Step 9: How to wash a cat soaked in transmission fluid.
When I came back out to continue work I found Homer clinging to the door, smearing up the glass, and he was completely coated with red transmission fluid, except for his head. He apparently had been behind the seat when I closed up the truck. Somehow he had managed to get into the fluid and then spread it over the entire interior. Seats, doors, dash, even on the roof. It was everywhere and he was crying for help.
This was a real dilemma. If I opened the door and let him out he might bolt and I did not want to have to chase him down. If I grabbed him I would then also be covered in fluid and I would have a dripping cat to try and contain and I did not want him running around the house acting like a paintbrush. So I had to prepare for this rescue before I opened the door.
One good thing about this problem was that oil and things like transmission fluid are by themselves not poisonous in small amounts, so he wasn't in danger from that. Motor oil and other fluids do have additives in them that are not good for you, but the oil itself will not poison you or animals. When you hear about animals and birds dying from oil spills its from the side effects like birds that get their feathers ruined rather than direct poisoning. Eating oil is not good for you but it will not kill you unless its in large amounts. For a cat the problem is they will get dirt stuck to their fur and it will mat it down. Then they will lick it to try and get it off and eating to much of it along with the dirt could make them pretty sick.
Homer was going to need a bath, period.
I went back in the house and got everything ready that I needed in the bathroom including a bunch of old towels. Then I got an armful of rags and went to free him.
I opened the door and he didn't try to run so that was good. I used my hand like a squeegee and tried to scrape off as much transmission fluid as I could. Then I used the rags to try and soak up more. He already had a lot of grit in his fur, I could feel it as I wiped him off. Once he was not dripping anymore I carried him inside to the bathtub and locked us in.
When it comes to bathing cats, its usually not the water so much that they don't like as much as it is the temperature of the water. In physics there is this principle called the square cube law. What it is about is that the rate something looses heat depends on the surface area and the volume. Volume increases by the cube while surface area increases by the square. A large animal like a horse looses heat very slowly because it has a large volume compared to its surface. An animal like a cat has a very small volume compared to its surface area, so it looses heat really fast. Cold water will cause them to immediately begin shivering. So any water you use for a shower or bath needs to be as close to their temperature as possible. That is close to 100 degree F. Use a thermometer if you have to, but get your water temp right. Too cold and they will try and get out immediately and you will have a fight. Too hot and they will cry out because its very uncomfortable for them. If its just right they will almost always (All of mine have) let you run the water on them. They will be a little nervous about it at first but if you stay calm they should not fight you. To wash out oil you need detergent. Dish-washing detergent works really good for this. Get some to keep on hand just in case you have this or a similar problem. Get a hypoallergenic unscented type. The one I used is Dawn. You can use baby shampoo but its not really strong enough for oil soaked animals and you will have to wash them many times for it to work.
Wet the cat down but not his head and get him used to the water. He may be startled at first but hold on firmly and keep talking gently to him. When they are completely wet put a line of detergent down their back and start massaging it in. Homer apparently thought he was at a spa and started purring. By the way it helps to always keep a hand on them. If you take your hand off they usually think your done and will jump out and run around spreading water and soap everwhere. You don't want to clean that mess up too. Work the detergent in until it stops being slippery. It will combine with the oil and make a gooey looking stuff. This is when you need to rinse and repeat. Keep using your hands to wipe the water and soap and oil mix off. I leave the water running and use a hand shower so I can get it close to them with out getting water everywhere. It took six wash and rinse repeats for Homer until the foam was no longer pink. If their head is dirty also you can wash it but be careful where you get the soap. Also but don't spray them in the face to rinse. Instead let the water fall on them the way rain would. That way they don't get water in their ears and up their nose.
After you think they are clean, wash them one more time. Get their legs and paws and especially their tail. A lot soaks into their tail.
Again use your hand to wipe the water off. Then use OLD towels to dry them. Even after many washings the towels I used to dry him with turned pink. Remember, you will not be able to get everything out so the goal is to just get them as clean as you can without getting them really stressed.
Another thought-- Its a lot easier to give a kitten a bath rather than a full sized cat. If you give your kitten a few baths to get them used to it they will be a lot better about it when they are big. Then again sometimes it just teaches them to really hate it so when you try to do it they are already in fight mode. I don't think there is a best answer to this.
If you can blow dry them its the best approach. Some cats hate blow dryers others don't mind them at all. Make sure not to let the dryer get to hot and use a medium speed so its not to loud. Keep the air moving and don't let the dryer stay on one spot for to long. It takes a lot longer to dry a cat than it does your own hair. Dry their back and sides and, if you can, their tummy. Those are the important parts. No matter how dry or wet they are at this point they will now spend hours licking themselves. Give them a warm place and let them work on it. And remember that they still might have enough oil left on them to stain furniture and rugs. Its hours of work and an ordeal but they will come through it just fine.
Its just another day and another adventure.
By the way, I have no pictures of this process because I didn't have a hand to spare. And you will get oily and wet, so you are probably the next one in the shower. It's amazing what trouble one little animal can create and the pickup still has spots of fluid around in it.