and at the base of his ears. His girlfriend, Faline doesn't have head or base of ear tufts, therefore she appears better groomed.
- Thoroughly played with in Walt Disney Pictures' Oliver & Company. The Foxworths' show poodle Georgette wakes up looking grim but a few moments at her makeup vanity elevates her to canine goddess status. However, after the narrow escape from the oncoming subway train, Georgette is the worst-looking dog of all. Alpha dog Dodger and plucky Tito have rough spots, but The Chick Rita is no better groomed than dimbulb Einstein or thespian Francis. In fact, second only to Georgette in grooming are Sykes' male dobermans, Roscoe and Desoto.
- Averted with the lead cats Danny and Sawyer in Turner Features Cats Don't Dance. Because Slapstick Knows no Gender in this film, both nicely groomed cats get messy for laughs, but usually keep their fur in place.
- Andie the female squirrel in The Nut Job appears better groomed than Greyson and Surly the male squirrels.
- In Rio. Blu the male macaw has a more ruffled appearance to his feathers than Jewel the female macaw.
- Scratte, the female saber-toothed squirrel in the Ice Age movies has smoother and silkier fur than Scrat, the male saber-toothed squirrel.
- Clifford the Big Red Dog. Cleo the poodle is always impeccably groomed (even though she's a bit of a tomboy at heart) while T-Bone gets dirty a lot and likes it, as does Clifford himself.
- Often, female mammals produce less sebum (skin oil) than males, which means their coats stay cleaner.