Thursday, August 7, 2008

How to wash a cat (really this time)

Jan's comment made me think. Previously, all the unbathed cat owners I'd known had been your typical well intentioned but uninformed, pet store customer types. So I figured it was just one more instance of 'oh I didn't realize you could bathe cats...feed anything better than iams...not vaccinate as often as I am'

But, apparently real, informed, intelligent people have a problem here. I have two hunches. One, they truly do own evil devil cats, because those cats do exist. But, given a choice, most people don't pick evil devil cats on purpose, so I don't think that's the majority situation. The other thing I can think of it that they've just never seen it done, and given their cat's reactions to things like medicine, they're too scared to try.

So since knowledge is the enemy of fear, and fear leads to stinky cats, I suppose a how-to is in order.

What you need:
-A dirty cat with *clipped* claws. Bathing a cat with full sharp claws is something even I wouldn't do. For ultimate security, cut them a few days before to give the sharp edges caused by the clippers time to smooth out. (Also, you probably don't want any matted hair, wounds, or fresh stitches in the cat - use common sense)
-cat soap. Make sure it has 'cat' on the bottle. Since cats lick themselves, you need to be extra careful. Also, don't get a flea&tick variety unless it's a problem. Why introduce extra chemicals?
-A sink, shower, or tub With A Detachable Sprayer Head. That's where I messed up last time. Also, clearing the immediate area of stuff that could get knocked over is recomended.
-Lots of towels.
-Finally, I recommend doing it on a warm sunny day so the cat can lay in the sun to dry.

Wear old clothes that can get wet, hairy (and possibly ripped) but don't worry too much about it. Gloves will only make things more difficult.

So, run the water until it's a comfortable temperature, put the cat in the sink/tub, and spray the body until wet.

I know, so easily said...but really, they don't like it, but most cats tolerate it pretty darn well. They transition pretty quickly to a forlorn acceptance of their fate-worse-than-death. Really, I promise. eight out of eight cats I've bathed have settled down to meowing pitifully in just a few seconds. If your cat is tolerant of being picked up at all, I almost guarantee it will be tolerant of bathing.

I think a fair amount of this reaction and resulting advice stems from the fact that a cat doesn't have very good footing in a wet sink. They'll scrabble around a bit, but you're in a much better position to out-leverage them than you are with you both on dry land, and they figure this out pretty quick.

Some tips though:

-don't take your hand off them. They may be doing beautifully, but they will jump out in no time if they think the getting is good.

-don't move them. This is where the spray nozzle is so important. You can lift their front part up to get their bellies, but move their bottom as little as possible, and mostly just let them sit there. If you start picking them up and turning them around, they'll just start flailing at random, and probably get away from you.

-don't worry about the head. For one, getting water in the ears isn't really a good thing. Also, they really, really don't like it, and will fight you much harder than when they were just wet. Not worth the battle.

The rest is pretty self-explanatory. Put some soap on them. This is easiest to do one-handed if you just drizzle it directly on their back, and rub it around to get the underneath parts. Rinse well. Finish by rubbing dry with towels as much as they will stand.

Did I miss the mark? Does this not match your experience? Is there some other reason you've never bathed your cat? Let me know. I read all my comments, even the ones on really old entries show up right alongside the new ones, so speak up even if you come across this years later. Lets make the world a cleaner place one cat at a time!

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