I am a cat person. With the sole exception of a large, goofy, mostly Golden Retriever named Chumley, whom I adored,
I prefer cats. I like the purring. I like how they knead cushions (or people) before settling in. I like their standoffish-ness. I believe in the truth of the old joke that dogs have families, cats have staff. When I moved in with the nice Roger in 1990, I came with three cats- Pearl, Puma, and Panda. Pearl was the eldest, with mottled grey and beige fur on top, like a grey pearl, with a golden cream shade under her chin and on her belly. She had a quiet, gentle personality, and wasn’t much of a talker.
Puma was next in age, small and sleek, with black and white fur. She was sweet and shy.
Then there was Panda Cat. He was also black and white, and feline. And there any resemblance to the other two ended. He never, ever shut up. He spent his whole life on the wrong side of the door. If he was out, he wanted in. In, he wanted out.
Now, while the nice Roger was very pleased to have me move in with him, he was less enthused about my cat companions. It turns out I was moving in with Allergy Boy, allergic to everything from cut grass to pollen to yes, indeed, cat dander. This substance would cause his eyes to close and his sinuses to clog with the most minimal of contact. So when I came across a magazine article recommending monthly baths for cats to minimize the dander, I thought this was a spectacular idea. With the proper equipment, as suggested in the helpful article, and perhaps the assistance of another person, I could do this. Roger would sneeze less and the cats would look lovely. What could go wrong? If my cats could have spoken to me, I believe they would have told me that this was a bad idea. In retrospect, I believe it is entirely possible that the author of the helpful article had never even seen a cat, much less bathed one.
Roger’s allergies obviously excused him from this task. So I turned to my girlfriend, Terri, to come over and help me. She had long had both dogs and cats, and is notable for, among other things, her utter competence in most everything. I then went to the hardware store, per the helpful article, and bought allegedly puncture-proof protective gloves, thickly coated with a bright orange rubbery substance. This seemed a sensible suggestion. But now, the helpful article made an odd suggestion. It told me that if I took a pair of old pantyhose, and drew a leg of the pantyhose over the cat, against the grain of the fur, it would both facilitate a more thorough soaking of the fur and help restrain the cat. Basically, make a cat sausage. This was the theory. I thought to myself, “How hard could that be?” Sadly, it did not occur to me that stuffing a cat into pantyhose would be more difficult than stuffing myself into them. We now have a bad idea, made worse. Much worse.
Bath day arrived. Terri came over and we began our preparations. Heavy, long-sleeved shirts were donned. Towels, gloves, and pantyhose were placed in the bathroom. A shallow bath of warm water was drawn. One by one, we found each cat, hiding under furniture, and carried it to the hall bathroom. They clustered behind the toilet, looking at us with hostile suspicion, Panda meowing his complaints out to an unimpressed audience.
We put our gloves on and began. Puma went first, since she was the most docile of the three, as well as the smallest. I picked her up and held her while Terri stuffed her terribly tense body into the pantyhose leg. We placed her in the tub, and began to wet her down as she cried piteously. I felt bad, but we carried on, soaping her up, rinsing her, and removing her from bathwater (and pantyhose) to towel without injury. Next up was Pearl, who while gentle, was also quite large, at roughly 13 lbs. And Pearl was substantially less cooperative, wriggling her tubby body (albeit ineffectively) and howling in full voice. We got her stuffed in, and went through it again. This time, the hose got shredded and some minor injuries were sustained by the bathing staff, but a wet, angry Pearl was undamaged, and (relatively) clean.
Pearl and Puma returned to their refuge behind the toilet, staring out sullenly, and growling low in their throats. They sounded really mad. Now it was Panda’s turn. And he was not having any of this nonsense. No sirree, Bob. Scratching, clawing, and yowling his outrage at this indignity, he fought being put into the fresh pair of pantyhose. We had just managed to get his back legs in when it happened. The not terribly effective bright orange protective gloves were so heavily coated that we couldn’t hold on to the frantically twisting and clawing cat. We both lost our grips, and watched with horror, utterly helpless, as he slid, screeching horribly, down the entire leg of the pantyhose into the tub, where he continued to howl at full volume and flail at his nylon cage. I genuinely wish we had been able to help him sooner, but Terri and I had collapsed in hysterical laughter on my bathroom floor, wet, soapy, and bleeding from several places, overwhelmed by both the lunacy of what we had just attempted and the sight of the incredibly pissed off cat in my tub. Imprisoned in shreds of pantyhose.
We finally regained enough self-control to rescue the furious Panda, who, with the other cats, took off like shots when I opened the bathroom door. We didn’t see them for hours. I have no idea if the cat-bathing helped with Roger’s allergies. I suspect it did not. Eventually, he installed a door to block the bedrooms off, creating an animal-free zone, until all the cats moved on to their next lives. I miss them still. They were fun and I loved them. But I chose never to bathe them again.