Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Some Bengal Advice from eHow

For some (pretty basic) hints on things to keep in mind when getting a bengal kitten, here's a piece on How to Care for a Bengal from

(eHow is a site full of user-contributed tipsheets on how to do various things. It's weird, but strangely addictive.)

This particular piece doesn't exactly break new frontiers in human understanding of the Bengal Cat. Indeed, most of this stuff should be obvious with a little thought. But it's good advice in very quickly digested format, and there are some things that might not seem immediately obvious to people more used to regular cats. Put the toilet seat down indeed.

One focus is preventing diarrhea in Bengals, who are said to be highly susceptible to it. Perhaps we're just lucky, but we haven't really noticed any problem with Leela in this area. Knock on wood.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bengal Cautionary Tales

I was wandering around the web when I came across these accounts from a Bengal rescue site. They provide a nice counterpoint. We've got one, count her, one, and she's a handful from time to time. But she's nothing like these kittens.

Amusing anecdotes, if too late to help us much...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #6

Back at the wastebasket again. She was utterly convinced that there was something in there, down at the very bottom, that was hers by right, and darn if she wasn't going to have it back. I never figured out just what it was she wanted.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Advances in Feline Science

I was awakened - at about 6:00 in the morning - a couple days ago by strange noises that turned into something vaguely musical, and discovered that Leela's cutting edge scientific mind had stumbled onto something new.

I use a CD player alarm clock (Sony makes several nice ones, if you're interested) so I can wake up to the music of my choice. I've long since not learned to trust radio stations in the morning. So what happened apparently was that Leela was milling around in the pre-dawn darkness and, in the absence of the lamp on Elisa's nightstand, decided to walk around on top of the clock radio. Unlike the current ones in that Sony link, our older one has a big smooth top with all the buttons on it. And she managed to step on the play button.

This wouldn't have been so bad except that the thing is programmed to wake me up with track 3 of the disc that's in there - decidedly not track 1. Track 1 is really quite a different story. Worse, not only did I have to figure out what was going on and slap it off, I then had to reset it so it would still go off when it was supposed to. By the time you do that, you're pretty much awake.

So okay, that happened. But then this morning I awakened to find her walking around on top of it again, as if to try and replicate the results of her earlier experiment. This is deeply disturbing. It's like she knows she got a good result. She's not sure just how she achieved it, but she knows it involved walking on the black plastic box. And so she's trying to see which variables combine to get what she wants.

We may have to upgrade the clock radio...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Lamp Redux

You'll recall not too long ago, I was discussing Leela's use of our bedside lamp to wake us up in the morning.

Well, cat science marches onward. And a couple weeks ago, Leela hit on an innovation. Instead of knocking the lamp so it whacked against the wall, she shifted her force vector 90 degrees clockwise and the lamp fell directly into Elisa's face. The increase in our response was dramatic.

Recognizing that this was much more efficient than the old process, she did it again the next morning. We don't actually use the lamp all that much, and so we ended up sticking the lamp in a closet. (I know, I know, but it's just easier for us to adapt to her than the other way around. This is a principle that shapes the world.)

Then, a couple days ago, Elisa decided she wanted to read in bed for a while, so she got the lamp out, replaced the light bulb Leela had managed to break, and put it back.

Leela got all excited, immediately sitting and watching it from the floor and then from the bed. She recognized it and knew what to do with it. And indeed within a couple minutes she had tentatively knocked it into the wall. A test run. So when Elisa was done with the lamp, she unplugged it and put it back in the closet. Leela was flustered. She was sitting there on the floor, looking up at the now empty nightstand, and we could just see the frustration in her face. She was actually looking around for it. She knew it was gone and that therefore she had one less way of getting what she wanted. The cat's getting smarter...

Monday, March 14, 2005

More Kitteny Goodness

If you need more kitteny goodness, check out a guy named Steve with his Bengal at nine weeks.

  • Steve and his Bengal Kitten

[UPDATE: Sorry folks, as of April 4, this link goes nowhere, so I deleted it. No idea what happened to Steve or his cat.]

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #5

And 5a. Leela models the Classic Messenger bag from Timbuk2...

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Rude Girl

Leela has been in a fine lather the last couple days. She's always jealous of any minor happiness that Laszlo manages to find, but I've been noticing more of it recently.

Example 1: Laszlo is perched on the edge of the sink, drinking the narrow stream of water Elisa has turned on for him. He loves to do this, and she likes to indulge him. So Laszlo's happily lapping at the tiny column of water when Leela comes along. She actually climbs down into the sink just to get between Laszlo and the water. He tried to ignore her, but she's very hard to ignore when she doesn't want to be ignored. She was getting soaked! This little trickle of water is getting all over her, but she doesn't care about things like that. And eventually Laszlo gives up and takes off.

