Saturday, April 30, 2005

Cats Love Rounders

The template you're looking at right now - the color palette the rounded corners, the overall design of the page apart from the text poured into it - is called Rounders. It was designed by Douglas Bowman of San Francisco based design consultancy in February of 2004. It's one of the available templates on Blogger, and I chose it for Living with Bengals.

Granted, there are only so many templates available, and an awful lot of Blogger blogs using them. But I've been noticing that cat blogs seem particularly attracted to the Rounders template for some reason.

Obviously there's myself. Then there's Enrevanche, which I discovered when it hosted a recent installment of Carnival of the Cats.

Then there's New Cat City, previously referenced here, who uses Rounders 3, the same template with a different color palette. (There are four variations all together.)

And finally, The Cat Pack, another fine cat blog I was going to make reference to here before realizing I had a larger story on my hands. The Cat Pack is the product of a couple with five cats, cleverly named Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Angie Dickinson. Anyone cool enough to name their cats after the rat pack is okay with me - go check them out.

But why so much Rounders? Is there something about the cat-favoring personality that's drawn to the gentle corners? Is it something subliminal about the word rounders?

I just don't know. Science marches on though, and I'm sure I'll come up with a working hypothesis eventually.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #10

Finally, some love for Laszlo. The dignified, cool, sexy member of the family. This will be the shot for his online personal...

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Friday Ark Sailing

As it does every Friday, the Animal Ark is now delivering a broad range of cute animal goodness over at Modulator.

Go check it out. It beats working...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Leash Training a Bengal - pt. 3

For the other installments of this article, look here:
Last time, I promised the tale of how we finally took Leela outside, and what we did wrong in the process.

Sure enough, after a good couple weeks of letting her get used to the mere existence of her cat harness, or walking jacket, and then letting her get used to actually wearing the thing, we finally clipped a leash on her and took her out into the back yard.

She had a splendid time after a few minutes adjustment. This has remained pretty constant with her. She loves going outside, but it takes her a couple minutes to relax and get into exploring. She didn't really get the "walking with the human" part of it, and still doesn't. Let's put it this way: if you "walk" her in the direction she wants to go, everything's just dandy. But once she got used to the strange new world, and figured out where we were going to let her go and where we just weren't, Leela had a ball.

The problem was that she enjoyed it all a little too much. After those first expeditions, she was really excited whenever either of us got anywhere near her leash and cat harness. She also started to charge open doors to see if she could slip out. This was something she'd never done before, and something that worried us a great deal. Remember we live in an urban neighborhood with pretty heavy traffic. We had to find a solution.

Let's put it this way: if you "walk" her in the direction she wants to go, everything's just dandy.

The answer we found was to make the process much more abstract. Instead of simply taking her out the back door, we shifted to the new model. When we want to take her for a walk, we put on her jacket and leash as before. Then she goes in her carrier, down the stairs into the garage and into the car. Then we drive her someplace - one of the nearby parks, the beach, wherever - and she gets to explore.

This worked like a charm. She still has a ball exploring, but she no longer seems to connect that fun experience with whatever's right on the other side of any door, if she can just get past us. There's no more trying to sneak out the doors whenever they're open. There's no more just sitting at the door and meowing piteously (unless Elisa's outside of course).

And there's even an added bonus - she doesn't mind riding in the car anymore, because that's what takes her to her fun outdoor adventures. When we first got her, she complained from the moment you put her in the car until she got out. The last time I took her to the vet, she literally didn't make a sound the whole way.

Overall, we're pretty happy with how things turned out. We had a false start along the way, but we solved the problem, and came up with something that's working for all of us.

In the next (and probably last) installment, I'll talk a little about what to expect when you get your Bengal out into an outside world full of amused and confused onlookers.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Can't Say They Weren't Warned

I figured it was only fair to let would-be intruders know what terror they'd be facing if they actually managed to get into our house...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Cat Toy Review

This installment of Cat Toy Review (easily our lamest feature here at LwB) came about because I discovered that there's actually a company devoted to making the Cat Dancer. Yes, in the heart of Wisconsin, is Cat Dancer Products.

I mean it's a length of wire - three feet of oil-tempered 20 gauge spring steel, their site helpfully explains - with some rolled up paper on the end. I figured someone came up with the idea decades ago and, by now, they were all being produced in generic factories somewhere overseas. Apparently not. Huh.

