Let's face it: giving a cat a bath can be more painful than going on a diet. If you've ever bathed an angry kitty, you know what I'm talking about. Sure, there are a lot of cat experts who tell you that the younger you get Fluffy used to water, the less of a fight he'll put up when he's an adult. Some cats might even grow to love water. I've got news for those cat experts: what works for one cat doesn't always work for the next. Like people, cats have their own distinct personalities, their own likes and dislikes. And my childhood cat Zach was one stubborn feline.
Bathing a cat takes a certain amount of determination, resilience and teeth-gritting. Trust me, I know. Zach was doing a fantastic job of behaving during his first bath until he suddenly decided he didn't like the scent of the anti-flea shampoo and took it upon himself to leap off the ground and dig his claws into my shoulder. I could practically hear him chanting, "later, sucker!" In case you didn't know, cat claws are really sharp. In fact, you really can't unstick a cat once he's stuck into something. Lesson learned. Next time I wore long sleeves. Thick longsleeves and even thicker rubber gloves. Yeah, it looked pretty funny, and no doubt Zach was snickering at me behind my back, but after a few bandages and antiseptic sessions, I wasn't going back down that road again.
After a few times it became abundantly clear that Zach was never going to warm up to taking a bath. Furthermore, the more frequently you bathe an animal, the more frequently they seem to need a bath again. It's weird but true. Despite the protests of my nose, I held off and gave him baths on a less regular basis. It was better for him...and for me. Besides, cats don't need baths like dogs do. They keep themselves clean. But the point does come when kitty has to go under the water spigot - and you've got make sure you've got your gladiator armor on. Here are a few tips I picked up on while bathing my cat:
- Use lukewarm water. Fill the bath up about 1/4 of an inch. Make sure your shampoo is non-toxic and pet friendly.
- Wear rubber dish gloves. I'm not kidding. They offer the best protection if kitty gets upset.
- Don't just dump a bunch of water on the cat. That will freak the poor thing out! Get a small cup and gently rinse the soap out of their fur in small patches. Over time your cat might even come to enjoy this. It's like a massage. (not that I'm jealous)
- I recommend using a towel to dry your cat off a few times. Gently.
- Cats can take a remarkably long time to dry out if they're long-haired. My cat happened to adore the blow-dryer. I set the gadget on low and medium heat, and he purred and purred through the whole thing. Plus, his fur looked gorgeous at the end.
- Be patient. Sure, your cat might bite and hiss and dismember you. But it's not because they hate you: they just don't like water. Be patient with them and they'll be patient with you!
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)