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," messy or at least less well groomed. Sometimes, it is or is almost as though they don't put much thought into their appearance, but sometimes, they are just naturally disheveled from doing stuff that girls don't stereotypically do.
If the male animal is a male dog, the scruffy appearance could just be due to the wire-haired coat texture.
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, Ugly Guy, Hot Wife, and Guys Are Slobs. Often goes hand in hand with Pale Females, Dark Males.
- A series of Subaru commercials revolves around a family of dogs. The mother is a Labrador Retriever, which is a short haired breed, and the father is from the long-haired Golden Retriever breed. One of the ads has a female Standard Poodle as well, who is well-groomed, but is a completely different Dog Stereotype (that Poodles are female).
- Justified with the title characters of Lady and the Tramp. Lady looks well-groomed as she is a pampered pet dog from a rich household, Tramp looks scruffy as he 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.
- The Fox and the Hound. Tod the male fox appears "scruffy" as an adult, whereas his girlfriend, Vixie the vixen appears better groomed. This is in spite of that Tod is a Pet Baby, Wild Animal who grew up in a human household, whereas Vixie grew up in the wild.
- The Sword in the Stone. Wart as a squirrel has messy fur on his head and cheeks, whereas the female squirrel who falls in love with him has smooth fur on her cheeks and head. Likewise, Merlin as a squirrel appears "scruffier" than the fat female squirrel who falls in love with him.
- 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.
- Elizabeth the female polar bear in Norm of the North appears smoother-furred than both the titular male polar bear, who appears somewhat scruffy, and the other male polar bears (especially Norm's grandfather, who appears really scruffy).
- Mor'du from Brave is larger, more scarred, and messier looking than Elinor was as a bear. His scruffier look also signifies him as the Big Bad.
- Tarzan: Kala, the female gorilla has short, smooth fur compared to silverback Kerchak, whose fur is longer and scruffier. Played with in the case of Terk, who is female, but her extremely scruffy fur and long crest signify her as a tomboy.
- Lucky from Survivor Dogs is scruffier looking than her sister Bella. This is excusable at the start, as Lucky has lived on the streets his entire life while Bella has just recently been left on her own, but all official art depicts Bella as less scruffy than Lucky.
- What-a-Mess's mother (the Duchess of Kinjan) is a conventionally sleek and beautiful Afghan hound. What-a-Mess himself lives up to his name, with the distinctive long, silky coat horribly tangled and with unidentifiable things stuck to it. The first book has What-a-Mess trying to work out what he is, because he can't possibly be the same thing as the Duchess.
- Bojack Horseman: The title character's parents follow this trope; Butterscotch has an unkempt mane, while Beatrice has a neatly curled one.
- Clifford the Big Red Dog: Cleo the poodle is always impeccably groomed while T-Bone gets dirty a lot and likes it, as does Clifford himself.
- Donald Duck has ruffled feathers on his head, whereas Daisy Duck has better-groomed, styled feathers on her head, and feathers on her body which are styled to look like a short skirt.
- Father of the Pride: Snack the male prairie dog has spiky, messy fur on his head whereas Candy the female prairie dog has smoother neater fur on her head.
- Lilo & Stitch franchise: Stitch has spiked tufts of fur on his head and chest, while his girlfriend Angel's fur is smooth, with a white V-shaped marking on her chest. In addition, Stitch has notches in his slightly pointed ears and his retractable antennae are short and budded at the tips, while Angel's slightly rounder ears lack notches and her non-retractable antennae are long, curved and smooth with rounded tips.
- The short Alley Cat features a wealthy, white female cat being courted by a scruffy looking, black-colored male stray. The male is more anthropomorphic and cartoony than the female.
- Riff Raff and his girlfriend Cleo from Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats, Cleo has smooth fur with brushed hair while Riff Raff's fur is scruffy, justified as she has an owner while he's a stray.
- Often, female mammals produce less sebum (skin oil) than males, which means their coats stay cleaner.