Friday, May 27, 2005

Revenge of the Plastic Bag

Not Episode III, more like Episode II (see Episode I). Leela discovered another plastic bag a couple days ago, and managed to play pretty much the same trick with it.

This was a bigger, heavier bag from a college bookstore, meant for lugging 25 pound chemistry textbooks around. She found it and stuck her head through one of the openings. Then, once again she panicked and took off and the bag went with her and she panicked more. Your basic feedback loop running out of control.

We didn't see this the first time. We just heard this godawful noise tearing through the house and couldn't figure out what it was. Eventually I found Leela under our bed, still wearing the bag. She'd somehow managed to stop, and when she did the bag stopped making noise and attacking her, so she stayed put.

I carried her downstairs to show Elisa what had happened, and she freaked again. Jumped out of my arms and took off on a circuit around the living room furniture. This time we had a great view. The bag fluttered loudly in her slipstream just like a cape. She looked like a little bengal superhero.

Also, of course, the opening was facing forward so, as she ran, the thing scooped up air and inflated like a parachute. Presumably it was putting a fair amount of drag on her (which you know, isn't a bad idea...) but it didn't seem to slow her down a bit. Eventually she stopped again and Elisa managed to get the bag off her. We can only imagine what the next version will be. Next step up would probably be a full-size drawstring trash bag.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #13

And above all else, dignity...

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Are Bengals Too Mundane Now?

The New York Times recently published an article on Savannahs in New York that appears to be causing a bit of a kerfluffle. The Savannah is a cat breed that's sort of like the Bengal, as it's a hybrid of a domestic cat with a wild cat species. But the Savannah's wild parentage comes from the African Serval.

The Savannah is bigger than the Bengal, much more expensive, and not the sort of thing you want to keep in a Manhattan apartment - if for no other reason than the fact that they're illegal in New York City. The article describes owners going to great lengths to conceal their cats from neighbors who might complain to the city. It also describes what looks like a thriving black market, with people having to wait more than a year to pay $5,000 for a kitten and then being afraid to tell their friends where they live.

Now this is clearly a screwed up situation. But I'm more concerned about the impact publicity could have on public perceptions of hybrid cats. The Times notes that the Savannah is gaining in popularity on the Bengal. Says an Oklahoma Savannah breeder, "Bengals were the rage for a long time, but then people wanted something bigger."

It was hard enough gaining acceptance for the Bengal. They're still legally questionable in some places. And a Discovery Channel piece a couple months ago about rescued Bengals from a breeding operation that got out of control had people approaching Bengal owners on the street and chiding them for having such dangerous animals near their children. We don't need to start this up again with a bigger, more exotic cat.

I've nothing against Savannahs or the people who love them. But I do worry about people keeping them in inappropriate situations. If Leela weighed 35 pounds, we would not be keeping her in our townhouse, much less a postage-stamp New York apartment. And I worry about these situations - or whatever comes along after people decide the Savannah isn't big and exotic enough - causing trouble for breeds that have supposedly already cleared up those misconceptions.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

McBengal! - kawaii desu ne!!

Got a comment a couple posts ago from Cube, who noted a bit of synchronicity. He had just gotten a stuffed Bengal at McDonalds, and didn't realize they were any different from regular domestic cats. Then he stumbled on this site and learned otherwise.

Wait, back up a second. He got a stuffed Bengal at McDonalds? A quick exchange of e-mails and some Google searching later, and sure enough. A recent promotion from McDonalds - in the US anyway; if they did this here in Canada, they kept pretty quiet about it - gave away little stuffed animals with happy meals, eight different dog breeds and eight different cat breeds, including the Bengal.

It turns out to be a fairly weird alliance, a tie-in with a Japanese thing called The Dog and The Cat, which starts with pictures of cute kittens and puppies and then morphs them into these weird, super-deformed kittens and puppies with enormous anime eyes. (God, that is so Japanese. They'll be balancing pancakes on their heads next.)

How it ended up coming to America as stuffed toys in happy meals is beyond me, but here's the McDonalds take on the Bengal.

He looks sad, doesn't he? But it was goofy enough that I went ahead and bought one on eBay for four bucks. I'm such a schmuck.

