Friday, October 14, 2011

To Bathe or Not To Bathe

No, I haven't decided to give up habits of daily hygiene and good grooming in favor of
going about 'au naturel!'
The debate was whether or not to attempt bathing the cat tribe as part of the flea control
which has become necessary.
We're being told that its a bad season here in south-central Kentucky for FLEAS!
Daughter Gina has two dogs as well as her three cats; I have more cats than makes good sense [more than I ever intended to adopt!] 
G. declared war on the flea infestations this week and armed with advice from her Cousin David regarding flea combating products we set out for Tractor Supply.  TSC is a wonderful place where you can buy food for any kind of pet or farm animal as well as simple vet supplies, cleaners, parts for farm implements, wool socks, jeans, boots--a much friendlier destination in my mind than any up-town mall.
G. cornered her animals as soon as we returned home--a regular rodeo of dogs splashing in the bathtub, water sloshed all over, dog escaping through the side porch door and taking refuge in the neighbor's yard.
The cats were no easier--G. drove over about 9 p.m. to exhibit her numerous scratches.
I hadn't the gumption to tackle cat baths last evening, but was up at 6 this morning determined to get it over with.  At that, I wondered if lathering and rinsing cats is really the most efficient way to declare war on fleas.
I drew tepid water in the bathtub to a level that would come up to a cat's belly, set out the pet shampoo, spread a thick rug on the floor, put towels to  hand and hauled in my first victim.
No cat likes to be wet.  No cat likes to be held down and lathered.
Teasel was fairly cooperative--minimal flailing and seemingly grateful to be bundled in a big towel, even tolerated the blow dryer on a low setting.
"Maybe this won't be too bad," I encouraged myself.
I brought Charlie in next.  Charlie is a laid-back cat, a buffoon.  I was quite unprepared for his violent reaction to bathing.  He escaped the tub three times---tried to climb the wall, nicking the paint, caught a claw in my wedding ring and tried to hold on. Rugs, towels, the floor, my overalls were soaked.  I blotted water out of his long soggy fur and turned him loose.
Mrs. Beasley was next.  She was really quite good, but roared in a deep voice through out --sounding like a doleful foghorn.  As I squished suds through her coat, she ducked her chin into the water---"Burble, burble, meow, me--oooow!"
At this juncture I decided I needed fresh warm water before the next batch of cats, so flipped the lever to open the tub drain.  The water sat there.  I moved the lever up and down, realized that something in the innards had disconnected.
[The bathroom is the one room we didn't renovate, other than replacing a horrid carpet with vinyl tile and tearing off 30 year old wallpaper.]
Nothing for it, but to fetch in pliers and screw drivers, dismantle the stopper thing-y.
On the way to find tools, I discovered that someone [Charlie, no doubt, hoping to flee into the cat yard] had over-turned the big planter containing my Christmas cactus, which had dumped onto a choice 'beefsteak begonia' smashing off most of the leaves.
It was only 7 a.m. and already things were out of hand.
I swept up the potting soil, exchanging baleful glares with Charlie who had betaken himself to a box in the living room.  With the tub stopper inoperable, the cat bathing moved to the kitchen sink.
As per novels of a certain era, lets just say that a 'veil should be drawn' over the
proceedings of the next hour.
J.'s spoiled, pampered Raisin screamed blue murder, dragged two large bath towels into the sink.  Mima, the small gentle girl cat twisted like a slippery eel, splashing the kitchen floor with about a gallon of water. Dear old Eggnog and phlegmatic Maisie were bathed with the minimum of fuss.  I decided that no way would I even attempt to capture Chester who suffers from paranoia at the best of times.
I pushed the driest of the towels through the swamp on the floor, hauled them, dripping, down to the laundry.
I kindled the fire in the livingroom fireplace, built another fire in the family room.
Leaving damp and disgruntled cats strewn about the house, I put on my wellies
and trekked out to feed Pebbles and the barn cats.

Rain has fallen softly most of the day.  I like to peg laundry out to dry in sun and wind, but decided that since I had to deal with a pile of soggy towels I might as well launch a sort of fall cleaning.
The washer and dryer have chugged all day with cushion covers, a quilted bedspread, the throws and small blankets used in a feeble attempt to keep cat hair off furniture.
Clean, fluffy-dry cats have been fitted with flea collars.
All of us who keep indoor pets struggle to come to terms with the very real mess that animals can make, and with the cost of veterinary care, decent quality food and supplies necessary for our pets.
I have never been without cats--I wouldn't wish to be without them.
But, Oh! there are the days when I despair of this tribe who can't keep their paws on the floor, but must climb into cupboards, sit on the table, shove things onto the floor--OVERTURN MY PLANTS!
There are skid marks on the edges of windowsills and stands, unspeakable shreddings of upholstered furniture, and the ever renewable supply of cat hair.  And then there are hairballs!  And litter boxes.

The quirky individuality of each cat, the comfort of feline companionship, of nattering 'conversations' and throaty purrs surely balance the scale, but as I've told my tribe today, "It's a good thing I love you!"


The two youngest members of the family were not subjected to baths. 

The vet removed their flea collars last Friday when they were in for surgery and didn't return them.
Wilbur is a wary boy--he chirps at me, then whisks out of reach.
Willow is a love--she natters, twines about my ankles, parades across my desk.
Heaven knows we didn't need kittens, but here they are, already absorbed into the family.


