Cat-Waxing 101

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth BearBy Elizabeth Bear

Over the years, I have written a great many articles and blog posts dealing with the nuances of the publishing industry, but there’s one topic I’ve never touched on before.

It’s one of the arcane secrets of the successful writer, jealously guarded. One of the secret handshakes of the clubhouse of publishing success.

Only now, with the cooperation of Tor, can I reveal it to you—and I’m risking my career and perhaps even my very safety to do so. It’s something every writer needs to know, and from time immemorial that secret has been passed down in back rooms and at two a.m. sessions in convention bars.

I speak of “How to wax a cat.”

I can’t count, over the years, the number of times a dewy-eyed young would-be author has looked at me in surprise and horror after overhearing a few casual lines passed between more established writers. “Bear!” they cry. “You are an animal lover! Why would you do something so terribly cruel?

Well, Grasshoppers, I am here now to reveal a great secret. The cat is a metaphor.

Cat-waxing (also known as cat vacuuming to some) is something writers undertake in order to complete important research, to give the brain the time it needs to do the subconscious processing so essential to creative work. There are a number of techniques, but here’s how I handle it.

First, you must determine if you wish to wax your cat for shininess, or for smoothness. Both have advantages—reducing allergens, waterproofing—but if you are going to wax your cat for smoothness I recommend sedating it first—for the comfort of the cat, and the safety of the human.

In either case, before you commence waxing, you must first create a clean and dust-free environment in which to wax. Dust will adhere readily to a freshly waxed cat, and then you’ll just have to start all over again. To create a proper waxing environment, select a space that you can completely control, clean it thoroughly, and drape it in plastic sheeting. You’ll want to wear a freshly laundered white-cotton full-body coverall or perhaps a Nuclear-Biological-Chemical suit as well, to avoid getting fibers from your clothes stuck in the cat wax.

The television show Dexter provides an excellent model of the sort of environment that’s best.

Having prepared your waxing chamber, it’s important to secure a good wax. There are several dedicated brands of cat wax which do an excellent job, and a number of writers use non-proprietary waxes, such as Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax (despite the name, intended for surfboards) or Homer Formby’s furniture wax. You will likely wish to experiment with a variety of waxes before making your final selection.

Once you have secured the cat, the space, the sedative, and the wax, you will also require a source of warm water and some dust-free cloths. First, grasp your cat gently but firmly by the scruff…

…oh, I see we’re out of time.

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40 thoughts on “Cat-Waxing 101

  1. This has to be one of the dumbest and most disgusting articles I have read lately, and it has put me off Tor altogether. I am cancelling my subscription to them. Thanks.

    • @=^..^= – Did it need to be garnished and placed on a platter for you to be able to handle?

      @bear – This is a great post, and i look forward to using it during my next daunting writing task. if you need a safe house after sharing this…

  2. But, but, but…how can you be out of time if you’re cat waxing? Isn’t the whole point to be so thoroughly thorough that it takes as much time as it takes? Just askin’

  3. @=^..^= it’s hilarious when readers misunderstand the context of a post, so utterly, and interpret it literally! Even when the author provides giant clues to understanding the context. Hilarious! Thank you for the entertainment.

  4. Metaphor, catlady, metaphor. Think of wax on, wax off to busy the body in order to clear the mind. Mmmm….perhaps that wasn’t the best of analogies. ;)

  5. I find that the bigger the cat, the more entertaining the task. Luckily, there are pumas in the neighborhood.

  6. Some of us do vacuum the cat first before waxing. Lacking cats, one can wax chickens in a pinch. I find a carnauba wax applied in thin coats gives a nice, glossy sheen.

    Methods may vary, but the results are the same. I’m cat-waxing right now.

    • Cat vacuuming: NOT A METAPHOR!

