Hello forum members, I am brand new the taxidermy world and to this forum. I make puppets and creatures for movies and I am interested in exploring using real fur in my work. I usually use faux fur, but I thought real fur would look nicer and more realistic. I am building a cat puppet right now and got a bobcat pelt on EBay thinking I could experiment with using this fur. I am struggling to break the hide and seeking advice. The pelt arrived from EBay and the first thing I noticed about the pelt, aside from its beautiful coat of fur, is that the skin is very stiff. I need something soft, relaxed, and pliable that I can wrap around and glue to the cat body I have built. I did some research and I believe that I need to "break the hide" or "stretch the hide." I watched a few youtube videos on this process and read some forum posts and I am taking a stab at doing this on my own. I rehydrated the skin by massaging it with a cloth damp with lukewarm water, and I also rubbed mineral oil and mink oil into it. I got a 2"x2"x36" piece of hardwood from Home Depot, I think it's maple or oak, and I rounded off and sanded down the edges of it. I've spent a lot of time stretching the hide over this stake. It's really hard! I managed to get some of the hide to turn white, which I saw people do in the few YouTube videos I watched. But it's taking a lot of time. I spent about 4 hours on Monday and then 4 hours yesterday stretching it, and I've only managed to turn the hide white on part of one of the hind legs - I've worked on the skin on both hind legs and also all over the abdomen, but I've spent the most time on one rear leg and have gotten it to a place that seems pretty good. I'm feeling daunted by the idea of doing this for the rest of the body - at this rate it seems like it could take another 3 full days to get the flesh white on the whole hide. I thought I'd ask for advice first. I also messaged the seller on EBay and told them about all of this and asked if they have any suggestions - I wonder if I maybe need some information from them about what they did with the pelt before I received it. It was advertised as "Real Tanned Bobcat Pelt Fur Hide". One thought I had is - my research tells me that this stretching process is supposed to happen shortly after the tanning process. Maybe it's so hard because the pelt has been dried out for a while? I wetted it to the point where it feels soft and supple and stretchy, but maybe I should get it even wetter? I can't really stretch it as much as I see people doing in the videos, where it turns white before your eyes as they stretch it. So maybe it needs to be wetter? I read about people soaking it in a solution of salt, tepid water, and laundry detergent for 20-30 minutes, then hanging it dry, then putting it in a bag and letting it sit in the fridge over night. I tried this yesterday and am about to try stretching it again. Do you have any other tips? My research tells me that this process should be very laborious, and I'm up for the task, but I feel like I should have progressed further after sinking like 8 hours into stretching it. I want to mention - you can see some holes in the hide - they were there when I received it. I bought one on EBay that was listed as "slightly damaged" and at a lower price - I figured that would be good for my first time. I don't think I've added any holes while working, but the existing holes have maybe gotten a little bigger? Anything I should do while I'm stretching to prevent them from getting bigger? I have one other question - when I rehydrate the flesh, it smells kind of foul. Not super strong, but definitely noticeable. That' why I'm wearing a respirator when I work with it - it just makes me more comfortable. My end goal is to have a puppet that I can take to a movie set with other people, and if it smells bad, that would be a problem. Once I finish breaking the hide, is it reasonable to expect this smell to go away on its own? Is there anything else I should consider doing to make the smell go away? I am including some links to pictures of my bobcat hide and setup and also a video of my stretching process: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1dJ3v1RP90nhQBumbyy7d6xRQxWcoR-3T?usp=sharing Thank you for your time and any thoughts you can share!