Example 2: Laszlo has perched on a corner of the kitchen counter. It's a strategic location with a good view of the kitchen and into the living room. It's also about as high as you can get without leaping onto cabinets. It's also, unfortunately, one of Leela's favorite places. Somehow Laszlo has found his way there and is lying in "meatloaf" posture happily observing the world going by. Along comes Leela, also minding her own business until she sees Laszlo. At that point, she makes a beeline for him, jumping up on the counter behind him and nipping at his hindquarters while he wails in protest. Again, he soon takes off, and she chases him since, hey, he was running.

There's no question who wears the little kitty pants around here. Laszlo never fights back in any serious way, even though he's bigger than she is. The pecking order has been established, and there's just nothing he can do about it at this point. But she really goes out of her way sometimes to enforce it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Cat Toy Review

As I've mentioned elsewhere, spending money on cat toys is a pretty dubious idea. For one thing, you'll never top a used grocery bag (paper or plastic). For another, the more you spend on a cat toy, the more likely your cat is to sniff in disdain and walk away. But sometimes, we find a winner.

Right now, Leela's absolute favorite cat toy is the Flytoy, from an outfit called Metpet. This is your basic "object dangling from the end of a stick" toy, but it takes the concept and drills it out of the park. They use actual fishing flies (ours is the pike, but there are a good dozen or more varieties).

It's attached to a plastic rod (12 or 18 inches long) by clear fishing line, and it's light enough that it really seems to float on the air when you get it moving. It drives Leela absolutely crazy. She's already managed to get a couple of the feathers off it, but we've extended its lifespan by keeping it in a closet and only taking it out for playtime. (Metpet's site does tell you to do this.)

At $5.99 for the smallest varieties, up to $12.99 for the Class IIIs like ours, this isn't the cheapest cat toy on the market. But neither is it ridiculously expensive, and we can't say we haven't gotten our money's worth on this one.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Resource for Blog Readers

Just got an e-mail saying we've been listed on Blogwise, which is a directory of blogs. It's at, or you'll notice a permanent link over in the sidebar, if you want to give it a try.

It's a pretty useful resource for dealing with the enormous and growing number of blogs out there, and finding what you want to read. (Hopefully including us.) You can search for blogs by subject keywords, or by country or language, and get a quick capsule description of what they're about. Handy thing to have around!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #4

An old friend of Elisa's sent a lovely plant for her birthday...

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Another Bengal Book

On the right, you'll find a link to Amazon's selection of books dealing with Bengals, but let's face it, it's awfully thin pickings. (Senior Seminar on Feline infectious peritonitis in a Bengal kitten indeed.)

Apparently Bengal fans have to take their books where they can find them. So I take note of Leopardo da Gotcha, a print-on-demand picture book about a Bengal of that rather flamboyant name, written by his owner, Robert Rockwell, and published through Xlibris. (Which is a print-on-demand and e-book operation tied to Random House.)

There's also a page here with some charming photos and excerpts from the book.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Belling the Cat

Well, the in-laws are in town because Elisa's birthday is coming up. This is their first time actually meeting Leela. They seem faintly surprised that a bengal cat is, well, pretty much a cat. "Oh, we thought she'd be bigger."

What they're really saying is, "we thought she would be a tiger. We're pretty sure that's what a bengal is, a tiger."

But they seem to be getting along okay. They brought an offering of plastic jingle balls, which Leela is enjoying. She seems to be taking to my mother in law in particular.

But we remain worried that, with these extra people coming and going, someone (and we're not naming names here, Vince) will manage to leave a door open or generally let her out. So we've put a collar on her with a bell. The idea is not so much that, if she gets out, we'll be able to track her by the bell. It's more that people who might otherwise remain blithely unaware of her (and again, Vince, we're not naming any names) are more likely to realize she's around and close doors behind themselves if she jingles everywhere she goes.

We'll let you know how that goes...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Infinite Cat Project

Oh, and how could I forget this? Check it out and get seriously tripped out, eh?

Gratuitous Cat Picture #3

Oh, I'm sorry. Were you trying to fold these?

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The Scientific Method in Cats

Who invented glass? Do you ever wonder about that? What on earth were they thinking? What could possibly lead some guy in the near east, like 4,000 years ago, to go, "hey, you think something good might happen if we cooked sand? Let's try it."

I bring this up because Bengals are said to be a bit smarter than ordinary cats, and I believe it. Leela's thought processes seem to be just on the very fluttery edge of abstract tool use. Consider this. She was watching Elisa eat macaroni and cheese a couple weeks ago. Arm, spoon, food. Then Elisa set down the bowl and Leela went to investigate. You could almost see the smoke pouring out of her ears as Leela pushed the limits of cat abstraction past the redline. Her arm, my arm. The silver thing. She gets food...I get food! So she reached out and WHACKED the end of the spoon, sending a couple pieces of macaroni flying. Eureka! Then she ate them. Not just licked off the cheese, but actually ate them whole because she'd earned them.

