Down to me, the change has come

29 07 2009

My new best friend:

Because of him/her/it, I am now able to sleep (mostly) in peace, and Jasper has been downgraded from Vampire Kitty to Hyperactive Kitty.

And no, this teddy bear is not stuffed full of catnip or some other contraband. He is simply soft and floppy and about Jasper’s size.

Backstory: Jasper bit, as all kitties do, and I did the whole withdraw-attention thing to get him to stop. He did not.

I’d lift him off the desk or bed, place him close to the ground, and drop him. He’d jump back on and resume biting.

I advanced to the water bottle. He didn’t like the squirt, but it provided only a temporary deterrent. At times, it only meant that I’d have a damp cat leaping toward my face. Repeatedly. In the middle of the night.

What to do, what to do. He’s a kitten, kittens bite. But, shees, so much? Every moment he’s awake?

So I did what any semi-sane and extremely tired kitty-owner would do: I searched online for solutions.

Many opinions: Just say No! Tap his nose. Don’t tap his nose. Blow in his face. Don’t blow in his face. Squirt him. Don’t squirt him. Confine him. Wait it out. Put your finger in his mouth and hold his tongue down [honest!]. Distract him.

Ah. I’d been trying aversive operant conditioning, trying to get him to associate bad things (shouts of No! physical removal from the bed and desk, water squirts) with biting, but all it was doing was pissing him off.

And, of course, pissing me off, because while I would never ever ever throw the kitty across the room, when said kitty is raking his tiny and sharp incisors across my skull at 4 in the morning, I am sorely tempted to do so.

But, distraction. I could give that a whirl.

I had held off from doing so, not wanting Jasper to associate something benign (play, a toy) with biting, but, as numerous commentators pointed out, this is what kittens do.

They’re also not the brightest of creatures, so any concerns I might have about Jasper associating biting with positive feedback is, well, overestimating the intellectual capacities of a months-old id.

That night, then, when Jasper launched his attack, I removed him from whatever appendage he was gnawing on and stuffed the teddy bear into him. He immediately transferred all his tooth-and-claw energy into teddy, and left me alone.

Sweet honey on the rock, he left me alone.

Granted, he still wakes me up, and sometimes I have to push the teddy toward him a couple of times, but thus far he’s more than willing to beat the shit out of the stuffed animal rather than me.

(Bean still prefers to beat the shit out of him if he dares even to paw at her tail. I figure that’s for the two of them to work out.)

During the day, I distract him with various toys (mice, plastic rings, wine corks, etc.), and while he still jumps all over my keyboard and likes to chew on books, his taste for my flesh has waned.

He’s more relaxed, I’m more relaxed, and, most importantly, I can actually enjoy him.

A gentle, positive approach. Thanks be to teddy, it works.

Who knew?

Everybody do like a monkey

25 07 2009

Jasper is a-growin’ along, getting into the plants and such:

And, of course, he has to chew everything he can get his mouth around:

I love his little pink tongue slipping out amongst the black.

Wait. What? These photos don’t really look like Jasper?

Oh, but they do! They do look like Jasper. They’re just. . .  not, mm, him.

Yes, it occurred to me this past week how much the Vampire Kitty looks like a lemur. Especially when he’s all riled up and his eyes are wide and round:

(Sorry, it’s a lousy shot: I was futzing with the exposure. And he’s tough to shoot when he’s riled up.)

Well, take my word for it, he does look like a lemur.

It’s only fitting: I used to call Chelsea (among other things) my monkey kitty. She was agile in her leaps and incredibly dexterous with both her paws and her mouth.

Bean, well, Bean is not so dexterous. She gets called Panda Bean with some regularity, along with all the other varieties of bean: lima Bean, navy Bean, kidney Bean, garbanzo Bean. . . .

Anyway, since one of Chelsea’s other names was Sweet Pea, I had a whole legume theme going.

How will Jasper fit in all of this? Well, his paw-pads do look like black beans, but, given his temprement, I think I’ll go with a bastardized ‘Gonzo bean’.

(And yeah, that’s Gonzo from The Gone-Away World. What, you haven’t read it yet? Why not? Go, go now! Read that book! And if you can’t find it at the library and you don’t want to shell out for the hardcover, it’s coming out in paperback in August or September. You’ll have no excuses, then!)

Christ, where was I? Oh, yeah, in need of a life.

Okay, I’ll go take a bike ride now. Get out of the house, do me some good. . . .

(Top photo by Jaromir Kaderabek, found thru Bing. Here’s the post from his website; Polish, I’d guess. Wait: maybe Czech. Anyway. The second photo was also found thru Bing, and was taken from a post at k-punk.)

(By the way, I’m finding Bing a hell of a lot easier to use than Google. Yeah, I know it’s Microsoft, a big-bad-corporation, but I think Google is a big-bad-corporation, too.  Anyway, using Bing fits my motto of ‘No brand loyalty!’, i.e., always be willing to switch to something better.)

Bike. Yeah. Okay, then.

We’ve got Trouble

9 07 2009

He’s lucky he’s cute.

Little bastard bit me on the nose this morning.

Perhaps I should have named him ‘Trouble’. Or ‘No’. Or ‘NoBiting!’ or ‘NoGoddammit!’

(Bean’s name for a time was BeanGoddamit!)

My entire body is apparently a chew toy, and everything in the apartment can be pressed into service for play.

Except, of course, Bean. Bean puts up with nothing.

Perhaps I should develop a convincing yowl and hiss.

Wait, what was that?

