Our Himalayan Cats - Bathing and Fleas


September 1998

In the early days with the cats, we had a lot of problems with fleas. Once fleas get on the cats, and that is inevitable if they have free access to the great outdoors, they breed and breed and soon the cats are overwhelmed by fleas.

The first thing we tried was a flea collar. We got each of them a flea collar. We discovered that flea collars are dsigned with short hair cats in mind. It takes a few hours for a long hair cat to get so much fur wrapped around the collar that you can't see it. And the fur tightens and half strangles the cat. And the effect of the collar only goes to about the shoulders and the fleas stay out of the way of the collar. And then Ruffian developed an allergy to the collar and her skin got all red and mucky and she would scratch like crazy and rip her own flesh to shreds. We cut the collars off and put them in the bin.

Next we tried flea powder. We breathed more of the poison than went on the cats. And they would spend ages licking the powder off themselves and throwing up. We tossed out the flea powder.

Then we tried this spray-on liquid that the vet recommended. This worked really really well. The fleas fell off and died. And although the cats licked their fur clean and obviously swallowed heaps of the poison, it didn't make them throw up or get sick. Not that we could see. For months after each dose, any fleas that were foolhardy enough to jump on would die. Sounds great, doesn't it? Ah, but there was one side-effect that was pretty gross. While we spraying it on to the cats, they would wail and foam at the mouth. Literally. White mucky foam would form and splash and splosh everywhere. While we were doing it, we learnt to be very careful to keep our mouths shut after we each copped a mouthful of flying foam. This foaming was so gross that we gave up on this technique.

After this, we tried the brute force method. This involved bathing the cats. While the fleas were in the water, they were stunned and stopped moving. We would drag the cats out, sit them on a stool, and Anne and I would sit on either side armed with tweezers and glass of soapy water. We would pluck every flea off the body and drown it. This technique satisfied many things. No poison on the cats or us. Very successful. Had a great side-effect in that the cats were washed and cleaned at the same time. But most of all, we both enjoyed it. It must have satisfied some deep grooming instinct in us. And the cats didn't mind either. Everyone was happy.

[Redrum at bath]

Removing the fleas is a fairly satisfying task that the cats and us both enjoy. The preliminary bathing is not so easy. They both scream and wail and thrash about and try and get out of the tub. The first time we tried to bath them, we didn't know what to do. Our neighbour, Joan, came over and helped us with the first bath. Her two Persians never gave her much trouble with bathing. Our two Himalayans objected strenuously. The photo shows Redrum's first bath.

Redrum is fairly straightforward. I hold her immobile and dunk her in the bucket. Anne washes her. I have to hold her still despite her wild lunges and her occasional breaks for freedom. If she gets a front paw free we both have to whip our heads back. We're experienced - we've both had our faces slashed. Very occasionally she gets partially free and she turns and clutches me. Which results in deep puncture wounds for me. Anne has to grab her paws and pull each claw out of my flesh, one by one. Great stuff for masochists, but it's something I can live without. As she's got older, she's got stronger. So now I have to work hard to keep her still. She still wails, but not continually. Of the two of them, she's the easiest to bathe.

Ruffian is a little horror. She wails non-stop and occasionally shrieks. She can't get her front paws free which is lucky, considering how needle-sharp her claws are. In the early days when she was slimmer, her back legs were a problem. She would swing her lower body up and tear with her back claws at my hands. The first few times, the heels of both my hands were ripped. I tried gloves but then I couldn't hold her. I settled for strapping the vulnerable part up with gaffer tape. That solved the problem quite well. But now that she's older and she's fatter, she can't swing her lower body up that high any more, so I no longer need the gaffer tape.

Since we started keeping them indoors all the time, we have discovered another benefit. They don't get fleas and they don't get dirty. We haven't had to bathe them in ages. I haven't had my skin punctured in a long time.

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