Btw, I also tracked down the original Japanese source. I don't know. These just look really creepy to me. But there's a Bengal there too. Dog version here. Somehow it seems to work better. I guess because there's more variation in head shapes among dog breeds and the head's less spherical to begin with.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Is She Sending Us a Message?

I don't know what to think. We woke up yesterday morning to find this in the doorway to the guest bedroom.

The object itself is meant to be a cute replacement cap for your toothpaste tube. It's a little blobby person - you probably can't make out the two huge, perfectly round eyes on the top. And the hand over his mouth swings away to cap and uncap your toothpaste. We got it as I think maybe a wedding shower present along with some other cute bathroom things, a similar little blue guy that holds dental floss, etc.

Anyway, Leela claimed it, and she's been kicking it around the house for months now. If the shot were closer, you'd see the tooth marks. It's actually one of her favorite toys, the one she's most likely to end up lying on top of, looking pleased with herself at the end of a long session of stalking and mauling household objects.

But what we find remarkable is that she somehow managed to stand it up, right in the doorway, perfectly aligned with the doorframe. And she's left it standing there for two days now.

I'm starting to get a little creeped out honestly. It's making me think of that line of crucified figures along the ridgeline in Planet of the Apes. And its expression - with its huge, round eyes and hand clapped over its perfectly "o"-shaped mouth - is starting to feel a little ominous.

I'm beginning to suspect she's sending us a message: "Stay out of the guest bedroom. This place is mine." It's just a matter of time before her cunning plan to dominate the whole house comes to fruition...

[[UPDATE]] Well, she's finally knocked the thing over, and that's a load off our minds. But look at that expression. I'm not sure this is much of an improvement...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #12

Bengal Cats store easily in any kitchen cabinet.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

No Cat Hunting In Wisconsin

In about the closest thing to breaking news Living with Bengals is ever likely to report, the Wisconsin proposal to allow hunting of feral cats appears to have finally been killed.

MSNBC reports that the Wisconsin Conservation Congress has finally given up, although it seems like they really wanted this.

I don't know. I suppose they have their reasons. Perhaps this is an illustration of how different urban life and rural life have become. Having lived in suburbs for the past several years, it seemed patently obvious to me from the beginning that this would have eventually ended up with a spat between neighbors ending up in a dead cat and quite possibly one or more dead people. It just looked like a tabloid tragedy waiting to explode. I'm glad it's dead.

A Couple Additions to the Blog

Sharp-eyed readers will note that I've added an entry to "The Important Bits" over in the sidebar called The Best of LwB. That's sort of along the same lines of the permalinks I gave to my intro post explaining what I'm doing, and to the explanation of just what a Bengal cat is.

Those were things I figured were kind of fundamental for anyone who wanted to take the time to read this thing. And, as the nature of blogging is that posts eventually vanish into dusty archives, I thought I'd permalink to them. Best of LwB is basically the same idea - pointers to articles I thought there might be some continuing interest in. In Blogger, the best way I could think of to make a static page was actually to create a backdated post. So that link just goes to a post page that the system pretends was created before I actually started the blog. Thus it's now the first post, and would appear at the beginning if someone actually reads the February archives. But the point of this whole design is that readers don't have to go digging through archives to see what's interesting.

The most popular things here, the Gratuitous Cat Pictures, already have their own links of course. But from time to time I'll add other things to this if people think later readers might like them. I started with the four-part leash training article I recently wrapped up. If you want to suggest something else at some point, please do. I'm just guessing what readers want. You know.

Toward that end, the other addition has been there for a while, but I haven't pointed it out. Around the bottom of the sidebar, you'll find our spiffy new e-mail address. Just replace (at) and (dot) with their appropriate symbols. Sorry for that, but I'm sure you know why it's necessary. Hope to hear from readers - let me know what you're interested in and all that.

Cat Allergies?

By which I don't mean people being allergic to cats, but cats being allergic to other things. I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible for cats to have the sort of springtime "hay fever" pollen allergies that humans do.