Well, whether this is the sort of thing you can build a company around or not, there's no denying that it's Leela's favorite toy. She hauls hers around with her - we never know where we'll find it next. And she just basically loves it. The poor thing's been shredded. There's a grand total of one piece of the original paper left and we've had to put masking tape on the ends as a target. Witness its horrible state.

I'm not too sure about the "improvements" they've tried to make to the original. Like the one with a catnip mouse at one end. Eh. But the original's great. I can't figure out why we haven't just gone ahead and gotten her a new one. They're $3.00 people! ($4.00 Canadian - maybe that's why.)

So not much of a surprise here, but Cat Dancer, highly recommended.

New Friday Ark Available

Thanks to the fine folks at The Modulator, we have the latest Friday Animal Ark.

Lots of fine cats, dogs, spiders, rocks, you name it. As always, well worth browsing.

Well, That's Done It.

I've gone ahead and added Haloscan's commenting and trackbacks to the site, mostly because I wanted to add trackback capability. But I seem to have wiped out all the existing comments. And leaving comments now works differently.

I'm a little unsure about this, so please leave feedback and let me know if you prefer this or the old Blogspot comment system. If this drives people crazy, I'll go back to the old system.


Okay, strike that. I figured out how to get Haloscan's trackback installed while keeping Blogger's comments. So all the comments are now back as they were. I guess you should let me know if you all really prefer Haloscan...

Thanks again.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #9

There will be NO TUMMY RUFFLING in this house!! Is that clear?

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Cats and the Common Cold

I've got a nasty cold, which has been impeding my blogging habits for the last few days. Now Leela appears to be developing some kind of "sympathy cold." At least I know she didn't actually catch it from me. I'm repeatedly assured that cats can't catch human cold viruses and vice versa.

But she appears to have caught one of her own. She's pretty much her usual self, but she's been sneezing a little bit today, and one of her eyes is very watery. I've found some sources saying that cats with colds may refuse to eat because they can't smell their food, but she's certainly not having any problems with that - or with tormenting Laszlo or any of the usual things she does.

Elisa is pretty careful about these things, and will probably have her to the vet if this keeps up, so no cause for alarm. In case your cat gets a cold, here are a couple relevant links I found.

Short answer appears to be - probably not a serious problem, but there's a small chance it could be so best to get your cat to the vet and be sure.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Another Cat Blogger

Avram from New York relates his experience with his first adopted cats in New Cat City.

Lots of great photos. His cats aren't Bengals, but nobody's perfect, right?

Avram adopted them - despite being allergic to cats - last November and has kept a good running log of lessons learned as his "boys" have grown. Definitely worth a check.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Leash Training a Bengal - pt. 2

For the other installments of this article, look here:

Last time, we discussed leashes and collars and cat harnesses and the like.

This time I'll talk about how we introduced Leela to the jacket we ended up getting for her. We were worried about this stage. Whenever we'd tried this sort of thing with cats in the past, they'd just gone nuts. They'd hated the whole concept of having this thing applied to them, and the whole process had short-circuited right there.

So we took our time. Leela has a kind of cat toy corner in the living room. It's where her occasionally beloved Star Chaser Turbo sits, and all her other toys seem to be based there when she hasn't dragged them off to some other part of the house.

When we got the jacket, we didn't immediately try to stick her in it. We pretty much just tossed it into the toy corner and left it there. For a week. We let her play with the box it came in. She loves a good cardboard box, especially one with stray bits of packing tape.

"of course I can't move. I'm encased in, what is this, wet sand?"

So for a week, the jacket was just sort of lying there with her toys. She didn't really play with all that much. But she nosed it around a little, recognized it and generally got used to it. A week later, she didn't give it a second thought. (Of course she's a Bengal. She's not intimidated by much of anything.)

The moment of truth came when we strapped her into it. We did this without any intention of taking her outside. One step at a time. We figured we'd let her get used to the jacket first, then worry about outdoors. It went pretty well. She was a bit confused about the whole thing - though she didn't howl or fight or really complain at all. Then she took a couple of steps and collapsed. She'd just sort of lay there in the middle of the kitchen floor with this expression that said, "well, of course I can't move. I'm encased in, what is this, wet sand?"

Not perfect, but we found we could distract her from her woeful state. If we offered to play with her, she'd quickly forget about the thing. Before long, she'd be chasing her cat dancer or what have you, just as she usually did. So for the next week, that's just what we did, for ten to fifteen minutes a day. Just put it on her and play indoors. And again, she gradually got used to the jacket. Before long she was acting quite normally with it on.

So at this point, we were feeling pretty clever. We had this thing nailed. In our next installment, we go outside and succeed a little too well.

