Gussying Up Gus
I used to know a cat named Gus, and he would clear a room faster than a kid sucking on a lemon. Way back when, we were a group of young adults who used to get together for fun a couple of evenings week, like the first act of La Boheme. We were all friends then, and I even married one of them, long before the TV series. The minute Gus walked in the living room and stretched his front legs we all scattered until he went back to wherever he slept. Yep. He was a stinker. We used to call him Gus the Goofus because he stunk up the room (Remember when body odor was called B.O.?). He always looked like he had been tarred and feathered, because there would be little clumps of fur stuck together on various parts of his body where he licked too much and his saliva took a long time to dry. His coat often looked spiked like a rock-and-roller.
It was hard to convince his owner that bathing and grooming were an important necessity for the dear old boy. She used to argue that we were only concerned with our own comfort and weren't really thinking of the cat's well-being. We all knew that the dear cat lady was simply in a state of denial, because she couldn't face the chore of giving her cat a bath, and she certainly didn't know anything about daily hygiene maintenance for a cat. EEEK! Bathe a cat? "You mean you actually want me to dunk him in a tub of water?" Oh, yeah, and more. It only seems formidable to those who do not know what you need for such an undertaking or how to do it. The truth is it's no biggie.
Two things came to my attention this week that made me think of dear, old Gus. One, I had the privilege of looking at a copy of an article in the May issue of Cat Fancy Magazine written by the hot new personality on the pet scene, Charlotte Reed, who is a triple threat as a writer, TV personality and pet expert. You can find her on the Internet at www.charlottereed.com. She often appears as a pet person on the ABC show The View, starring Barbara Walters. That bright editorial staff at Cat Fancy titled her new article, "KEEP IT CLEAN. Maintain a sparkling cat-friendly home." What caught my attention is the slant, which is to keep the home pet-clean and therefore, maintain a healthier cat. The dynamic Charlotte does everyone a favor by writing about specific pet products and equipment that are not only necessary and useful, but also identified by brand name and that is a mercy for the bewildered cat owner. She recommends everything you need for good home hygiene, from odor eliminators to the kind of vacuum cleaner that is best to get up cat fur. Everything is there, from brushes and combs to the latest type of cat litter. Bless her for that, since choosing a cat litter is now like walking down the cereal aisle at the supermarket. It's daunting. There are more cereal types and brands than bowls to pour it into, and the same is true of cat litter. Sorry for the comparison. The design of her article is really attractive, heavily illustrated with a top drawer layout, which gave me the impression that Cat Fancy is behind their new star. I know I'm impressed.
Even though grooming a cat is not rocket science to understand, nor is it very difficult to do, it is a large subject, way too large to cover adequately in an article. And that brings me to the second thing that came to my attention this week. My old and valued friend Sam Kohl sent me a copy of a book he has written and published about cat grooming. It is the 2nd edition, newly revised The Cat Grooming Guide, Completely Re-illustrated, published by AARONCO Pet Products, Inc., and it is a honey. I don't recommend anything lightly, not even from my friends, unless I feel strongly about it. Now, having written a number of cat books myself, some of which have involved how to groom a cat, I do have a grasp of the subject. It's not that grooming a cat is all that difficult, but you do need to know what you are doing. Some of the techniques are really difficult to describe in words. Well, this oversized book gives any regular cat owner or anyone who wants to be a professional groomer 144 pages of the most clearly-written, easily-understandable approach to each aspect of grooming a cat. Where the words let off, the illustrations take over.
What really makes the book work are the illustrations. The full-colored illustrations of the breeds at the end of the book, and the black-and-white breed drawings sprinkled throughout, rendered by L. Alice Hanby, are beautiful and true to type. However, it is the black-and-white how-to drawings by Keith Ibsen that makes this textbook the most useful cat grooming book in print. Having written on the subject myself, and having read about it from some awesome experts, I can say this without reservation. It's all there, from grooming tools to preparation to procedures with special chapters for shorthaired cats, longhaired cats, and so much, much more. If you want to groom cats professionally, or if you just want to know how to make your own cat squeaky clean, this is the book for you. Well, enough gushing. I don't often get this enthusiastic about a book, but this one is special. The retail price is $34.95, but the price is usually less when ordering it online from Amazon (www.amazon.com), or any of the many pet or grooming supply catalogs, most notably Pet-Agree Pet Supplies (www.petagree.net), PetEdge (www.petedge.com) or Ryan's Pet Supplies (www.ryanspet.com).
I just wish I had such a book back in my salad days to recommend for the sake of Gus the Goofus. Of course, bathing a cat and daily grooming make him look beautiful and welcome in any room, but it is also an important matter of health. When you brush or comb a cat every day you remove a lot of dead hair and skin debris that he would otherwise lick clean and ingest into ropes of hair formed along the digestive tract. And that my friends is how you get to say to your cat every now and again, "Play ball!" I do not refer to the Cubs, the Mariners or the Yankees. I'm talking about those awful hairballs that your cat always hacks up on the dining room carpet when you have company over for dinner. My cats always chose to present us with those delightful gifts somewhere between the entrée and the dessert. Once we caught the hang of daily grooming practices, such as brushing, combing and nail clipping (once a week), I noticed we made fewer trips to the vet, except for annual examinations and vaccinations.
My advice is to bathe and groom your cat for reasons of health first and good looks second. You don't want to have a Gus the Goofus entering the room like a wild animal in the Roman Colosseum armed only with his odor, knocking over the gladiators, who in my opinion could also have used a bit of daily grooming.
"I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?"(Simon & Schuster/Fireside) is Mordecai Siegal's latest book and is available wherever books are sold. He is also the author of "The Cat Fanciers' Association COMPLETE CAT BOOK. The Official Publication of the CFA," (HarperCollins), comparable to the AKC's Complete Dog Book; "The Good Life: Your Dog's First Year" (Simon and Schuster). His most durable books are "Good Dog, Bad Dog" (Henry Holt); "When Good Dogs Do Bad Things" (Little, Brown); the 10th Anniversary Revised Edition of "I Just Got A Puppy. What Do I Do?" (Simon & Schuster/Fireside); "The Cornell Book of Cats" (Villard); "The Davis Book of Dogs" (HarperCollins); and "The Davis Book of Horses" (HarperCollins). He is President Emeritus of the Dog Writers Association of America and a founding member of The Cat Writers' Association. Mordecai resides in New York City.