My blogging guru Steve Mays sent me this link to a conCATenation of cat-bathing anecdotes, myths and advice. Several of my friends have previously been kind enough to send me the facetious notes on how to simultaneously bathe the cat while cleaning the toilet bowl. That’s pretty funny in the abstract, I reckon. One of the most bizzare cartoons I ever saw showed a hardware store paint-can shaker next to a bunch of paint-cans with whiskers protruding from the lids. Again, funny in the abstract.
I have no idea how long the collection of commentaries goes on in that link. Apparently a lot of Steve’s employment requires him to surf the internet and be wise in its ways. I don’t think I could look at this entire mess if I were getting paid.
What surprises me is how this subject is so swaddled in mystery and misinformation. It is quite true that many indoor cats simply do not require bathing. They do in fact groom themselves adequately without water. This should hardly be surprising since the cat-primeval is the desert cat of north Africa — not a lot of bathing facilities in the desert.
On the other hand, there are also occasions that require bathing the cat. The long hair of a long-haired cat is a mutation, and they didn’t mutate some sort of super tongue to take care of it. They do need to be groomed, and sometimes bathed. Sometimes cats do get into something nasty — not as often as dogs do, but it does happen. Sometimes they have skin conditions that benefit from a medicated shampoo. A cat can be so hideously infested with fleas that they require a bath. Even if you use Revolution (the wonder drug) to kill the fleas on a flea-infested cat, his skin and coat are still riddled with "flea dirt" (our euphemism for the partially digested blood that the fleas poop out after feeding on your pet’s vital fluids). A bath is much nicer than asking the cat to eat all that stuff in the grooming process.
Cats as a general rule are not fond of being immersed; in fact, most of them are not too keen on any large amount of water being nearby (see the above note about desert ancestry). [When I was in veterinary school and a cat was purring too loudly to hear his heart-beat, we were advised to hold them near running water. This was supposed to make them less content, thereby shutting off the purr. Unfortunately, some cats purr because they are agitated, and making them even less content is a bad idea.]
Cats do have lots of sharp edges, particularly when they get upset. If you are using a therapeutic shampoo, the lather has to stay on for ten minutes or so: you’re trying to medicate from the outside-in, so you have to give it some time to work. [Ten minutes with your new love-interest is but an instant. Ten minutes with an irritated, soapy cat is a pretty durn long time.]
For all you chicken-hearts, just take the cat to a groomer. For the rest of you intrepid and practical souls, here’s what you do. Obtain some type of heavy screen or light grating, i.e. a barbecue grill, an old refrigerator shelf, etcetera. Ideally, it would be substantial enough that you could put tie the cat’s leash to it. This should fit into the sink or tub in such a way that when the cat is upon it, it will be stable and not rocking. It also should keep the cat up out of the water (they don’t like being immersed). This also gives the cat something to grab onto, which makes him feel more secure (in addition to providing an alternative to your tender flesh). Use the sink sprayer to wet the cat, then turn off the water. Lather them up, let it sit, then use the sprayer to rinse them off.
Where the groomer really has an advantage over you is in the drying portion of the process. After towelling off the excess water, they have large warm air dryers that fill a whole cage with warm air. Trying to hold the cat while you use your hand-held blow-dryer is probably a bad idea. He’s already steamed and adding more hot air to steam could get you burned, figuratively speaking.