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Giving Your Cat a Bath

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Peter Shankman and his cat Karma
(Sally Herships)
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Cat bath war

It's allergy season. You know those beautiful breezes and all those blooming plants we love to look at? They're pumping out pollen -- tiny particles of the stuff are being wafted through the air. And if you're sensitive, watch out.

But it's not just trees and weeds that cause allergies. Furry pets like dogs and cats really up the ante when they begin to shed their coats in warm weather. But cat owners Jonathan Mitchell and Peter Shankman think they've found a way to cope with allergies. Sally Herships has more:

"The key," says Peter Shankman, "is not to leave any part of your skin exposed."

Peter and I are standing in his bathroom. I ask the obvious: "Wait a second, you're about to get into the shower fully dressed with a cat?"

Washing your cat is easy... Just like washing your own hair. But remember, don't tell the cat what you have planned.

"I have a feeling that she knows," Shankman says.

"I think she's hiding in the closet," I say.

"Is she hiding in the closet? That sounds like Karma."

Peter and Jonathan will be washing their cats today. Let's listen and see how they do:

Peter: You plus water -- one of you is going to get hurt and it's usually not the water.

Peter is careful. Is Jonathan careful too?

"The Web site I read said to wear long-sleeved shirts and old clothes because the cat can get pretty angry," he says. "It also says to clip the cat's claws before you wash her -- which I haven't done."

"And you're also not wearing a long-sleeved shirt," I say.

"No, all my clothes are at my girlfriend's place."

Baths can be humiliating for cats. In order to prevent loss of self-esteem, try positive reinforcement.

Peter: Oh shush! You're making a bigger deal out of this then it is. I really believe that.

Cat: Meow!

Jonathan: We all have to do things that we don't like sometimes. We all have to get our fur wet. And the kitty is no exception. Welcome to life, cat.

Even with reassurance, bath time may still be uncomfortable for your kitty. It's likely your cat will try to prevent the bath entirely. Therefore, it's important not to underestimate your cat. Peter uses the full-immersion shower method.

Peter: You have to close the cat in -- she's a cat.

Cat: Meow!

Peter: It's OK.

Jonathan uses the bathtub method:

Jonathan: Right now, I'm pouring water on her fur. I'm just getting her a little bit wet.

Cat: Rowr!

Jonathan: She's really, really intent on making this not happen.

Cat: (Growling)

Jonathan: She really doesn't want to be here....

Cat: (Growling louder)

Jonathan: That didn't work so well.

Jonathan changes his strategy and decides to use the much-safer sink method. Once you've figured out where your cat is most comfortable, you'll want to wash them thoroughly. Make sure you have everything you need ahead of time. Peter is prepared.

"It's not even so much the soap or shampoo, it's really the water," he says. "And working the water into her fur to knead out the dander."

Is Jonathan prepared, too? "This is a brand-new bottle of shampoo, so I may have to unseal it," he says. "I'm trying to hold my cat in the sink while I'm taking the seal off the shampoo bottle."

Cat: Rowr!

"We're almost done, kitty. Almost done," he coos. "Your fur is going to be nice and clean and shiny.

The bath seems to go well at first. "She's not fighting," he says. "She's not really being terribly..."

Cat: Rowr!

"She's not happy."

It's all over but the drying. "I'm almost as wet as kitty," he says. "There we go, now we're going to get a towel. It's OK. See, that wasn't so bad" And as the last of the water drains out of the tub, he says: "I hope I got all the shampoo out."


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Lorie Johnson

    From Little Rock, AR, 08/13/2008

    I've learned that running water really scares cats, and when I have to bathe them, I use the '3 bucket' method- fill three buckets with water- one for the shampoo, and the second two for the rinse. Keep lots of towels around, trim the claws, be calm and methodical about it, and hold tight to the scruff of their necks. The faster you do it, the quicker they'll surrender to being wet, and you can give them a good wash.

    By Jon Gibson

    From Orlando, FL, 06/21/2008

    Hi. My cat, Jennifer, got into some used motor oil which I didn't want her swallowing while cleaning herself. I made a concoction of warm water & dishwashing liquid in an old stock pot, and plunged her, tail-first, into it. That cat climbed me like a tree, breaking off limbs as she went! I have more recounts of cat-washing calamities, in particular, and all manner of bizarre cat stories in general.

    By sharon russell

    From chicago soon to be Cadillac MI, 06/21/2008

    As I listened to this show, I was cracking up. I have almost just the opposite problem with my cats (Buddy & Lucky, aka Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy) - I can't keep them OUT of the bathroom! It started when they were kittens - I think they knew the sound of the blowdryer meant that I was about to leave the house. So they would come in and hang out w/me. Then, one of my cats started sitting on the edge of the tub when I'd take my shower. He would 'bite' at the water. Then, whenever I'd just go into the bathroom, or near it, this cat would run in and wait for me. So I got him a little kiddie stool and set it next to the tub - he now sits on it waiting for the shower. Occasionally, he will actually get in the shower with me, and nip at the water on my legs (and he loves to get a bath or shower just for himself)!

    Now they both run into the bathroom, jump in the tub, and cry for me to turn the water on, so they can drink from the spout. I have aqua cats.

    By Sharon Riley

    From Raleigh, NC, 06/21/2008

    Hello! I was listening to Weekend America while my cat Lou slept on the floor by my feet, bathed in a sunbeam.

    Then the protesting meows of Peter and Jonathan's cats being bathed in water came through our radio.

    Lou's eyes opened in alarm and he ran over to the radio where he listened to Karma and the other kitty's meows. He looked at me as if to say, aren't you going to do something about this?

    Then the baths, the meowing, and the story were over. Lou returned to his sunbeam and his nap.

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