I was working on my comprehensive paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on President Obama’s State of the Union address, when suddenly it hit me: I should just post more pictures of Beezle growing up. Here he is on my home computer desk:

This used to be one of his favorite spots:

I never had a desk cat before, but now I’m getting used to it. Here he is, hanging out with me on my work desk:

Just a couple more pictures of the fluff:

Last spring, our cat Ripley passed away after a somewhat lengthy period of illness. It was a very sad time for us. My wife was especially heartbroken, as Ripley had been the first cat we adopted after a catless period that followed the death of her previous cat.

As is my way, I had put up a post about Ripley’s passing. Unbeknownst to me, someone over at the Opinionated Pussycat noticed it and posted a rather wonderful eulogy for Ripley which was picked up by The Cat Blogosphere, and a couple of dozen people stopped by in the comments to leave their condolences. It was very touching, and it helped.

I mention all this because we just found out that PDgirl‘s cat Simon — a foundling she’s only had since October — got so sick that she had to put him down.


I can remember how excited she was when she got him, and I know how cats can break your heart. So if you get a chance, stop by her farewell post for Simon, and send some comfort her way. I have the feeling she’ll need it.

Update: This post is now in the 512th Carnival of the Cats at Opinionated Pussycat.

I’ve already posted photos of Beezle as a kitten here and here (and even some video here), but he’s grown up since I took those. I was busy starting a new job, so I didn’t have as much time to get cat pictures as I hoped, but here are a few I took during the first few months, often with my phone, because I was more likely to have that with me than my camera.

You’ll notice that a lot of these were taken at my desk. I spend a lot of time there, working on my computer, and Beezle likes to come up and demand a little attention.

This was one of our favorites. I sent it to my wife with the caption “Kitten Malfunction”:

I’ll have a few more to post in later weeks.

It’s been a long, long time since I did any Friday catblogging, but I just found some old video I took of the Ragdoll kitten we got in the summer of 2011, and that gave me the impetus to finally put something together.

[Update: This post is now linked at the Carnival of the Cats at The Opinionated Pussycat.]

We like to name our cats after characters from movies and television, and we decided to name this one “Hotch” after the character of Aaron Hotchner on Criminal Minds. “Hotch” sounds sturdy and reliable, and Ragdolls are big, sturdy cats, so it kind of made sense.

The problem is that you really have to get to know a cat a bit before you can learn his true name. Our new Ragdoll kitten turned out to be bundle of energy. Lots of energy. Scary amounts of energy. The video in this clip was from maybe an hour of total playtime.

Yes, he was like that all the time. Hour after hour, week after week. He was constantly running around, climbing pieces of furniture, jumping to other pieces of furniture, knocking off small objects and chasing them around the floor and eventually bringing them into the bathtub, where he could bat them around and around. Anything we touched, he would race over to explore and attack. He knocked over stacks of books, plates of food, small electronic gadgets, rolls of toilet paper, cups full of coins, stacks of boxes, lamps, external hard drives, speakers, and at least three 7-Eleven Double Gulps full of Diet Coke.

He was always trying to play-fight with the other cats (Ripley declined, but Buffy would take him on) and even with us. One night when my wife was trying to fall asleep, he scared the crap out of her by trying to play-fight with her face.

Most cats are pretty sensitive to your reactions. If they hop up on the table, all it takes is a gentle push in the right direction to encourage them to jump back down. The kitten wasn’t having any of that. If he jumped on the table to sniff at our food and we picked him up and set him on the floor, he would just jump right back up and try again. And again. And again.

These were not the actions of a reliable and sturdy “Hotch.” This was something else, and it was time to find a new name.

After some thought, we decided name him Beezle, after the character played by Patrick Bergin in 1991’s Highway to Hell, an amazing B-grade comedy/horror mashup that is probably best known for casting Gilbert Gottfried as Adolf Hitler. The story (spoiler alert) is about a young couple who stumble upon a literal highway to hell, where they meet a bunch of strange people, including a mysterious figure named Beezle. At first, Beezle appears to be friendly and helpful, but it is eventually revealed that that “Beezle” is short for Beelzebub.

