To Lather a Cat



	 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 your 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
	 tepid water. 

	* Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat non-chalantly, 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. Cats are gullible that way!) 

	 * 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 when wet. 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 semi-permanently 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 psycho-ceramic 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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