Every year I do the unthinkable. I bath my cats. Usually, it is at the end of summer when the flea population rises to an all time high. This year, the flea comb was enough to stem the tide through September and October.
This week was the last chance for the fleas to bite my cats until spring. I noticed scabs on our sensitive cat, Gamera. Even our oblivious cat, Nero, was grooming himself more than usual. Time for the bath.
I suited up. I put on my coat and tied an apron over it. I donned my thickest rubber gloves. I pulled out the wash basin, the cat towels and strained the tea.
Why strain tea? Is that for my nerves? The tea is for the cats.
My cats will scratch themselves even after the fleas are long gone. I suspect that their flea bites get infected. The tea, made from calendula flowers and birch bark, helps them heal. It is a natural antiseptic and an ant-inflammatory.
The cats hate it. To be honest, they hate the whole process. They scream and howl and scramble to escape the sink. It is pretty horrible for every one.
I soap them up and use the cooled tea as a rinse from an old iced tea container. When they are sparkling clean and adequately traumatized, I release them to my youngest son’s towel covered arms. He wraps them in terry cloth and coos over them, telling them just how much better life is now that they are out of the bath and flea free. I watch for a while as I catch my breath to prepare for the next cat.
The last cat is the screamer. He struggles and yowls as if the Grim Reaper himself is bathing him. He is the one that we are sure will tear our flesh from our bones in order to get away. Aaron and I work together to make this process as quick as possible. God knows what the neighbors think at this point.
Even Nero ventures back into the laundry room to see the action. He stands on his hind feet and puts his paws on the sink to check on the bathing process. His expression seems to say, “You okay, bro?”
Gamera’s mouth is open as wide as physically possible. I can see every one of his teeth. His eyes bulge and whirl like a Warner Brothers’ cartoon character. He is soaking wet and looks like a an angry gray worm. Okay, he looks like an angry gray worm with giant fish hooks for claws. My son and I stare at him in awe and horror. We hop around as we rinse him as if he is on fire.
Within an hour, the trauma is over. The cats are dry. The towels are in the washing machine. The sink is cleaned up. The band aid box is put away.
I sit down on the couch to relax and finish another chapter of my book. There is a thump next to me. The screamer has jumped onto the couch. He nudges my book impatiently aside and curls up in my lap. In a minute, he is asleep, purring noisily. All is forgiven until next year.