Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house (still), work in the same office (again) and somehow manage to cling to their sanity (barely). Older and wiser (she's wiser, he's just older), the Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on everyday issues, told from two different perspectives.
SHE SAID: She's really very sweet.
That's what I said to the vet after the bitten-through-the-leather-glove incident a couple years ago. And that's what I say when family or friends are greeted with a vicious hiss and swipe of a paw. And that's what I was thinking to myself this week as I tried to pry those same paws from around my neck.
I came home Monday to find my normally pristine black-and-white cat Estelle replaced by a sooty, black-and-gray creature who batted her eyes innocently between me and our white microsuede sofa.
I've read several books with chapters on bathing cats. I've had long conversations with our (new) vet about the best way to accomplish this task. I've tried a variety of shampoo products. The waterless shampoo. The shampoo wipes.
We've bathed in a bucket. The kitchen sink. The bathtub. We've tried sticking the cat in an old pair of panty hose with just her head sticking out (vet advice that went terribly awry, by the way).
When it comes to cleaning Estelle, there is no "best" tactic. There is an "only" tactic. And that comes down to running a couple inches of water in the bathtub, cleaning every item off the sink, bathtub and other flat surfaces within four feet of the floor. Gathering the needed supplies -- approximately eight bath towels to cover every possible surface, and then three to wrap her in once the experience is finished. A plastic bowl for rinsing. Shampoo (open the bottle beforehand, you don't want to be fumbling with it while trying to hold her down.) And a couple sets of very determined hands -- at least two of which will likely suffer teeth or claw injuries (accidentally, I'm sure). Put on shorts and a T-shirt; there's no point believing you can wash this cat without climbing into the tub, too.
We have a system, sort of. I bring Estelle into the bathroom. Bob follows and closes the door. She's a smart cat; she knows what's coming and commences to lock her tiny paws around my neck. Now you wouldn't think it would be a big deal to get a 9-pound cat from around your neck, but she's deceptively strong; plus, she digs her back claws into whatever's available (usually my stomach) while trying to climb as far away from the water as possible (usually on top of my head).
It takes Bob pulling and me pushing to break this cat's kung fu grip. She's really very sweet, I swear. Once in the water, Bob holds her down (sort of) and I soak, shampoo and rinse as quickly as I can. Estelle, meanwhile, makes a racket that probably has the neighbors looking around for Chewbacca.
Bathing a baby had better be easier.
HE SAID: Callie's mother calls Estelle the Spawn of Satan. When I first met the feline, she reminded me of a gremlin, up in my face, hissing, a seemingly rabid fuzzball who had gotten wet or had been fed after midnight.
Over time, and it took lots of time, Estelle got to like me. Now she comes when I call her and chirps (in a cat sort of way) when I talk to her.
I confess that I like our cats. We have three of them. Fletcher is the dumb one, and the funniest. Scoop is the cute one who likes to cuddle. But Estelle -- the gremlin -- is by far the sweetest. But she doesn't like you unless she trusts you. And there are only two people she trusts.
I also confess that we spend too much money on those blasted animals. They make awful messes. (At a company lunch, I once described one of the types of messes one of our cats made, and Callie didn't talk to me for at least an hour.) But they really are a pain, God bless 'em. Because Callie is pregnant, I'm the one who has to scoop and clean the litter box.
But the worst job, clearly, is giving them baths. Sure enough, when Estelle gets wet, she turns into the gremlin again. She doesn't hiss, but man does that cat know how to use her claws. She thrashes. She splashes. She gets loose and dashes. And when we're done, we're worn out and that cat looks like a pathetic mess, her hair all frizzy and spiked.
It's funny to see them like that since normally they walk around the house like they own the place.
Time to go now. The litter box is calling.
Bob Miller is the Southeast Missourian's managing editor. Callie Clark Miller, online/special publications managing editor, would like a fuzzy little dog to round out the family. Bob says no. Reach them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.