Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Things You Should Know about Pet Ownership: Bathing Cats Sucks

Note: This is not Steve's cat. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Belal Khan


Today's post is by my friend Steve Niezgoda. When he is not bathing cats, Steve works as a material scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which, he says, involves using physics too complicated for anything practical to make models.These models, he explains, are the equivalent of telling kids "Santa brought you presents because you were good." instead of explaining how hard it is to save up all year for the loot and how papa had a nervous breakdown wondering if we bought too much/too little, all to teach a lesson about the joy of giving and being nice to each other. He almost posted a comment the other day about how it is unfair to generalize and say that non-bloggers never comment but then he chickened out. It was easier to prove me right than to try to be cogent and witty. However, he is going to be cogent and witty today for much longer than the space it takes to write a comment, so consider him amply redeemed. This is his tale:

Christy is gone for the evening and has tasked me with giving the dog (six years old) and the boy (three and 3/4 years old) a bath. The house we are renting has some odd features, one of which is a downstairs bathroom with a double shower. It is a huge stand up shower stall with two shower heads. The weird thing about it is no matter where you stand it is impossible to get the water from both shower heads pointed together, so you can't really get a luxurious spa experience. You just have to pick which shower head you want to use. It is like the person who designed the house liked the theory of showering with someone else, but wanted to make sure there was a wide and cold air gap to prevent any unnecessary touching between shower partners.

On this occasion, I find this setup very convenient for simultaneously bathing the dog and Emory. I can strip E-man down and put him under one shower and the dog under the other. Since the dog is allergic to every plant in the Jemez mountains, he has been getting a lot of baths lately. Of course with all that water flying around, I get drenched, so I usually just strip down to my underwear. A less self-conscious person would probably just get naked, but I feel weird being naked while showering with my dog and my son. One or the other would be O.K., but with both together, I feel like Animal Control and Child Protective Services are going to simultaneously break down the door at any minute.

So I bathe the dog and the kid–no problem. Dry dog off. Then Emory asks why we never give the cat a bath. I want to say that we just don't give cats baths, but instead I think, "Lets turn this into a teaching moment and show Emory why we don't give cats baths."

We got the cat, Millimeter, the same month Christy and I moved into our first apartment, about 13 years ago. Christy picked the cat (then six weeks old) from the shelter, had to go to a family function for the weekend, and I picked the kitten up from the shelter the next day. I didn't realize it, but she was very sick and had just about every parasite you could imagine. I just thought she slept a lot and was being picky and not wanting to eat her new kitten food. It turns out the cat almost died under my two days of care, and when Christy got home, she rushed her right off to the vet. I have yet to be forgiven for nearly killing the kitten though neglect, and was strongly reminded of it when I was first entrusted to watch then then infant Emory on my own for the first time. Anyway we had to give the kitten baths with a special medicine and that was my last experience in bathing a cat. She just kind of cried pitifully, looked like a drowned rat and tried her best to get out, but it was pretty easy to hold down a very sick tiny kitten. Just like my mother is still convinced I can't throw a baseball, I thought the 13 year-old cat would behave the same as a tiny sick kitten.

After chasing the cat around in my dripping wet underwear–we have concrete floors so I don't have to dry off too thoroughly–I catch the cat, put a collar and leash on her and bring her to the shower. Emory is singing songs from Peter Pan and alternately pretending he is Peter battling Captain Hook or Wendy being rescued by Peter. (This duality is expected from Emory, who loves his My Little Pony Doll, but pretends she is a Jedi and shoots death rays out of her eyes to kill Sith lords.) I bring the cat into the shower stream, holding her against my chest in a vain effort to comfort her. She promptly rakes my man-boobs with her claws and I drop her–but not the leash–and scream in pain. Emory starts screaming because I am screaming and the cat is bouncing around the shower like a ball in the lottery machines. In the confusion, I fall down and hit my head. Luckily I wasn't hurt or killed. At this point I was thinking that it is time to teach the boy to dial 911. I get up and realize the cat must have also whacked her head because she is lying limp on the shower floor. I look a little closer and she is not breathing. Her little wet chest is perfectly still, not moving up and down, and I said "Oh fuck, I just killed my wife's cat!" Time really slows down to a crawl while I think I will be moving into a studio apartment with my dog and have visitation rights with Emory every Easter that falls on a Tuesday.

