|Some people say cats never have to be bathed. They say cats lick themselves
clean. They say cats have a special enzyme of some sort in their saliva
that works like New, Improved Wisk - dislodging the dirt where it hides
and whisks it away.
I've spent most of my life believing this folklore. Like most blind
believers, I've been able to discount all the facts to the contrary - the
kitty odors that lurk in the corners of the garage and dirt smudges that
cling to the throw rug by the fireplace.
The time comes, however, when a man must face reality; when he must
look squarely in the face of massive public sentiment to the contrary and
announce: "This cat smells like a port-a-potty on a hot day in Juarez."
When that day arrives at your house, as it has in mine, I have some
advice you might consider as you place your feline friend under you arm
and head for the bathtub:
Know that although the cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of
concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize
on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don't try to bathe him
in an open area where he can force you to chase him.
Pick a very small bathroom.
If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend that you
get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you
were about to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk
cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician
can shift positions.)
Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all the skin
from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how
to dress to protect yourself. I recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top
construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey
face mask and a long-sleeve flak jacket.
Prepare everything in advance. There is no time to go out for a towel
when you have a cat digging a hole in your flak jacket. Draw the water.
Make sure the bottle of kitty shampoo is inside the glass enclosure. Make
sure the towel can be reached, even if you are lying on your back in the
Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to
simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice your
strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule. If
he does notice your garb, calmly explain that you are taking part in a
product-testing experiment for J.C. Penney.)
Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In a
single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure,
slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and squirt him with
shampoo. You have begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life. Cats
have no handles. Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and the problem
is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more that
two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must remember
to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy. He'll then spring
free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing himself off. (The national
record is -- for cats --three latherings, so don't expect too much.)
Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume this part
will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at this point
and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the drying is simple
compared to what you have just been through. That's because by now the
cat is semipermanently affixed to your right leg. You simply pop the drain
plug with your foot, reach for your towel and wait. (Occasionally, however,
the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens,
the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward
After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to
just reach down and dry the cat.
In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg.
He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend
a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psychoceramic
and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine.
You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn't usually the case.
As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and injure
you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath. But, at least
now he smells a lot better.
California State University, Long Beach, Library