Adoring a pet cat does not always equate to being mindful about both her physical and psychological well-being. Doing the former is a lot easier than the latter. That’s because mindfulness involves realizing that you’re living with a member from another species, and that by agreeing to adopt a cat, whether it be from the pet store, rescue, or animal shelter, you have also agreed to live with that cat’s unchangeable feline nature.
Some individuals wrongfully, or perhaps ignorantly as happens in the absence of mindfulness, expect a cat to be like a (well-behaved) human toddler. To always listen, to contentedly be picked up without warning, to be taught manners like not jumping onto the table or counters or couches, to naturally understand that fingers are not to be bitten, to not protest when a particular rule or routine changes once in a while, to be okay with regular bathing.
Pet owners who have responsibly taken the initiative to read about cat care-giving, rather than acting upon their human whims and expectations, would know that you cannot make a cat become “accustomed” to something that is against the very way they were created to be, or the way they’ve evolved from ancestors. Some people justify actions that visibly upset a cat by saying, “Oh, she’ll get used to it.”
For example, unless you have a specific breed that enjoys playing in water, such as the Bengal or Turkish Van, most cats hate water. This often does not come down to personal preference, but their inborn nature. Although they will swim if they need to, cats being as dignified as they are, don’t like feeling trapped or helpless. Their fur absorbs rather than reflecting off water, and cats know this. Hence, having waterlogged fur weighs them down, hinders their ability to move as quickly as they usually would, and makes them feel vulnerable; many pet parents would acknowledge that they’ve witnessed their cats shivering long after bath-time is over. I’ve recently read on VetInfo along with Pet MD that drenching your cat in water can indeed be a traumatizing experience; whether you shower gently with a shower head or pour water from a mug, the end result is the same. So, unless you have a way of exchanging a cat’s natural, soft, and beautiful coat with synthetic fur, there’s no way of having a cat “get used to” taking bathes.
It’s understandable that some people later discover they are, to some degree, allergic to their beloved family cat. In such cases, allergists advise that the relief of symptoms would only come from either getting rid of the allergen source (in other words, saying good-bye to your cat), or bathing them very often to get rid of any dander (although new research shows that it’s actually particulates in cat saliva that we’re allergic to). Allergists aren’t veterinarians, so they are not aware of what regular bathing would entail when it comes to the health of the cat. Aside from the psychological trauma described above, bathing day after day removes a cat’s natural oils too soon for them to regenerate, thereby gradually drying skin to the point where it becomes flaky and irritable. As some pet parents would attest, treating such conditions (in addition to the heartbreak that comes along with seeing your cat constantly scratching themselves, developing scaly patches, biting off their own fur, and in general suffering) is expensive as you would have to administer vet-prescribed ointments as well as change your pet’s diet (i.e. Hill’s Science Diet for Cats with Sensitive Skin). Perhaps what’s worst is that these same individuals, whom are willing to put their cat through the stress of bathing, are not mindful enough to at first make changes to their own lives; rather than distancing themselves from cats (easy especially when you are not the primary care-giver in charge of the litterbox, grooming, etc.), they continue to engage in hugging the cat, overlook distancing their face from the cat’s fur, or even eliminating other sources of allergens such as a dusty bookcase right by their bed. The complaints of sneezing or wheezing then, are unjustified. What’s ironic is that neglecting their own health, and not taking the necessary and possible precautions, then results in harming the cat’s health as well.
Unless your cat is the type of breed that enjoys water (definitely not the domestic medium or long-haired breeds), is visibly soiled, or has gotten something on herself that would be dangerous for her to lick off (i.e. cats that end up rubbing against wet paint), it’s not worth it to put your cat through bathing. Thinking that your cat will become accustomed to having weekly waterlogged fur, is as bad as thinking that declawing (a procedure banned in many regions, as it not only surgically removes the cat’s claws, but toes as well – that would be like having the stubs of your fingers chopped off) is normal – both go against the cat’s inborn nature, the way it was created to be.
If you’ve made a covenant with your cat to love and cherish them for all their life, please also be mindful of the type of species that they are. Do not mindlessly reason and force your cat to “get used to” a fear of theirs that can never go away no matter how often they encounter it – whether it be the giant vacuum cleaner or being drenched in water.