Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pet Detectives Thriving

Interesting piece from the Bay Area about a woman who uses trained dogs to track down missing pets - mainly cats because, as she notes, people notice dogs going by. You ask around the neighborhood and someone saw the dog. But cats are pretty much invisible.

From the Times Herald, Vallejo, California: Bay Area's Ace Pet Detective

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Behavior Evolving... Badly

A growing problem with Leela that I'm not quite sure what to do about. She, as I assume most Bengals, develops new behaviors occasionally, and others fade away. Sometimes this is because we find a way to interrupt them. She used to ping off the walls, leaping up to eye level and sliding down the wall with her claws out. It's great for your security deposit. She stopped that when we got her her tree. Which will get a post of its own soon.

Sometimes these things just stop for no particular reason. She doesn't go off on the toilet paper and unroll a whole roll onto the bathroom floor anymore. (We stopped putting it on the rolls for a while, but we've since started putting it back and she hasn't picked up the habit again.)

But she's just developed something new that's really worrying me. She's started tipping over unattended glasses. Like mostly full glasses. Like mostly full glasses sitting on tables and desks next to important papers and computers.

She's clearly doing it deliberately. The most recent time, I got up and went to the bathroom and she made a beeline for it. I heard the glass go over within seconds. And that's getting perilously close to a dealbreaker for me. So far she hasn't managed to destroy anything important, but that's just luck. And yes, I can try to not leave full glasses sitting around, but sooner or later I, or my wife, or a houseguest, is going to forget. And as I said, this time all I did was go into the bathroom.

I need to do some research because I'm afraid the time is coming where we're going to have to be able to break her of one of her bad habits instead of adjust our own behavior around it. Or else my wife and I are going to have a terrible, terrible fight.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Let Sleeping Bengals Lie

From the aptly named Bengal Cats, a gratuitous cat picture worth checking out.

Young Merry snoozes in dignified repose...


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Facing Laszlo's Kidney Failure

We had some bad news about Laszlo recently. He was losing weight, and he was drinking and passing water in truly massive amounts. He was obsessed with water, climbing into the shower to lap it up and endlessly yowling at the faucets.

We took him to the vet and the results came back as CRF, or chronic renal failure. Basically, his kidneys were shutting down, which is something that happens with older cats. (Laszlo's about 12 now.)

That was kind of a blow, but thankfully we've been able to manage it so far. The first line of defense was new, low protein food. We worried about a couple of things. Would Laszlo eat it? And would we be able to keep feeding Leela the food she was used to? We were worried we'd have to feed them separately and try to find some way to keep them out of each other's food. Given the way they eat, it would have been next to impossible.

Fortunately, we seem to have lucked out in that regard anyway. Laszlo quickly took to the low protein food and prefers it to what he was getting. Similarly, Leela doesn't seem to want the stuff and sticks to the food she's used to. We just have two little bowls of dry food beside each other now and have never seen any indication of either of them eating out of the wrong bowl. Huge stroke of luck.

The second line of defense is subcutaneous fluids. That was something of a hump for us to get over because it involves sticking Laszlo with a needle. But he needed it, and so we gradually managed to face it down and get it done.

Thankfully, so far at least, it all appears to be working fine. Laszlo hasn't regained the weight he lost, and he's still creating clumps in the litter box the size of coconuts, but he seems to be his regular happy and affectionate self. He doesn't act like a sick cat at all. We have no idea how long that will continue, but for now all is okay.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Catnapped Bengal Recovered Safely

From the Village News in Fallbrook, California, comes this somewhat bizarre story about a local Bengal that briefly ended up on the wrong end of someone's... unique ideas about cat ownership.

Short version: Sheba the Bengal goes missing, owners find her collar in the driveway. The guy who took Sheba apparently took her to a local vet to scan her microchip, then called the owners and demanded a "reward." Negotiations end in an impasse and owners call the Sheriff's department, which gets a warrant and rescues Sheba. This after the guy blows them off when they ask him to just give back the cat. John Feucht now faces charges of theft of an animal for sale or misuse and receiving stolen property.

(What did we learn from this episode children? We learned that telling Sheriff's deputies to "pound sand" is seldom a good idea.)

The strangest part's hard to work out because either Sheriff's department spokesperson Theresa Adams-Hydar expresses herself badly, or the paper mangled the quote. The quote is that Feucht, "basically thought he wasn’t doing anything wrong; he maintained that cats are property, not domesticated animals," Adams-Hydar said. "He knew it was her cat."

I'm not sure how to parse that. If he thought cats are property, then taking someone's property and demanding cash for it is clearly not okay. But I gather what they're driving at is that this guy had it in his head that cats are just kind of there for the taking. I guess a judge will clear that up for him.

