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
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 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.