Friday, October 03, 2008

How To Bless A Cat

Picture source.

In honor of the feast day of St. Francis on October 4th...a reworking of an old but funny joke. (All the best lines you'll find at the original version of the joke. But enjoy!)

Some people say cats never have to be blessed. They say cats are spiritual goners from their first swat. Others, mostly calendar makers, find them akin to angels on earth, needing nothing in their inherent perfection. Others say if you can bless a plastic religious article bought at favorite Shrine X but made in China, you can certainly have a living, breathing cat blessed.

I've spent most of my life moving from one opinion to the other. But since my parish doesn't have a blessing of the animals on the Feast of St. Francis, I am reduced to covering my kitty's spiritual bases by blessing him informally, in my home, using water, prayer, and song. So on the eve of the Feast of St. Francis, I have some advice you might consider as you place your feline friend under your arm and head for the bathtub.

Know that although the cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don't try to bless him in an open area where he can force you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom. If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift positions.)

Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect yourself. I recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket.

Prepare everything in advance. There is no time to go out for a towel when you have a cat digging a hole in your flak jacket. Draw a bit of water in the tub. Have a cup for pouring blessing water on its fuzzy head. Have the blessing prayer taped to the glass door of the bathing area, and the song if you do not know it by heart (forget the guitar). Have an exorcism prayer taped up too, just in case. Make sure the towel can be reached, even if you are lying on your back in the water.

Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule. If he does notice your garb, calmly explain that you are taking part in a product testing experiment for J.C. Penney.)

Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water, and start intoning the blessing prayer. You have begun on the wildest 45 seconds of your life.

Cats have no handles. Add the fact that you have wet hands and he now has slippery fur, and the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more than two or three seconds at a time. You can be assured that as you close with a soothing rendition of St. Francis' "Make Me An Channel of Your Peace," the cat will then spring free and fall back into the tub water, challenging your commitment to the very prayer you just sang by springing five feet in the air and clawing at any part of your body available. Insert exorcism here as needed. On the up side, thoroughly wet, that cat and you are now blessed.

Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat blessers assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out by this time. Drying is simple compared to what you have just been through. That's because by now the cat is semi-permanently affixed to your right leg. You simply pop the drain plug with your foot, reach for your towel and wait. (Occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the cat.


In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psychoceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine.

You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn't usually the case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and injure you for life the next time you decide to bless him.

But you know in your heart St. Francis would be proud.


CMinor said...

Have you tried a squirt gun and holy water?

PraiseDivineMercy said...

LOL... Do you have to go with immersion? Can't I just wet my fingers and pet her in the sign of the cross?

BTW, here's one for "When you know you're Catholic" list:

Every morning, my cat Angel greets the rising sun by climbing onto the sill of the east-facing window, and I think “ad orientem.”

CMinor said...

At our pet blessing today, Father opted for sprinkling. Wise choice!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! As the proud owner of 3 cats (and still alive), I can definitely relate. Gotta love 'em, though. Our pastor said that 5 dogs showed up for the Blessing of the Pets yesterday -- didn't mention cats. In my experience, even the short car trip to our vet (less than 5 mins.) can be a real "adventure", so the trip to the church wouldn't work, I guess! They're definitely special, God bless them.

The Ironic Catholic said...

PDM--immersion communicates the fullness of the sign, of course!

Panda Rosa said...

I dunno, blessing a cat sounds a tad redundant. After all, cats were Gods in ancient Egypt and they have never forgotten this.
Besides, wouldn't getting the cat wet be considered cruelty to animals... sort of?

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

There are, of course, other reasons we don't baptize cats (especially, not with immersion), but these are more than sufficient.

Carolina Cannonball said...

squirt guns and holy water... this is exactly how my 5 year old precoeeded to bless the entire house!

FYI, IC- Cat Scratch Fever is a real disease, not just a groovy Ted Nuget song. I'm on antiboitics for it now after my moms cat attacked me when I tried to put it in the cat carrier. Nasty bites and sores... cats. hiss. spit.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Father, it's not a baptism, it's a blessing...but your point that Holy Mother Church knows what she is doing stands tall.

Carolina--ouch. Original sin + cat claws = lots of suffering. Glad you're on anti-biotics.