Saturday, June 25, 2005

Finding Your Missing Bengal

On one of the cat forums I frequent, I've noticed an upsurge in worried reports of missing Bengals over the last week or two - enough that people are wondering what's going on, blaming the full moon, etc. (It has been quite a moon lately.)

A more likely explanation is that it's warm out, and people are leaving windows open. At least one of these missing cats dug a hole in the screen of an open window and went exploring. We've been leaving ours open - we were surprised to learn when we got here that most houses in Vancouver don't have air conditioning. And, while our windows are of an unusual design that we're pretty sure Leela can't get out through, they do let in very intriguing scents and noises from outside. Leela's spending a lot of time on the sills underneath the open windows being very curious.

Fortunately, the abovementioned cat returned home a couple days later, very tired but not noticeably worse for wear. The owner reports that their vet said cats that wander off typically come back on their own within 72 hours. That is, of course, unless something happens to them in the meantime, so it's not very reassuring news if your cat's missing.

But anyway, if your cat, Bengal or otherwise, goes missing, I came across a very complete resource on how to find your cat, get it back, make sure this doesn't happen again, etc. It's from a woman named Pauline who lost her Russian Blue cat in 2000 and managed to find it after nearly a month. She learned a lot of tricks, and has been helping people find missing cats ever since. Good tips on prevention as well, to make sure your cat doesn't go missing in the first place. Check it out.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Stealth Bengal

Can you spot the cat in this picture?

Leela has taken to spending hours a day like this, burrowed in underneath the bedspread in the guest room. We're not entirely sure what to make of it. She was much more generally active in the past. Now she saves up her energy to be released in one manic blast around 11:30 p.m.

At least Laszlo's getting some peace and quiet out of it all. She's much less likely to randomly torment him now, but she doesn't generate as many cute pictures as she used to...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Social (& Anti-Social) Behavior

I've been looking into what's known about feline social behavior, mostly because I'm curious about how Leela sees us. There doesn't seem to be much, especially next to the rich social hierarchies of dogs, but there's something going on. Found a general survey in Science News of research by various scientists who seem to have no personal experience of cats themselves. Well of course they have variable personalities - don't you?

What got me started on this was Leela's tendency to sprawl on top of Laszlo. She finds a lot of uses for poor Laszlo around the house. She chases him when she wants something to play with. She curls up with him when she wants something warm and furry to sleep next to. This frequently turns into an orgy of mutual grooming and licking - but that can very, very quickly cross the line into full blown assault, with her teeth clenching him and her body sprawled across his so he can't escape.

It seems like it might be something proto-sexual, though they're both neutered and the (former) genders are reversed. But sex plays its part in social dominance structures as well, so I wonder if this is basically her showing Laszlo that she's in charge. It certainly never works the other way around.

However, both cats will get on top of us, and now I'm beginning to wonder if that means something different to them than it does to us. My old cat Max used to love to climb up on my chest when I lay down. He'd curl up directly over my heart and purr like mad. Laszlo does exactly the same thing. The purring and the preference for the chest suggest that it's something comforting, a throwback to curling up with a mother and feeling the reassuring rhythm of her heartbeat that perhaps carries even deeper memories of the womb.

Until pretty recently, Leela showed no interest in this at all. For me it's a pleasant way to share affection, so I'd encouraged it, but she didn't really get the idea. More recently, however, she seems to have picked it up - perhaps from observing Laszlo. The key difference is that she doesn't go into the mad purring jags, and she doesn't seem interested in my heartbeat, preferring the less bony environment of my lower abdomen.

So I'm not sure, but now I'm wondering if she views this as her rightful place as the alpha of the house. God knows she doesn't show any particular respect for our wishes in any other area. More research is called for, if only so I can simulate some measure of control...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bengal vs. Bengal

A few days ago our eBay Happy Meal McBengal arrived. Once you've got something like that, what exactly do you do with it?

The obvious answer: meeting of the minds. So I introduced Leela to the McBengal. I have to say it's about the level of quality you'd anticipate from a happy meal toy. I still think it looks really sad, its whiskers are kind of ridiculous and - the big one - it can't stand up on its own. It's not quite balanced right, and the tag on the bottom doesn't help either. I had to put a heavy weight on its tail (which you know, isn't such a bad idea...) to keep it from toppling forward.

As it happens, Leela knew just what to do with it.

That's almost the last of the pictures I shot. The rest either show just Leela (because she's swatted the toy out of frame), or are an unfocused blur of motion. This is after she calmed down a little.

Oh, what the hell? Here's a slightly earlier one.

For what it's worth, the McBengal survived intact. She wasn't trying to shred it. But I think she definitely established who's boss.