(Be sure to click on the photo of Sheba there. It enlarges and she is quite a cat.)


Monday, July 14, 2008

Habits Change. Seldom for the Better

Leela's behavior patterns have shifted as she's matured. She's still a dangerous sociopath. It's just manifesting in different ways.

The most dangerous change that's suddenly appeared is a fascination for tipping over any unattended glasses she finds. Particularly those that are half full and sitting next to things like books and computers.

So far we've been lucky and she hasn't managed to destroy anything important. But we've had to do quite a few rushed cleanups lately. This is an entirely new behavior for her that seems to have just appeared out of nowhere in the last couple months. She always liked glasses with drinks, but until now it's been because of the ice cubes. She loves a game we've taken to calling "objects in water." (We're not all that imaginative.) Basically anything in water, she wants to fish out. This is a pretty standard Bengal thing and we were used to it. This is different. She just walks up and "whack." She hooks the rim with a paw and pulls it right over. She's doing it a lot.

Not sure what to do about it, but something's got to be done or she and I are going to have words.

(oh, hi, by the way)

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Leela Loves Hewie

Ah, this is warm and weird at the same time. I've been playing a game called Haunting Ground on my Playstation 2. It's a horror game where you play a teenage girl (okay, I admit videogames haven't grown up quite as much as their users - a teenage girl with an embarrassingly prominent chest) named Fiona. You've been in an auto accident out in the country somewhere, and you wake up locked in this creepy castle full of paintings with eyes that follow you, mysterious noises, secret laboratories and whatnot. You're occasionally found and chased by a hulking Faulknerian idiot-manchild who thinks you'd make a better dolly than the one he's got now, and that's before the real bad guys take an interest in you.

So you're a teenage girl, not a commando or a ninja death machine. You don't have a backpack full of guns. You don't really have much defensive capability at all. But, early in the game, you come upon a white German Shepherd named Hewie. You rescue the dog from a bad situation, and the dog becomes your ally. He can attack the bad guys to give you time to run and hide in a closet. He can get to places you can't reach, and vice versa. Basically the game is about combining your abilities with Hewie's to solve problems and escape from the castle together.

You don't directly control the dog the way you do Fiona. You can try to get him to do things, but it's up to him. Part of the game is about taking good care of Hewie so he's willing to help you. Even at the best of times, he's got that selective hearing thing dogs get. In general he's not just sitting still, waiting for you to give him a command. When you enter a new place, he sniffs around. Maybe he'll lie down and relax. He'll walk around and watch what you're doing. He acts very much like a real dog - so much that you soon learn to watch his body language for clues.

So why am I talking about this here? Because I soon noticed that Leela was really, really into this game. When I was playing, she'd come over and sit on the corner of the coffee table nearest the TV screen and just watch, pretty much for as long as I kept playing.

This is not something she normally does. I mean sure, she'd watch the video birdbath DVD for a while, but not for that long. And she might take interest in animals on TV, but again, it's a passing thing. This game just utterly fascinates her, and I realized it was because of the dog. I don't know if she really gets what a dog is. She's seen them when we've taken her to the park, but that's about it. But she definitely reacts to the quadruped animal in a way she doesn't react to the human characters. She doesn't seem to care much about Fiona, but Hewie will get her so excited - especially when he moves toward the camera and disappears off the bottom of the screen - that she'll go over and climb up and try to touch him, or run around to the back of the TV and see if she can figure out how to get to where he is.

I don't know why she's more drawn in by this than she is by animals on TV either, but she definitely is. She can even tell the difference between TV and other Playstation games now. She still doesn't pay much attention to broadcast TV, but fire up the Playstation, even with a different game, and she'll come sit very attentively on that corner of the table to see if her pal Hewie will show up.

I speculate that it's got something to do with the slower pace of cutting in a videogame. For the most part, once you move into a particular location in a videogame, the camera angle will be constant until you go someplace else and it changes. And you're generally setting the pace, poking around and exploring instead of having the story blast at you with one scene change after another. I think maybe she finds it more immersive since she's looking at one image for a good couple of minutes anyway, with Hewie moving around within it. That's not really what TV looks like most of the time. But I'm just guessing.

The other thing I find really funny about this is imagining if she really could get through the screen into Haunting Ground's world. Consider yourself alone, unarmed, in terrible danger in this creepy castle where you don't know your way around, people are chasing you with villainous intent, and instead of a German Shepherd, you come upon a Bengal cat.

