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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

August 13, 2012

Cat Bathing: The End of an Era

By Elizabeth Creith


I was in the grocery store buying greens for the tortoises and a bag of peanuts-in-the-shell for Jack and Lily, when I noticed the bin of onions in 2-pound net bags and realized that Things Had Changed. My very best cat-bathing accessory had disappeared sometime when I wasn't looking.

Bathing a cat isn't like bathing a dog. Bathing a dog starts, “Get the dog” and ends “Throw the towel in the laundry.” Bathing a cat starts, “Hunt down the cat and corner it using welding gloves, whip and chair” and ends “Make an appointment with your doctor to have the stitches out,” or possibly “Remember that an eye patch looks romantic and rakish.”

Giving a cat a bath
Several companies manufacture nylon cat-washing bags in bright colours. They have a hole for the cat's head so it can glare at you as well as swear, and zippered holes for its legs, too. In theory you unzip these openings one at a time, extract each leg in turn, wash it and then return it to the bag. Ha! Cats may not be able to say “grievous personal injury” but they've got the concept down pat.

Most cats have 18 toes—five on each front paw and four on each back one—tipped with retractable razors. Whether it's due to an as-yet-unidentified feline gene or a fiendish superpower, the number of claws per cat multiplies in moments of crisis. You know those martial-arts movies where the hero spins his sword so fast that he deflects dozens of arrows? Those guys have nothing on cats.

Enter the onion bag, the saviour of many a hapless cat-bather. When I was a girl, and even when I was in my 20s, onion bags were made of something tough and resilient and woven in a small-but-open square mesh. Whatever the bags were made of, it was cat-proof. There was a drawstring on one end, which was good, because it was impossible to tear the suckers open. The stuff could blunt knives. I don't know what they used to cut it into bag-sized pieces—lasers, maybe, or the Martian Death Ray from the UFO at Roswell.

A bag that held 10 pounds of yellow cooking onions was also about the right size to hold a cat. I'm sure there's an evolutionary connection between the weight of an onion and the weight of a cat in there somewhere. The drawstring—a half-inch-wide ribbon of the same cat-proof fabric—could be snugged around the cat's neck to keep all the paws in the bag.

I say “paws” and not “claws” because the mesh was still wide enough to let the claws through, but the cat at least couldn't swing his weapons. You'd need a box of Band-aids and a quart of iodine, but you wouldn't be sitting in emergency for three hours stoned on Valium, getting your arms stitched back together and being reassured that in a decade or so the scars would hardly show at all.

For years I kept an onion bag around in case I needed to wash skunk or motor oil off a cat. Every now and then I replaced it. I never thought much about it, because there were always more onion bags, right? The last one wandered off to the Secret Onion Bag Graveyard sometime when I wasn't looking. I thought I'd replace it someday.

But last week, as I stood before the pile of onions, bagged in a fragile plastic mesh that a kitten could walk through, I knew an era had ended. We're stuck with nylon cat-washing bags now. Do yourself a favour; have the ambulance standing by before you unzip one of those cute little leg holes.

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