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 whisking 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 your 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-sleeved 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 water.
- 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 than
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 for cats is 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 you 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 your
leg.) 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.