‘If you have committed any kind of error and anyone scolds you—wash,’ she was saying. ‘If you slip and fall off something and somebody laughs at you—wash. If you are getting the worst of an argument and want to break off hostilities until you have composed yourself, start washing. Remember, every cat respects another cat at her toilet. That’s our first rule of social deportment, and you must also observe it.
‘Whatever the situation, whatever difficulty you may be in, you can’t go wrong if you wash. If you come into a room full of people you do not know and who are confusing to you, sit right down in the midst of them and start washing. They’ll end up by quieting down and watching you. Some noise frightens you into a jump and somebody you know sees you are frightened—begin washing immediately.
‘If somebody calls you and you don’t care to come and still you don’t wish to make it a direct insult—wash. If you’ve started off to go somewhere and suddenly can’t remember where it was you wanted to go, sit right down and begin brushing up a little. It will come back to you. Something hurt you? Wash it. Tired of playing with someone who has been kind enough to take time and trouble and you want to break off without hurting his or her feelings—start washing.
‘Oh, there are dozens of things! Door closed and you’re burning up because no one will open it for you—have yourself a little wash and forget it. Somebody petting another cat or dog in the same room, and you are annoyed over that—be nonchalant; wash. Feel sad—wash away your blues. Been picked up by somebody you don’t particularly fancy and who didn’t smell good—wash him off immediately and pointedly where he can see you do it. Overcome by emotion—a wash will help you get a grip on yourself again. Any time, anyhow, in any manner, for whatever purpose, wherever you are, whenever and why ever you want to clear the air or get a moment’s respite or think things over—wash!
‘And—’ concluded Jennie, drawing a long breadth, ‘of course you also wash to get clean and to keep clean.’
‘Goodness!’ said Peter, quite worried, ‘I don’t see how I could possibly remember it all.’
‘You don’t have to remember any of it, actually,’ Jennie explained. ‘All that you have to remember is rule 1: ‘When in doubt—wash!’
—Useful advice for both humans and cats. Given by street-smart stray Jennie to recently-transformed-from-boy-to-cat Peter. The first of many lessons he learns about cats and humans in Paul Gallico’s The Abandoned.