Because this kitten has the devil in him.

We adopted Ripley about 14 years ago from the Orphans of the Storm animal shelter about 10 miles north of Chicago. We had been thinking of getting a kitten, but we decided to get an adult cat, in part because most people pass them over in favor of kittens, but mostly because when you get an adult cat, what you see is what you get. If you adopt an adult cat, the way they are when you meet them is the way they’ll be for the rest of their lives.

We found Ripley by sitting down in the adult cat room and paying attention to which cats came over to play with us. Cat D51 (back then Orphans didn’t name them) came over to both of us several times and climbed right up into our laps. He responded to attention and purred and didn’t pick fights with the other cats. We decided to bring him home with us and name him Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver’s character in Aliens.

Just like at the shelter, Ripley loved to come visit us. The first time I laid down on the couch after bringing him home, he hopped right up and sat on my chest, purring. Almost every evening, my wife would sit in the reclining chair to read or watch television and Ripley would slowly creep up and curl up on her lap or her chest, where she could hold him and pet him. He was her best cat ever.

Toward the end of January, Ripley was diagnosed with immune mediated hemolytic anemia, which meant his immune system was attacking his red blood cells. Our vet gave him two transfusions and put him on very high dosages of immune suppressants. The drugs were causing liver damage, so we had to taper them off, and at yesterday’s vet visit, his red blood cell count was a little below normal again, and by this morning he was barely moving, so we took him right back to the vet for more tests. His red blood cell count had gone way down in just 15 hours, and his blood chemistry indicated multiple organ failure. There was nothing else we could do for him.

Ripley will be sorely missed. My wife is heartbroken. We’re both taking the day off from work.

Here he is with my old cat Dozer, who passed away in the summer of 2011. They were a couple of really good cats.

Ripley With Dozer
Larger ImageRipley With Dozer

So, lately my wife and I have been poking holes in one of our cats.

Our brown tabby, Ripley, is getting on in years, and we’ve noticed he’s been resting more, eating less, and generally just slowing down. We figured it was just old age, but in January he suddenly got much worse, so we took him to his vet, who figured out that he was suffering from something called immune mediated hemolytic anemia, which meant his immune system was attacking his red blood cells. IMHA has a very high mortality rate, and our vet figured there was less than 50% chance he would survive, even with treatment.

They gave him a blood transfusion to restore some of the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, which immediately restored some of his vitality. Then they kept him for a week for additional treatment, which included a bunch of drugs and a second transfusion.

When he was released from the veterinarian hospital a few weeks ago, Ripley was OK, but he hasn’t been bouncing back as well as our vet would like him to. There have also been a couple of days in which he started to crash during the day — stopped eating and drinking, and stayed in one location all day — so we had to take him back to the vet so they could give him more drugs and rehydrate him.

Since his release, we’ve been giving him several drugs, including high doses of the steroid prednisone, which suppresses his immune response. It also has side effects, which could include the problems with appetite and sluggishness, and our vet decided it was time to taper it off, which we’re doing now.

Also, to make sure he’s hydrated, every day we put Ripley on a high work table, hang a bag of veterinary-grade lactated ringers solution off our bookshelves, pull Ripley’s skin so it forms a tent-shape away from his body, poke the needle in, and open up the valve until he’s received 150 milliliters of fluid under the skin.

Ripley’s holding on and doing okay this past week, so it’s probably helping.

Still, it seems like a very weird thing to do.


Update: As it turns out, when I wrote this, Ripley was nearer the end than we knew. He will be missed.

[Update: We renamed this cat “Beezle” (includes video of him playing).]

I was going to blog about the President’s speech, but look! Kitty pictures.

Taking all these pictures of Hotch is proving to be more difficult than I expected. For one thing, the color balance is all over the place. The room is actually lit with incandescent light, which gives everything a warm glow, but of course the flash on the camera is daylight white. So while the colors in the camera images are probably accurate, it’s not matching what I saw when I was there, so I’ve been making some adjustments, and the results havn’t been very consistent.