She's also figured out how to open our folding closet doors, and even closed interior doors. They have handles rather than knobs, so she can just fling herself at them and let her weight drag them down while the impact pushes the door open. She's pretty good at it...

Then there's waking the humans. Sometimes we manage to wear her out and she'll sleep in in the mornings. But usually she wants to be up and around with the dawn. And she doesn't want to be alone. She wants company. She wants to be fed. She knows how to get what she wants. One of her ways to wake us up is by knocking over a bedside lamp. Like so:

Lamp: before, and after cat.

That makes a good whacking sound when the shade hits the wall. Then there's her masterpiece - and this is why I bring up the invention of glass. She licks the wall. Seriously. She licks the wall next to our headboard. Where in the world did she come up with this? It's not like she enjoys the taste of the paint. She never does this anywhere else, or at any other time of day. She's doing it solely because she's somehow figured out that the noise is strange enough that it punches through our defenses and wakes us up. This is cat science at its most mad. It's amazing. I'm telling you, if this animal had opposable thumbs, we'd all be working for her...

Bengals Round the World

If you happen to read Dutch (and hey, who doesn't?) there's a guy named Rene who has quite the web presence for his pet Bengal, Rasheed, at Rasheed's Weblog and Rasheed's Webplekkie. (You know, like a regular plekkie, but on the web.)

If you don't read Dutch, digging around will find the odd bit of English translation. Failing that though, he has a ton of great cat pictures, which require no translation.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Objects In Water

This is Leela's favorite game in the world. Bengals are known for their love of water, and she's no exception. She will indeed climb into the shower or jump into the tub - although not to swim around. She likes to pad around in maybe two inches of water, but more than that is too much.

But if there's something in the water, something she can fish out, well then she's in heaven. She goes nuts. We've even caught her on the kitchen counter fishing frozen pierogies out of the bowl of warm water they were thawing in. (And yes, we've since learned not to leave things on the counter when she's around.)

Even Laszlo (not a Bengal) has always had a unique relationship with water. Rain frightens him, but at the same time, he loves it when you leave a faint stream of water running from the tap for him to drink. This contrasts to his usual style of drinking, which is to dip his paw in the bowl and lick the water off.

But Leela's water fetish goes way, way beyond his. Even though she doesn't want to get into a full bathtub, she's still fascinated enough that she works her way around the edge, and has managed to fall in more than once. She will occasionally drop things in her water bowl so she can then fish them out. She also loves digging around in glasses for ice cubes. In fact, ice cubes themselves have become objects of fascination. When she hears the ice trays being emptied, she will come running and leap right into the open freezer - yes, from the floor - and have to be removed while wrapping her claws around the edge of the shelf.

One lesson here is, don't try disciplining your Bengal kitten with a spray bottle of water. It isn't exactly a deterrent. Another is, the best way to distract her is to give her something in a bowl of water and let her splash around.

Big ROI on your Cat Toy Dollar

One of the benefits of owning a Bengal cat is that we seem to be getting much more use out of all those silly cat toys we buy on impulse. Let's be honest here. It's not like the cat sees a TV commercial and pesters us mercilessly until we get it a toy. We come across the toy, think it would be cute and then impose it on the cat. Sometimes this works but the more involved or expensive the toy is, the less likely the cat is to be cooperative. But our Bengal is a different story.

Consider the Blitz Turbo Scratcher, from the good people at Blitz USA (who apparently make a lot more than cat toys. Think Blitz for all your cat toy and fluid containment needs.)

Anyway, you can find these pretty much anywhere. It's the round base with the little plastic ball that flies around inside a track, plus a cardboard disc in the "infield" for scratching. If you've somehow never come across one of these, here's the one we've got, the "Star Chaser" variety with the blinking light in the ball.

Actually, based on the various online reviews, our experience may be unusual. But I have never seen a cat give one of these things a second glance. And then you've wasted - going price looks like $15. To add insult to injury, a free balled up piece of notebook paper will amuse them for hours.

Until we got Leela. She loves the thing. (Laszlo, being Laszlo, seems faintly embarrassed by its presence.) We've had it almost as long as we've had her and she still plays with it, typically around midnight or so when she really starts to get going. I've even seen her case mod it, putting one of those plastic balls with the bell inside into the track so there are now two things to swat. This actually works pretty well, btw. Those balls are almost the right size. You can get them in and out of the track, but they're close enough that they don't automatically fly out when she hits them.

This is a general trend with Leela - toys just work better. Some work better than others, of course, and she's found ways to play with some things that aren't what the makers intended. So one of the occasional features here will be toy reviews. What works, what ends up in a broken heap after twenty minutes and, as always, how the Bengal cat experience is different from what you may be used to with regular cats.