Sunday Means Carnival

Hi all, another Sunday, another Carnival of the Cats, this week hosted by Boo and Spike from over at Watermark.

If you're a newcomer, welcome. We hope you'll come back. If you've been here before, we got some new stuff, and more coming. So enjoy, and have a great Carnival.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #8

I get a present, she gets a present.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

The Water Wars

"Whiskey’s for drinking; water’s for fighting." - Mark Twain

Laszlo has always appreciated a good drink straight from the faucet. As we are essentially pushovers, he can often cajole one of us into turning on just a thin trickle of water for him to drink - no more than that.

This used to work just fine for him, but not anymore. Leela has decided that she can't let him enjoy any simple pleasure unmolested. The result looks like this.

That's Leela actually climbing down into the sink in order to shoulder her way between Laszlo and the water. Typically she'll get herself completely soaked in the process. But she's a Bengal; she doesn't mind that. Then, once Laszlo has been thwarted, she'll climb out and lick the water off her fur.

It's just another way for her to play with water. She has more ways of drinking than any cat I've ever seen. And she's remarkably stubborn once she gets an idea into her head. Laszlo doesn't stand a chance.

Abandoned Site w Good Photos

I don't know what happened to Catablog, but it's a darn shame.

It appears to have surged into life early last September, put up several excellent photos - and even video - of the owner's cats around the time he added a couple new Bengal kittens and a Siamese to the household, then died off within the month. Too bad.

At least it was on Blogger, so the photos are still there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Leash Training a Bengal - pt. 1

For the other installments of this article, look here:

As promised a couple days ago, here's the first in a series of posts on how to leash train your Bengal cat. We're focusing on this not because it's especially difficult with a Bengal. Quite the contrary, we've found it so easy with Leela that it's actually possible. That's right, possible.

We've never been able to do this with any other cat. They either just walk out of their cat harness, or they freak out and become unmanageable until you take it off and let them hide under the bed for a while. I know some people say they've trained their cats to do this. But our experience suggests these animals aren't really cats at all, but small dogs working undercover. We were a little dubious going in, but we'd heard Bengals were well-suited for leash training, so we plunged in.

The first thing you'll need, of course, is a leash and some kind of cat harness. The leash is pretty basic and it's hard to go too far wrong. But the cat harness is another story. A trip to your local pet store will probably turn up two varieties. One consists of two straps, a strap that goes around the cat's neck and another that goes around its torso. The two are connected by lateral straps running up the cat's back and belly. The other model is a Figure-8 design that goes around the legs and body.

All it needs is "FBI" on the sides in big yellow letters...

We can't recommend either one. We've had terrible luck, especially with the figure-8 model, which tends to pull tight around a leg or two and freak the cat even more. Even the twin collar doesn't seem to do the job for us. And this is with regular cats. Given how Leela takes everything to eleven, we were very doubtful either model would hold her if she didn't want to be held.

What we ended up getting was this walking jacket from HDW Inc. They're Bengal specialists, and this is one hardcore cat harness. It adds an extra strap to the two-strap design, then wraps the cat's whole torso in the same kind of nylon fabric they use in backpacks. That's in addition to the two lateral straps connecting the two torso straps. That whole assembly connects to the collar by another strip of nylon that's a good two inches wide. The strapping is also the kind of stuff used in backpacks, messenger bags and the like. The straps are adjustable and use two-piece squeeze release plastic clasps. They're quick to pop off if you need to, but the cat's never going to do it on their own. Even Leela wasn't getting out of this thing.

It's available in a lot of colors. We got ours in solid black for the tactical SWAT-cat look. All it needs is "FBI" on the sides in big yellow letters...

Then we brought it home and contemplated actually putting it on Leela. Fortunately, we took our time here. I'll explain more in the next installment...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Cat Toy Review

Okay, I admit this is going to be kind of a shabby installment of Cat Toy Review, because I can't tell you what this toy is called or who makes it. We've had it a while and I've been meaning to talk about it, but I've gone and lost the cardboard thing that identified it.

But at any rate, what we're talking about here is your basic dangly "bat at me" cat toy, made of pretty much the same wire as a cat dancer, with a lure at the end for the cat to go after. In this case, that's a pretty crude dragonfly made of rolled up paper and some kind of iridescent plastic stuff for the wings. As you can see, Leela kind of likes it. (Check out that expression - not to mention that paw...)

She invaded my ad hoc photo shoot, so I let her be in the picture. A couple shots later it struck me that the pictures are probably a lot more appealing that way. Yes, I am a genius.

