In a November 2014 Reddit AMA, a fan asked Lisa Kudrow the origin of her iconic “Smelly Cat” song from Friends. She explained that the writers wrote it, and she created the tune herself. Although, it turns out there’s more to the story, and the beloved tune was originally about a dog.
We spoke to Betsy Borns, who wrote “The One With The Baby On The Bus.” It’s the sixth episode of the second season, where “Smelly Cat” makes its first appearance. If you’re in need of a refresher, here’s what happens. Ross has an allergic reaction to kiwi and has to go to the doctor. So, Chandler and Joey offer to babysit Ben. Distracted by some cute girls on the bus, they accidentally leave Ben in his carrier, as the bus drives away. Meanwhile, the owner of The Central Perk, Terry, tells Rachel that Phoebe’s been replaced by a professional musician. That leaves Phoebe nowhere to perform but outside on the street. Borns tried weaving in some details from her own life into the show. For starters, her sister’s name is Stephanie, so she named Chrissie Hynde’s character — who replaces Phoebe as the musician — after her. She also named the bar Markel’s — where Chandler and Joey suggest going for a drink with the ladies — after her then-boyfriend’s father. "And I had a really stinky, smelly dog,” she said. “But it was determined that ‘cat’ was funnier.” Yep. Borns wrote in a song about her stinky dog for Phoebe to sing. Just how pungent was this pooch? “My dog was so smelly his name was Gouda, because he smelled like bad cheese,” Borns said.
Just imagine how the series would have been different if the writers had kept it as a dog. There wouldn't be Phoebe's old singing partner selling "Smelly Cat" as a jingle to a cat litter company. And who knows if "Smelly Dog" would have gotten its own music video?
As a disclaimer, Borns admits this all happened quite a long time ago — in 1995 — and that she may be forgetting another element to how this all came together. “But I did have a smelly dog, and that was my episode, so let the chips fall where they may.” In case you’re wondering, Borns now has "a really good smelling dog named Bodhi.” And no, she didn’t write Point Break.