How utterly useless would that be? Face it, no amount of cajoling - Go Leela! Go Leela! Good girl! - is going to get her to slip through that crack in the wall and retrieve the key to this door you can't get through...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Window Wars

Both our cats are indoor cats, but there are plenty of outdoor cats around the neighborhood, including one solid black cat that appears to have incorporated our back yard into his territory. We've been seeing him around all over the place. And, of course, because Laszlo is solid black, we always have this immediate panic reaction - Oh no! Laszlo got out! Ah! - for about three quarters of a second before the rational part of our brains kicks in and we realize it's the other cat.

We know Leela's spotted him while sitting on various windowsills checking out the outside. She makes those bizarre chirping noises cats come up with. And we think she makes the same mistake we do. What's Laszlo doing outside and how did he get there?

But a few days ago the two of them finally discovered each other.

Leela was on the windowsill that looks out on the back porch, doing her usual morning hang out. The other cat spends a fair amount of time on the back porch, particularly in the early morning. We've stumbled across him there many times.

This time they spotted each other, and the result was a thirty-second flurry of cat/glass impacts. Leela had a windowsill to perch on so she was chirping and complaining and smacking the window with her paws. The black cat outside didn't have a comparable perch, but jumped up from the porch and slammed into the window about five or six times. Eventually they realized this wasn't going anywhere and settled down to glare at each other for a while.

We're not sure what would happen if Leela actually got into a fight. God knows she's a scrapper with Laszlo, but he's really timid, and she's just playing. She's kind of a small cat, but she's a Bengal so she doesn't really seem to know that. And, to top it off, we keep her claws trimmed so she won't hurt Laszlo - or us when she leaps onto our backs. I suspect she wouldn't have come out of a real scrape with this guy unmarked.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stop! Koshatnik! Help!

A lot of chatter around the net recently about a forthcoming book by Adam Jacot de Boinod called "The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World." It's about various oddities of language, like the lengths the French have gone to to avoid the word "computer" because it sounds vaguely dirty in French, or the surprising variety of words for moustache in Albanian. But the core of the book appears to be words from other languages that express concepts for which we've never found the need for a dedicated word. For example, "Zechpreller," German for someone who leaves without paying the bill.

The book sounds exactly like the sort of thing that would be embraced by the higher-end British newspapers on a Sunday, and that's exactly what happened. Here's the Independent's version but there are plenty of others.

So I'm browsing this article, and come upon the word "koshatnik," ostensibly Russian for "a dealer in stolen cats." Say what? Now that's an image that slips into your brain and wiggles around - especially if you write fiction with a slant toward the magically strange. Why exactly would someone do that? Who would they sell them to? Why not just take in a stray? It conjures up fairy tale images of magical cats and arcane secrets. It sticks with you.

Unfortunately, it may be too good to be true. Searching around online for some ideas about who the mysterious and secretive koshatniks of old Russia may have been, I found this article denouncing the whole concept over at Language Geek. (And since Language Geek's URL is neko.com, I'm going to assume they know their cat terminology.)

According to Language Geek, the word just means someone who likes cats. They even link to a Russian site full of "'You know you're a koshatnik if...' humor." (I'm going to have to take their word for that.)

Apparently, to Language Geek and people like him or her, this whole book is just a big "oh God, here comes another one" event, creating all sorts of bizarre misunderstandings that they'll be correcting at parties for years. They also cite "Razbliuto," which supposedly means "the feeling one has for a former lover no longer loved." Another site, Language Hat, had this one out with William Safire months ago, finally convincing him that there is no such word. Apparently it's a garbled version of the verb "razliubit," which just means to stop loving.

The really odd bit is that Language Geek checked his or her Russian dictionaries for Koshatnik and actually did find one that offered, alongside the cat-fancier definition, "dealer in (stolen) cats." So maybe there really were stolen cat dealers running around the streets of Moscow at some point. (And even if there weren't, that never got in the way of a good story.)

[BTW I suggest that the razbliuto story hints at how a lot of de Boinod's entries came about. Apart from the mangling of the word itself, the translation suggests someone explaining a word in their own tongue to someone else using words from their language, and being cautious and a bit overly precise. I think that could explain a lot of the words in that Independent piece, and another big chunk of them are simply onomatopoeia. But I digress. Those cats aren't going to steal themselves...]

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #15

Yes, it's been forever since I've posted. Blame Leela. Ever since she figured out how to hold a knife between her paws, we've been at her mercy...

I've convinced her that she should consider her public image, and that allowing me to post occasionally would look good to a judge, so I'll try and get occasional photos up.

Like this one, of Leela claiming the high ground as she stalks my wife's tea bag.

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