Talk Story


Thursday, May 30, 2002

The right way to deal
with a dirty cat

YOU CAN wash your cat. It's not something to do everyday, but it's not difficult. Having a fluffy, clean cat -- well, a cleaner cat -- is worth it.

Average cats do a good job of staying tidy. Indoor models are usually spotless and your outdoor/indoor cat, if it's like mine, usually does a good job on paws, tummy and face.

However, it's difficult for any cat, especially an overweight neighborhood moocher/mouser like mine, to reach its back. By Memorial Day, the combination of greasy build-up, rolling in the dust under the deck and shedding can turn a sleek tabby into a scruffy eyesore.

"What's wrong with Hapa?" my wife asked. "He looks sick. Can't you give him something to make his coat look better?"

That's how it started.

I'VE DONE this before. The first time was in the shower.

Our white-pawed, blue-eyed half-Siamese, Hapa, likes hanging around waiting for me to get out of the tub. He's intoxicated by the scent of soap on human skin and enjoys nuzzling and biting my ankles lovingly while I towel.

Once the shower is off, he'll impatiently jump up on the edge of the tub to hurry me along. Fatefully, he did that the day his shabbiness had been a topic of breakfast conversation.

On a whim, I grabbed him, turned the water back on and reached for the shampoo.

AT FIRST, he froze, shocked by my impertinence. As soon as he was wet, he started hollering, but the real struggle didn't start until I'd soaped him up.

"What are you doing?" my wife shouted over the din.

"I'm washing the cat," I said. Actually, it was more like wrestling a greased python naked during a fire drill.

"Would you hand us a towel, please?" I asked.

I wrapped the towel around the writhing creature to avoid further damage, but it arrived too late. Kicking to escape, Hapa had nicked me pretty good on my arms and torso.

I watched my blood mix with the shower water and run down the drain, thinking: "This is like that scene from Hitchcock's 'Psycho' -- but much louder."

No, don't wash your cat in the shower.

THE METHOD I prefer involves a two-basin kitchen sink. Fill both basins about half way with lukewarm water. Find some old towels, but keep them out of reach of the cat or they'll end up in the sink, too. Get some shampoo and find the cat.

I use regular shampoo. Hapa seems to like how it smells on me, so I figure he'll enjoy it on himself.

Keeping Band-Aids and antiseptic ointment handy is prudent if your cat hasn't been declawed, or if you're a novice cat washer. As a naked cat shower survivor, I don't worry much about first aid, but your mileage may vary.

With one arm underneath, lift the cat while firmly holding on to a front leg. Lower him into one basin while cooing calming inanities. He'll loudly offer his own opinions as soon as his feet touch water. Ignore them.

I USE a mug to dip water from the sink he's in first -- the water in the other sink is for rinsing.

Lather, rinse.

Repeat? I don't think so.

By the time I've rinsed Hapa once, the decibel level in our kitchen has attracted neighborhood-wide attention and he's starting to thrash. So, I bundle him up in a towel and take him outside to dry.

Nothing could be grumpier than a freshly shampooed cat, but one thing Hapa and I have in common is short-term memory loss. By bedtime he was dry and cuddled up against me, purring as if nothing had happened.

So, yes, you can wash your cat.

John Flanagan is the Star-Bulletin's contributing editor.
He can be reached at:

E-mail to Editorial Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin