Cat Bathing as a Martial Art
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 you arm and head for
- Know that although the cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of concern
for human life, you have the advantage of intelligence (hopefully). Capitalize
on that advantage by selecting the battlefield wisely. 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. (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 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 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
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.
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