      Ever since my friend showed us this video, I have been meaning to bring it up in the context of the next cat-vacuuming/cat-waxing discussion I found myself in. So here you go. The cat is a silver bengal and has, her human would want me to say, “become much better about being vacuumed since.” Her human swears by this method to reduce the cat hair about-house.

  7. Seems to me the real problem would be if you are trying to wax a long-haired cat like a Persian. Short-haired breeds like Siamese should be relatively easy. One of our cats is long-haired, but that’s not the worst of it … the cat is totally paranoid, runs from everything, so just catching him is bloody impossible. One of these days, however, I’ll get him. I have the wax all ready to go!

  8. Fantastic. (For anyone taking this too literally, there is an actual. Link. To the definition. In the article.)
    And now, to hunt down Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax . . .

    • i will follow the link, but first, i need to clean my mouse and keyboard, they are filthy.
      and while i am at it, i should pick up all the clutter on my desk, that way i am not distracted during the link reading

  9. What about bikini wax? How does that compare to the others mentioned?

    One of our cats has a skin condition, do you think waxing will help clear it up?

  10. this is hissterical. am hoping you continue the story, as i’m a purrfessional cat rescuer who occasionally even writes. as for waxing persians, forget it. even if you should succeed, persians will immediately race to the nearest radiator, wood stove, or other heat source, which will destroy the heat source as it removes the wax from the cat’s coat.

    unless someone can find the out-of-stock catnip 545 wax. only thing that works on persians.

  11. Brilliant! And of course, cat-waxing applies to so many other endeavors – I did “cat-waxing” yesterday rather than sanding and paint-prepping my bathroom walls. You’d be amazed that cat-waxing was more fun than wall sanding… ^.,.^

    • The really advanced technique involves using the sanding and pain-prepping to avoid writing.

      My house is so clean right now…

      • Pain-prepping, I believe, involves online shopping for ergonomics and wrist-braces so that you are properly set up to write. Of course, that can take *days*…

  12. I’m really not a “cat” person. I’m more of the “I’m a procrastinator and proud of it”.

    However, if I had to give it a name, I’d call it “baking”. Yeah, that’s what I’d call it…it’s not really a lie. I am baking, I can’t help if it’s virtual. :D

  13. I’ve had a cat in my office – detached from the house – for the past four years.

    It’s not mine. It had been acquired by my adult daughter, but when she and her husband and her kids moved in with us (yet another consequence of the “recession” that displays all the characteristics of a global economic depression, the lies of the Department of Labor notwithstanding), my son-in-law just had to acquire an American bulldog pup which has proven – predictably – to be both boisterous, impossible to discipline, and cat-unfriendly.

    Thus I have a long-haired Felis catus seated in my lap as I write.

    No, damn it, he’s not mine. My granddaughters have made that clear as boisterously they invade my office once or twice a day. I clean his litterbox, I buy his cat food, I open the doors according to his petitions, and I concede to his demands otherwise, but he is not my cat.

    We have the same kind of successful relationship I’d had with my college dorm roommate, lives led in parallel but without coincident interests, in the classic modus vivendi of feline quid pro quo.

    I feed him and he…er…lets me.

  14. Funny, Bear. Between writing and cat-waxing, hope you are making time to register for 4th Street — looking forward to seeing you again.

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  16. Please don’t link to the Urban Dictionary. It’s basically a troll haven these days, instead of a slang glossary.

  17. Ha! I knew it! It’s all about the serial. Build up the expectations and suspense, then tell them to come back next week for the continuing story… except we didn’t get any such promise. Hmm.

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  19. Hmm. My cat is well and truly waxed. But maybe another coat or three… I can’t quite use him as a mirror yet, and honestly is not a mirror polish something to strive for?

    Besides, I can use the experience in whatever I may someday actually get around to writing…

  20. Thanks for sharing the secret of cat-waxing. Guess it is good to know cat are worth something after all.
    Next time you come visit Georgia drop me a note. Let me repay your generosity by sharing a secret in return. Have you ever been Snipe hunting?

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