I really don't know how long the cat continues not to breathe. It seems like two hours, but it is probably a second or two. I reach down and breath into the cat's nose. Her chest expands up, she coughs and then explodes into a furious rage. She claws my arms, my legs, and my chest and bit the middle finger on my right hand straight through. At this point Emory decides he needs to get out the shower–this second!!!!–and I had to hold the spinning death knives away from his tiny body as he nonchalantly strolls past the carnage and blood and demands I dry him off before he gets cold. I wrap the cat in a towel then somehow get Emory into a towel. The cat has calmed down now, and I put her into my bed under a down comforter, trying not to drip blood everywhere. Then I rinse out my wounds, put Emory into his pajamas and read him his bedtime stories.

This is about when Christy comes home. My finger is starting to swell, and she says I should go to the E.R. I probably would have, if left to my own devices, but since she suggested it I decide to tough it out. I go to work the next day and keep it wrapped up. By five my hand is swollen up to my wrist and I can't flex my fingers. At urgent care they re-open the entire wound to drain the abscesses that had already formed, tell me in no uncertain terms I am a fucking moron for waiting to see a doctor, and put me on more antibiotics then my mother-in-law got when she had MRSA.

And so I think that, just as I planned, Emory has learned an important lesson about why we should not bathe cats.

I want your funny pet story, too! See this post for guidelines.

11 comments:

  1. Glad that the cat is alive. I bathe dogs. But never a cat. Cats don't like water, or so I think. Hope, your finger is fine by now.

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    1. I don't recommend bathing cats, for obvious reasons, but if you ever have to, hold the scruff of their neck and do it in the sink.

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  2. This is completely hilarious! I can see it all as it's happening and I'm cringing and laughing. Especially at the man-boobs part. And the mother-in-law with MRSA.

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    1. It's awesome, isn't it? I love this story. It is just about the worst pet event I have ever heard of. Steve did a great job with it.

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  3. This was so so great. I am thoroughly wiser now, and will never bathe a cat. Ever.

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    1. It really is a fabulous story, isn't it?

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  4. This is great! I have had to bathe several cats over the years, but the last one was due to an incident with the pool. Poor kitty.

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    1. M, that's great. Don't you have another funny pet story in you somewhere that you want to raise up on my little blog? It seems like with your lovely cats, you should have more than one. Think about it.

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  5. yikes! the question is, does Emory agree that bathing the cat is a bad idea? or does he think it is great for a giggle?

    the last time i bathed a cat was a year ago February when our outside cat was sprayed by a skunk. he was miserable for a day before i could get him clean. he got sprayed on the neck/check right below his chin. and then tried to clean it himself. he was so pathetic and clearly felt awful. he wasn't thrilled with the bath, but i think he may have understood the reason and intent behind it. he spent the night wet and locked in the bathroom. i did it in the bathtub with a wet towel (well, it was a mix of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap)—not a tub filled with water. i think he might have freaked out more if i had tried to dump him in a few inches of water. i didn't hold him by the scruff, but instead put my hand on his shoulders and held him down. i came away unharmed if you don't count my singed nose hairs and burning eyes. a leash is definitely not enough *control* over an animal that hates water.

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  6. Priceless story. I love my cats, but those cat bites can be the worst! Haven't had to bathe one in a while... but one of our females acts up nearly this badly when she gets her flea control.

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  7. OMG! I got here: "...I think, "Lets turn this into a teaching moment and show Emory why we don't give cats baths."" and KNEW it was about to get really, really good.

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