Leela was having sneezing fits yesterday. And it's not the first time in the past few weeks that's happened. She'd be going along fine, and suddenly she'd sneeze, like four or five times or more in rapid succession. I counted nine once. I've been a little worried about whether she has a cold/upper respiratory infection as we had to take her to the vet and get her antibiotics several months ago, and I've read that these things can become pretty chronic in cats. But she doesn't have any other symptoms - eyes watering, etc. There's no mucusy discharge when she sneezes, it's clear and watery. I'd rather not go into how I know this. And she shows no signs whatsoever of being sick or in distress. She's her basic happy, energetic self.

And then today it seems to have stopped completely and she's fine. So I wonder if this is just springtime allergies. I don't really seem to have these myself so I'm not immersed in what they're like and how they operate. But the number of drug commercials on TV for Claritin and the like suggests that they're pretty widespread and bothersome. Do they apply to cats? I don't know.

The other possibility is that she just got into a dusty environment someplace and it was irritating her nose. God only knows what kind of little hidden dusty boltholes she's found around here that we aren't even aware of. But whatever it is, she's fine. Let me emphasize that.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Fearless Bengals

If you're used to standard domestic cats, one thing that takes some getting used to with Bengals is their utter fearlessness. I actually saw Leela spooked a few days ago, and it struck me that I'd literally never seen her afraid of anything before, in the entire year plus that we've had her.

This is a far cry from Laszlo, who has a long list of things he'd like to keep away from, topped by thunderstorms and the vacuum cleaner. It's not so bad here, even though Vancouver is a very rainy city. Back where we migrated from, there was more thunder, and we were in a less dense, more wooded area so we didn't keep our windows as covered. Whenever there was a good heavy rain, much less a thunderstorm, you'd see Laszlo slinking around the edges of the room, stomach tight against the floor, looking for a safe hiding place. He'd come up out of the basement when the rain stopped.

And the vacuum cleaner, well forget that. But not Leela. She doesn't exactly like it, but she doesn't run in terror from it the way every other cat I've ever seen does. She actually follows it around. As best we can determine, she merely finds it distasteful. It's loud and vulgar and makes it difficult to sleep, and running it is simply not the mark of a gentleman.

The one time I saw Leela actually frightened, we'd brought home groceries. She was playing with a plastic bag and had managed to get her head through one of the holes, and an entire shoulder and leg through the other one. The thing was pretty securely wrapped around her. I was about to take it off her when she tried thrashing her way out of it. When she couldn't, she panicked and took off around the living room, with the bag flapping and rattling at her back like an angry ghost she couldn't lose. She did a couple laps before catching it on a table and getting free, then she took off upstairs. I grabbed the bag and went up to see how she was. When she saw the bag, she whirled and vanished under the bed. Her fur was all puffed up and she was actually a frightened cat for the first, and so far last, time.

In general, I guess this is a pretty good thing. As I've opined before, I suspect this makes Bengals actually safer with overeager children because they're less likely to feel cornered somewhere and take a swipe. But it's good to know they can be frightened of something...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #11

As a companion piece to Laszlo's Personal Ad Photo last time, here's Leela's. She likes long walks at sunset. Turnoffs include mean people and closed doors.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Max: A Memorial Digression

Sorry, non-Bengal content. But that PsychoKitty posting below has gotten me thinking about my cat Max, who died in December of 2003 after I'd had him for a good sixteen years. He was a great cat and he got me through some tough times and I miss him.

I don't have too many pictures of Max for some reason, but here he is curled up on my leg while I'm probably trying to read. That was a favorite of his.

It's an old shot. He lost an eye to pretty severe glaucoma later in life, and picked up the nickname Max, the one-eyed pirate cat. His favorite way of waking me up was to leap onto some shelves I had near my bed in the old apartment and just knock some random piece of junk off onto the floor. If that didn't work, he'd repeat as necessary every minute or so until I was sufficiently awake to yell at him. Of course that didn't bother him in the slightest.

All in all, he was a great cat. Okay, back to Bengal stuff. Thanks for your indulgence.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

PsychoKitty, Qu'est-ce que c'est?

Sharp eyes may notice I've added another cat blog to the list. PsychoKitty relates the adventures of Max Thompson, a black and white domestic cat dealing with humans and pursuing a career as an author.