The problem is that the camera is guessing one color balance and then I’m making rough adjustments to that guess, so the variance is accumulating. I should probably get out the grey card and switch to raw mode.

Hotch chewing on the iPhone...
Larger ImageHotch chewing on the iPhone...

As you can see, Hotch thinks my iPhone case makes a great chew toy. Too bad the iPhone’s still in it.

...and trying to look like he's sorry.
Larger Image...and trying to look like he's sorry.

The other problem with taking pictures of Hotch is that my focus technique doesn’t work very well. With the kinds of photograpy I usually do, I’ve found it works better when I disable the automatic auto-focus on the shutter button, so when I want to take a picture, I pick the object I want in focus, press the manual focus button, and then recompose the picture and press the shutter button. Now I can take as many pictures as I want at that distance, without the auto-focus deciding to do something different.

The problem is that Hotch moves so fast sometimes that between the time I press the focus button and the time I press the shutter, he’s moved away from the focus distance. I’ve taken thousands of photos this way — weddings, children, flowers, buildings, even marathon runners — and it works just fine, so I wasn’t expecting a problem, and it took me a while to recognize what was happening, because the camera’s LCD screen is too small to show the problem unless I know to look for it.

Still, I got a few nice ones.

More to come in a few days.

About 10 years ago, my wife had just adopted Ripley, and we were thinking of getting a kitten next, and we thought it might be fun to get a purebread kitten. We weren’t sure what breed we wanted, so we did some research on the web and at cat shows. Eventually we settled on the Ragdoll breed, and began to contact a few local breeders to learn to learn how the adoption process works and to get an idea of the difference between breeders.

What we learned — and this will shock you — is that some cat breeders are a bit nuts. They all had lots of special rules we were supposed to follow once we got the cat, not all of which seemed, uh, entirely grounded in reality. I remember one even wanted the right to take back the cat if they thought it was being abused. (Taking back an abused cat makes sense, but they wanted to make the determination themselves, rather than, say, a neutral veterinarian.)

That turned us off the idea a bit, and somewhere along the way we got a kitten from a shelter, Buffy. (I didn’t have the camera back when she was a kitten, sorry) Then, a year or so later, we were visiting the Orphans of the Storm shelter (where we had adopted Ripley and Buffy), and we stumbled a cat with more hair than I’d ever seen before. We picked him up and played with him and brushed his hair — which really needed it, there was an awful lot of loose hair stuck to him — and put him back in his cage. But he just sat there, looking at us with those big blue eyes… So we took him home, and he became my favorite cat, Dozer.

Sadly, Dozer passed away a few months ago. He looked like a purebread blue bicolor Ragdoll, and he probably was. You can’t really tell if a cat is purebread without the breeding history, but Ragdoll breeders are a fairly protective bunch, so there aren’t too many fakes out there. (Unlike, say, Persians.) Based on our experiences with Dozer, my wife and I decided that we must always have a Ragdoll cat.

After a period of grieving, we began looking at web sites for Ragdoll kitten breeders, trying to decide what kind of Ragdoll we wanted. My wife fell in love with the blue lynx pattern, and we found a couple of blue lynx kittens at Dr. J’s Perfect Dolls. Last Friday, we met with Jennifer Woll, DVM, and took home a kitten. Check out the expression on his face in this shot:

Dr. Jennifer Woll With Our New Kitten
Larger ImageDr. Jennifer Woll With Our New Kitten

As usual, we had some trouble coming up with the name. Because he’s so cute, it’s tempting to name him “Nermal,” but he’ll eventually grow up, and “Nermal” is a silly name for a grown-up cat. We could also name him “Joel,” after the kitten in The Closer, but that too seems like a silly name for a full-size cat.

My wife likes “Roark,” after Eve Dallas’s love interest in the In Death series by J.D. Robb, which would also tie in nicely with my libertarian leanings because of the link to Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. On the other hand, “Roark” sounds a bit pretentious to me, and I’m not really a Rand fan. Alternatively, we could name him “Dallas” after Eve Dallas and also after the captain of the Nostromo in Alien.