But anyway, the part that forces me to review this thing is actually at the other end. (Leela tried attacking this end too, but if I let her do that, you couldn't see the high-tech details.)

Here comes the science, folks. The packaging (yes, the packaging I've since lost, and I feel foolish enough, thank you) proclaims that this clever detail makes this not just an ordinary cat toy, but a cutting edge, interactive cat entertainment technology. The idea is that, by squeezing it, you can make the dragonfly at the other end do amazing things that you could never do otherwise, things that violate the very laws of nature. Things your cat will be quite unable to resist.

In a word, no. Squeezing the grip accomplishes nothing, except to make you feel silly. And as I already feel silly, I won't need to do that. But at the end of the day, the cat likes playing with it, and isn't that what really matters?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Welcome, Carnival-Goers!

As promised a couple days ago, we have another roundup of cat-bloggers coming through. Carnival of the Cats is a weekly collection of cat-related blog posts hosted by various bloggers in turn. This week's host is Enrevanche, run by the kind and helpful Barry Campbell.

If you're here for the first time thanks to the Carnival, welcome. We're not a regular blog that does Friday cat blogging. Here, every day is Friday. Please dig around. If you're not familiar with Bengals, there's a basic overview here. And, in addition to pictures of our own Bengal, you should be able to find links to other Bengal photos scattered around.

Basically enjoy yourself, and we hope you'll come back from time to time.

Indoors or Outdoors?

This is a great way to pick a fight on some Internet forums, but that's not my goal here. We're getting ready to launch a series of pieces on walking your Bengal, and I wanted to start off with some background on where we're coming from.

I grew up in farm country. Our cats came and went as they liked and we didn't even have litter boxes. But as an adult I've lived in more populated areas, and I've always kept my cats inside. The reason is that, of all the cats I had on that farm as a kid, not one died of old age. In fact, I only knew what happened to one of them, who managed to get hit by a car in front of our house. All the others simply went out one day and never came back. To my mind, this isn't a good thing.

I know there are a lot of people who hate the idea of cooping up a cat inside because they want to be free to explore and hunt mice and all that. Even in the densely populated, semi-urban area where I live now, a lot of people let their cats roam. On my more or less daily walks through our neighborhood I'll see them curled up on front porches, or darting across the street in front of me. They seem content.

But I also can't take that walk without running across a new spate of "missing cat" flyers - each with photocopied pictures, plaintive descriptions and tear-off phone number tags - up on the light poles.

He wouldn't have caught that chipmunk anyway. Damn thing was just too smart for him.

Once, when I was in college, I actually found someone's missing cat. I saw a strange cat hanging out in some bushes near the library one day. The next day, he was still there. Then, on my way home, I came on a missing cat flyer on a light pole, and darn if it wasn't that cat. So I got my wife and we took the car back to campus, picked him up and got him back to his owner.

That was one. But it's never happened since. You know almost all of those cats aren't going to be coming home, and it's sad. Between the traffic, other cats, free-roaming dogs and even wildlife species that have adapted to scavenging human trash, it's a dangerous place out there for a cat.

My last cat, Max, lived eighteen years and died peacefully at home with me to take care of him. For my money, that's a better deal all around. He wouldn't have caught that chipmunk anyway. Damn thing was just too smart for him.

So Leela - especially Leela, who on top of all these other factors is valuable enough to be worth stealing - stays inside. But we'd read that Bengal cats are easier to leash train than regular cats. And so we tried it. Over several upcoming posts, I'll talk about how we went about that, how it worked, and how you can get strange looks from passersby too...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

I'm Going to Guess Danish

Came upon what looks like a very nice cat blog - in a language I don't speak. Granted, this isn't the first time that's happened, but Rasheed's owner translates some of his material and there are more photos.

Felis Silvestris Catus is in one of those Scandinavian languages with the odd ligatures, slashes through the "o"s and the like. Based on a couple .dk extensions and a link to "Danske katteblogs," I'm going to have to go with Danish.

At any rate, some nice pictures, including this amusing take on Munch - who was Norwegian, but close enough.

(On review, that image is from this collection of art parodies - famous artists painting their cats in their own particular styles. Worth a look.)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Friday Animal Ark

For your cat (dog, ferret, and even the occasional spider or rock) surfing pleasure, here's a collection of postings assembled weekly at under the catchall title of Animal Ark.