  1. Oh Lordy. NOT a good day by the sound of things! You should have chosen Turkish Vans (who LIKE to swim!) or else Maine Coones - my friend's kittens would accompany her into the shower each day . . . Our lot say sourly, NO bloomin' way missus, we don't wanna be washed . . . and I think it would be absolute bedlam.

  2. Oh that post cheered me up this morning as I visulized the mayhem...sorry.

    I think you were very brave but a little umm ...daring? ... to attemp this all ....remember the easy ones and try something different for the others in
    When long hairs are tiny Jay takes them into the bath a few times so if needed, bathtime will not be too much trauma and the odd other ones too. Rusty has had 2 swims so far ...not that he was extatic ...but he did do 'doggy paddle'. Many of the others were too old so we tend to leave well alone and rely on flea drops on the neck.
    We cat people do get alot back from our amazing felines ...well worth the scratching,accidental peeing, litter trays, sick piles ...and hairballs. xx

  3. I always thought that cats had an easy life but now I'm not so sure....

  4. You have my sympathy! We only have one cat and each time my husband says we need to give the cat a bath I feel like running to the hills. It's been a bad year for fleas here in Georgia too. We have our house sprayed every 3 months for bugs in general, had to have extra flea sprayings and we treat the cat with something the vet gives (sells) us and still we have flea problems.

  5. As a night person who staggers cross-eyed through mornings, I send my sympathy. Two thoughts as I read your delightful post: 1. Some cats get a bad reaction to flea collards. I read about it in a woman's magazine in the monthly pets column written by a veterinarian. In some cats they cause a weakness of their hindquarters. You might watch for that. Sure enough, my deeply loved cat had that problem. If I hadn't read about it, I never would have known what was causing her problem. Our Vet Doc had never heard of it. 2. One of my favorite authors, Gladys Taber, wrote about bathing her cats in an orange bag. I kept reading and kept wondering what in the world she was talking about this orange bag thing! It finally dawned on me: She meant the mesh bag that oranges come in. I thought she meant a bag of orange color. She would bag the cat, then she bathed them with shampoo that was advertised to make girls hair soft and lustrous. Since then I have read not to use people's shampoo for pets because it dries out their hair, but that is what she did. I suppose her "orange bag" had openings small enough to help contain the stormy battle raging inside it. Good luck!

  6. Oh my, you are a brave woman!!
    Scruffy is an indoor cat and that solves the flea problem. We've had it in the past with indoor outdoor cats. Scruffy has been indoors all his life I think looking at his soft little paw pads, and hair between the toes, so he doesn't fuss about wanting to go out. The Vantage drops that go on the back of the neck worked the best for us -- but then we were only a one cat family!

  7. morning Sharon! I am back from my recent travellings and catching up now with blog commenting!
    This post really had me smiling. You area brave woman, and I am not at all surprised you backed out of bathing one of them. I have bathed cats before, and ended up with similar chaos and shredded arms too!

    I was laughing as I read this and my son came over to see what i was reading. How many cats does she have? he said incredulously!! I was able to reply, see! we only have a modest amount with our six!! So you have done me a favour maybe, he no longer will think I am insane and that people out there have worse addictions than me!!

    hugs for all your kitties after their ordeal, and a stiff drink for you!

    Leanne x

  8. BB: You've nailed it--bedlam! My daughter's huge cat--a Maine Coon Cat--was indeed the best behaved of her lot over the bathing.

    Angie: I've had a few cats in the past who liked to parade along the rim of the bathtub when a human bath was in progress--their professed interest never carried over to a cat bath. I tried the back-of-the-neck flea control drops--not effective--I gather we'd have needed the ones at $50 per packet--not do-able with so many cats. I'm glad my account of the bathing mayhem cheered your day!
    John; These cats have quite a cherished existance--its their keepers who have a difficult time catering to their needs!

    Janet: I have dreaded the thought that we might need to have "the pest control man" out--thus far the fleas have stayed with the cats and I haven't seen any dreaded cockroaches or such. If I had to go the route of whole house pest control I know I'd be concerned about the spray residue affecting both cats and humans.

    Barbee: I've been watching carefully for any adverse reactions to the collars or to the flea spray which I used on the long-haired cats. I think its about using the least toxic [to the cats] product which will take down the flea population--and those ingredients with weird names can't be good for any of us!
    Gladys Taber is an author I enjoy; I was able to buy most of her books at a second hand shop some years ago--time to read them again--I didn't recall her cat bathing technique, but have to say even fighting mine into the mesh bag would probably be a struggle!

    Chris: We had no fleas during the dozen years in the dry climate of WY and no flea issues during the first summer in KY. I suspect the difference has been allowing the cats the pleasure of their little fenced yard. I've been told that the Vantage drops are effective, but I beleive that's the brand I considered and discovered the cost was too much to treat this many cats. Our weakness for taking in 'strays' surely has financial repercussions--as well as adding to the general mess.

    Leanne: I relate to your son's incredulity re the number of felines in our household! I am astonished myself that we have gotten into this 'fix.' I've only once previously had this many cats. The appearance of the two kittens really pushed us way over the top, but--what to do? They were so in need of food and care--and that tiny Willow-cat is a heart-stealer.