Cat owners; let me take a moment to sympathize with you. Among all pet owners, you have the heaviest burden. Sure, cats don’t need walking, they use the restroom by themselves, and they are pretty “low-maintenance” as far as pets go, but you get the glorious duty of washing your cat.

Yes, washing the cat, an activity I like to call “inserting my hands into the blade nest”; it’s not fun, it’s painful, and many might compare it to Sisyphus’s burden; but, someone has to do it, and unfortunately, that someone is you. However, after many years of trial and error, I have found a couple of great ways to lower the threat level from “instant death” to “slight maiming”, and I am finally ready to share my discoveries. Without further ado, these are some of the most creative methods I’ve come across to avoid losing limbs when washing a cat.

How To Clean Your Cat

1. Wear a Heavy Jacket and Gloves

I cannot tell you the amount of people who I know that take off their shirts when cleaning their cat. All I ever have to say to this extreme act of stupidity is this; do you have a death wish? Taking your shirt off when cleaning a cat is literally the exact opposite of what you should be doing. In my opinion, wearing a long sleeve jacket—preferably a snow jacket—can reduce the chance of injury tenfold. Seriously; the less skin you display, the more safe you will be.

2. Avoid Contact Completely

This one I came across simply because I had access to a shower with a built-in door. Instead of taking the risk of introducing water—the cat’s primary nemesis—while holding it with bare hands, I turned on the shower, threw the cat in, and closed the door. Now, while that may seem a little cruel, it actually worked quite well! The cat ran back and forth, trying to avoid the cascading water, and got completely soaked. Then, it was only a hop, skip, and a verrry long jump to get the kitty all soaped up and clean as a whistle.

But, if you don’t have a shower with a closed door, you still can avoid holding onto the cat while getting it wet. Just find something that sprays water, put the cat somewhere it can’t escape, and wet him down all nice-like; it will hate it but, as long as you avoid the face, you should be able to clean it quite humanely, without ever having to get your arms all scratched up.

3. Be Nice (and bring in backup)

Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you is to keep your cat calm. Sure, this may sound a bit like telling you to stop an oncoming train by asking nicely, but it sometimes works very well, particularly if you have a rapport with your cat. If that doesn’t work, well…it might be time to bring in backup! Sometimes, washing a cat is a two person job and, if nothing else, you’ll at least have a living breathing scratch shield that you can hide behind if/when things go wrong.

Now, if you are reading this and you aren’t a cat reader, you might be smirking right now. “Pffft” you might snort, “clean a cat? That’s all? I could do that!” you say with derision. Let me stop you right there; you do not understand our pain! Cats are a difficult animal to clean, and they can be very…well…ornery (and death dealing) when they get wet. So, for all those cat owners out there, take the proper precautions, and good luck! You’re going to need it!

Jaime Flynn writes on the behalf of Beechmont Pet Hospital, a vet in Cincinnati, Ohio. Visit their site, or visit their office, for more pet care information (if you are in the Cincinnati area).