These aren't cat-specific sites, just bloggers from all walks of life practicing the ancient Internet tradition of Friday Cat Blogging. There's a different roundup coming on Sunday as well, so be ready for that...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #7

Schrödinger's cat contemplating the shower curtain...

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It's a Cat Blog World

I'm continuing to tweak the site as I figure out how to best go about this. One new addition is a section of links to other cat blogs over in the sidebar. Take a look. The first round of entries includes Rasheed's Weblog, which I referred to some time ago.

There are also two more recent discoveries, cat-o-bloggo and Richardson Zoo. Both highly recommended - which, of course, is why they're there. I'm hoping to add more from time to time, though I plan to be pretty selective about it. So visit those guys, and be sure to check the sidebar for cool links as I find them.

Bengal Cat, Bengal Dog?

No, she's definitely a cat, but Leela continues to do things that I associate more with dogs. One thing I've been meaning to mention for a while is the way she meets us when we come home. Well, not me so much. I usually walk in the front door, so I can show up unpredictably and I don't give her any advance warning.

But Elisa usually uses the car, and when Leela hears the garage door open, she springs into action. Our garage is under the house, so we come in through a basement door, turn left and go upstairs to the main level. And Leela is almost invariably sitting on the stair landing when we do, all the way over against the wall so she can see into the garage as we come in. She sits all perked up, looking for all the world the way a dog would look if it weighed maybe nine pounds and looked like a Bengal.

We came back from dinner out tonight and she met us on the bottom stair - an interesting variation. I'm not sure if that means she's working her way up to an attempt to get into the garage, or if she was just especially excited to see us tonight and overshot her usual waiting spot. But it's very cute nonetheless.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Bengal Survival Tool

Given how fascinated Bengals are by water, keeping their water bowls intact is a major problem. How does Leela tamper with her bowl? Let me count the ways. She drops bits of food in it so she can fish them out and eat them. She drops toys in it so she can fish them out and play with them. Sometimes she'll stick both front paws in and stand there. Sometimes she just hauls off and whacks the surface to see how much water she can splash out. She's a bad kitty, BAD KITTY!

The solution is a rubber mat. Here's ours - with Laszlo for scale. (And because so far this has pretty much all been Leela, Leela, Leela. Oooh, I'm a Bengal, look at me! Where's the love for Laszlo, man?)

You'll note the raised lip to contain spills. Another selling point is the rubber itself, which provides some friction grip and makes it harder to knock a bowl over in the first place. But that was never the problem for us. The bowl we use is pretty heavy and has a big, stable bottom. Even Leela can't just tip it over (knock on wood). But that lip is crucial.

I'd tell you where ours came from, but it has absolutely no identifying marks of any kind. It's as generic as something that brightly colored can be. But here's a mouse-shaped version from Petsmart. I'm sure your local pet store will have similar models. If you're considering a Bengal, just go ahead and look for something like this now.

This may seem obvious to some people, but realize that, despite his own particular fascination with water, Laszlo never went slopping water all over the place the way Leela does. I've had cats most of my adult life, and this is the first one of these I've felt the need for. Leela takes these things to a whole other level...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Favorite Bengal Games

Leela's behavior goes in phases. She comes up with something and does it pretty consistently for a while, then stops. (We're hoping the alarm clock triggering behavior - which I watched her doing very deliberately this morning at about 4:30 - will eventually fade away.)

This includes games she likes to play. For a while several months ago, she was really into playing fetch. This is another reason Bengals are often described as almost doglike. She would chase a thrown paper ball, pick it up and bring it right back to you. Well, most of the time. And only when she wanted to. She's not all that doglike. Then she just stopped and hasn't done it since.

Is this to suggest that a Bengal cat has the mind of an eleven-month old human?

At the moment, her favorite game is peek-a-boo. Wherever she happens to be, you get her attention, then disappear around a corner, duck behind a counter, etc. She'll spring into action and bolt to where you are. She doesn't really do anything. She just tears around the corner, or what have you, until she can see you again, and then she stops. But she'll do this over and over again. She never seems to get tired of it.

I'm beginning to think this has something to do with stretching the outer envelope of her powers of reason. I think she really just gets off on the idea of realizing that something's still there even though she can't see it anymore. Babies don't initially get this - they start to figure it out around eleven months or so. This is also when they start to be fascinated by the idea that something can be inside something else, and similar abstractions beyond simply what they see at the moment.

Is this to suggest that a Bengal cat has the mind of an eleven-month old human? Well, you probably wouldn't want to push that idea too far (tempting though it may be.) But she's definitely into that stage right now. We'll see if this one lasts.