For now, he’s Hotch, named after Aaron Hotchner, the character Thomas Gibson plays on Criminal Minds. Among other things, it has the advantage of being a single syllable, which means it might be possible to train him to respond to it.

It could happen.

[Update: We renamed him “Beezle” (includes video of him playing).]

Anyway, we have the kitten locked in the master bathroom for a few days as part of the process of introducing him to the rest of the household. He’s a bundle of energy, so I thought it would be amusing to setup the video camera to record his activity until it ran out of space, then I could edit it into a fun highlights video. As it turns out, however, all that energy is just for show. With no one watching, he just slept for an hour and a half.

I managed to salvage something, however, by compressing the video timeline. Here’s Hotch asleep for an hour and a half, shown at 50 times normal speed:

If you haven’t had enough, here’s the whole set of photos of Hotch.

My big fluffy Ragdoll cat Dozer passed away this morning.

We got him from an amimal shelter in 2002 when he was about seven years old. We discovered him in a cage outside the adult cat room. He hadn’t been brushed regularly, so he was the fluffiest cat I had ever seen. I remember the sign on his cage said “If you pet me I will purr very loud.” We got him out of his cage and started petting him and sure enough, loud purring. Sort of a jackhammer cadence, nothing on the exhale, but loud and slow on the inhale.

We played with him a while and then put him back in his cage, because we hadn’t really planned on getting a cat that day. He just sat there, looking up at us with those big blue eyes of his. We decided we had to take him home.

Dozer was a very mild mannered cat. He slept most of the time, only perking up if the food bowl started to get empty. When I was lying on the couch, reading or watching television, he’d come over climb on my chest where I could pet him. Then he’d pad over to the space between my left side and the back of the couch, where he’d settle down and fall asleep while I petted him some more.

His hair rarely got matted, but when it did, I’d have to cut it out, which he hated. He’d try to make me stop by hissing, swatting me with his paws, and even biting, but it was all an act: He never once broke the skin. He was such a gentle creature.

Lately, he’s been struggling with severe health problems, starting when we came home from work a few weeks ago and found him having a seizure. We took him to the emergency vet, and they couldn’t do much for him, so we took him home to say goodbye. He actually started to get a bit better, so we took him to a vet we used to go to, and he said the problem appeared to be high blood pressure, so we started giving him meds for that.

He seemed to bounce back even more. Some of his personality returned, and he even visited me on the couch one last time.

But by the time of his followup appointment two days ago, he was getting wobbly on his feet and he slept even more than usual. The vet said his blood pressure was now too low, so we eased off of his meds, but when I woke up this morning, he was obviously in some kind of distress. I tried to give him some water, in case he was dehydrated again, but he passed away a minute or two later.

Dozer saw us through a lot, including the ups and downs of consulting employment, some stressful health problems for my wife, and the deaths of my both my parents.

I’m going to miss my fluffy buddy.

A little while ago, my wife and I noticed that our ragdoll cat, Dozer, had taken to sleeping on the floor right in front of our china cabinet. We wanted to make him more comfortable, so we put down a cat pillow for him, right in the spot where he liked to sleep.

Anyone who owns a cat could’ve predicted how that would turn out:

Dozer Meets the Cat Pillow
Larger ImageDozer Meets the Cat Pillow

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. I get tired, but when I lie down I don’t fall asleep.

Tonight I was finally feeling ready to doze off by about 4 am. I was lying there, relaxing, my thought process become disordered as I slipped into sleep… When I heard someone knock on the front door. Four rapid taps. Knock knock knock knock.

As I started to get up, I realized there was a more likely explanation for the noise, but by then the adrenaline surge had shocked me fully awake and alert. I grabbed a heavy police flashlight and went to investigate. No one was at the door.

It’s the damned cats. Did you ever see a cat sit down and scratch its head and neck with its back paws? Well, every once in a while they to this right up against a door, and one of the hard leg joints taps against the door as they scratch. Knock knock knock knock.

I’m used to most of the things cats do in the middle of the night: Meowing, hissing, chasing, even jumping into the bed and walking on top of me. Knocking on the door…that one still gets me.

Now to see if I can get back to sleep…