You know, I promised myself I wasn't going to add any of these blogs that are written in the cat's supposed authorial voice. But it is a really fun blog to read, and Max was the name of the cat I had for many years until he passed away in the winter of 2003. (And it's a blogspot cat blog that doesn't use the Rounders template. That has to count for something.)

So go over and check out PsychoKitty for all your cat with attitude needs.

(Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far far better
Run run run run run run run away)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Intent to Deceive?

I was digging around earlier and came up with the show judging standard for Bengals used by The International Cat Association (TICA). Here it is - .pdf file.

This isn't particularly relevant to us because Leela is spayed and will never be a show cat. In fact that was one of the conditions of sale from the breeder. We didn't actually get her papers until we produced proof that she'd been neutered. But this blog is for people who are considering a Bengal, so I thought some readers might be interested in it.

Actually, I found it pretty interesting myself. My absolute favorite quote comes from the bottom of page two, among a list of mandatory disqualifications under ARTICLE SIXTEEN of the show rules. (Which apparently must always be capitalized so it may instill the proper dread in the reader.)

Among the things which are unacceptable in a show environment are "a cat showing evidence of intent to deceive."

Fluffy's so called 'cabinet of death' contains a false rear panel through which Fluffy escapes before the swords are thrust through the cabinet

Now what in the world do you suppose that means?

Okay, I looked it up. I mean it's my blog. It's my responsibility. More precisely, section 216.10 says the judge "shall disqualify any cat showing evidence of intent to deceive the judge by artificial means." What the hell? Is there a problem with cats doing magic tricks to confuse the judges? "On examination, we have discovered that Fluffy's so called 'cabinet of death' contains a false rear panel through which Fluffy escapes before the swords are thrust through the cabinet. Fluffy is hereby disqualified."

On closer examination, what they seem actually to be referring to is attempts by the owner to artificially modify the cat to make it better conform to the standards. For example, that rubber chest Ricardo Montalban wore in Wrath of Khan. The rules make specific reference to prosthetic testicles, which is kind of icky actually, and note that it's not limited to that. If we are to believe TICA, there seems to be a whole cat plastic surgery underground out there.

Okay, I'm drifting at this point, but I had to make mention of this. I mean find someone who has a Bengal or two around the house and try the phrase "intent to deceive" on them.

I mean, really, that's funny.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Leash Training a Bengal - pt. 4

For the previous installments in this story, look here:

Last time, I talked about how we had to re-train Leela not to associate her enjoyable outdoor romps with going out our front or back door - and try to slip outside every time we tarried at the door with a pizza deliveryman.

This time, the last stage in taking your Bengal cat into the outdoors, how the cat will react, and how other people will react. As for the cat itself, especially if yours is usually an indoor cat, expect a certain amount of wary acclimation to any outdoor area you take them to. Just like if you moved them to a new home, they'd spend some time nervously exploring and getting adjusted. For Leela this seems to take about 10 minutes. Then she's ready to explore. Remember, this is not leash training like you'd train a dog. It's going to want to go where it wants to go. Your Bengal is NOT going to heel nicely along down the sidewalk at your side.

To our thinking, though, that's not the point. The goal here is to let your cat enjoy the outdoors and explore. The leash is there - more precisely you are there - to make sure the cat doesn't get into trouble or danger. The point is not to make the cat do compulsory figures for the judges. That said, the judges.

People are accustomed to seeing dogs on leashes, romping with their owners in public parks. They are not used to seeing cats do this. They will point and stare. They will react to and interact with you. They will tend to find it amusing that your cat isn't acting like a dog would on a leash.

Sometimes all this is great fun. Most people think this whole idea is funny and will simply give you a big smile. Some will get confused, come up and ask you "is that a cat?" Others will do horrible imitation meows just to see if they can rattle your cat.

Leela being regal at Jericho Beach

(In this shot of course you can get a pretty good look at the HDW Cat Walking Jacket I was talking about back in the first post. Note the twin torso straps - backing what amounts to a single wide band around her belly. Then you can just make out the collar, and the backing strap that connects them.)

For the most part though, people are pleasant about the whole thing. If you just want to be left alone to walk your cat, well, don't count on it. If you want to use your Bengal as an icebreaker and conversation starter, you're on the right track.