5 07 2009

Re: the soon-to-be-former governor of Alaska. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Some Freepers are peddling the line that she’s too good for politics, and her decision to ditch is evidence of her superior character—as opposed to, say, an inability either to govern or to develop the skills necessary for political leadership.

And as to complaints about Everybody Being So Mean To Her: If she can’t handle Katie Couric and David Letterman, how the hell could she handle Netanyahu, Putin, Mubarak—or Pelosi or Reid, for that matter?

Fair, unfair: Neither of these matters in political campaigns. Read some Machiavelli, fer cryin’ out loud—and if that’s too much to ask, remember Vince Lombardi.



I know I have issues with community. It’s less that I’m enthusiastic about CAPITAL-I! individualism than I am suspicious of the group—especially a group which claims special status based on its group-ness.

Yeah, I have a past with cliques, the push-pull of wanting to belong and wanting to tell others to fuck off, but I don’t want to reduce this to psychology.

No, I want to reduce this to principle: Don’t tell me [who’s not a member of your group] that I’m less worthy [because I’m not a member of your group]. As a political matter, don’t claim rights based on your group which are denied those not members of the group.

In practice, of course, groups are often religious communities, and the rights claimed are based on the freedom of religion, not on the rights of the group.

All kinds of ways to take off from here, but, after my friend E. called me out on my bias yesterday, I think I need to stay right here, and consider what is principle and what is, simply, prejudice.

Background: I’ve mentioned previously encounters with religious folk which I’ve considered insulting. In one case, two women wouldn’t take an item from my hand, but asked that I set it down before they would touch it. In the second case, a man responded to my outstretched hand with a mumbled request that I withdraw it, out of respect for him and his religious beliefs.

In both cases, I took their reactions to me to be based on their religious beliefs, and further inferred that they thought I was lesser or would somehow taint them with my touch. In both cases, I (behaviorally) respected their expressed wishes, but I was also offended.

E. was puzzled by my response, especially to the situation with the two young women (religion unknown; from their dress, either Christian or Muslim was a possibility). Why do you think that has anything to do with you, she asked?

Because I was there!

Yeah, but they weren’t asking you to do anything offensive.


As to the second case, with the no-handshake man, she focused on his explanation for why I should respect him. Why would he assume you’d know about his religious beliefs?

Another good question. I assumed he was Hasidic, although he wasn’t wearing a fedora and it was so dark that I couldn’t tell if he had peyos, but, as E. pointed out, Orthodox men will wear the shawl—and Orthodox men will shake a woman’s hand.

Yes, I agreed, I’ve shaken hands with Orthodox men, and, come to think of it, I don’t know for sure if he was hasidim.

Given my skepticism toward groups and my disdain for patriarchy, I bundled together a few pieces of information about this guy into an unmerited heap of a conclusion. I thought it was about the group and the group’s beliefs about women and his expectation that I alter my behavior to suit him—and I was offended.

But maybe it wasn’t really about me. Maybe, as E. pointed out, his English just wasn’t that great, that he didn’t know a more polite way to make his request.

Well, dammit, E., what are ya doin’, making me rethink these things? I was so comfortable in my anti-fundamentalist stance and here you go redirecting my attention. What the hell kind of friend are you, anyway?


I’m fine with my skepticisms and criticisms, but I’d rather not be reactionary. So I’ll follow this redirection, see where it takes me—and try to keep my biases out of my way.

Thanks, E.


Inspired by a segment I heard on WNYC about members of They Might Be Giants banning certain phrases, I humble ask for the retirement of the following (I direct this to myself, as well):

  • Meh
  • Wow. Just wow.
  • Batshit crazy (I do like this one, but, Enough.)
  • Just sayin’
  • teh gay/s
  • ZOMG! WTF?! ROTFL, et. al.
  • Meme (I have always hated this term. Always. Goddamned genetic reductionists.)

I probably should ban ‘heh’, as well, but no need to get all Puritan, here.


Jasper update: He is on,

or off.

No in-between.

A little less smelly (gave him a washcloth rinse yesterday), but still in need of a dunking. With soap.

Very friendly, and eager for a lap. Good purr.

Ten week-old kittens have really tiny heads. Tiny teeth, too, but sharp.

Still working on the biting. No biting.

Working on the staying off of computer keyboard, too. He’s logged me out of Firefox a couple of times, opened about fifteen help windows, and at one point sent my computer into hibernation. Fancy feet on that boy.

Not so much in the litter box, however. Jasper has no litter skills. Yes, he uses his wee box (a cereal box with the back cut out, lined with a plastic bag), but he’s a bit fuzzy on the whole covering-one’s-leaving concept: He’ll scratch at the air, at the floor outside of the box, on the wall next to the box, but actually in the box? Not so much. [I know, I should retire this one, too, but it’s too good to lose!]

I hope his skills improve when he moves to the big box.

He has gotten within a foot of Bean, who has responded with hisses and yowling. At one point she swiped at him, but, as he was a good foot-and-a-half away, nothing happened.

Still, at some point there will be contact, and he will learn that Bean is Queen.

She came in through the bathroom window. . .

3 07 2009

. . . well, no. Through the front door, actually, in a cat carrier. And she’s a he, Jasper, the newest member of this absurd household:

He’s about 10 weeks old, 2.1 lbs, found wandering around Jackson Heights and brought to Brooklyn Animal Control.

(He’s propped up on my wrist pad watching me type this right now, which is preferable to having him rolling over the keyboard.)

Jasper’s shelter-given name was Felicia—but, as much as I like cross-gender names, Felicia didn’t cut it.

He is, as you can see, all black, with gold eyes. Feisty, given to chewing on my toes, ankles, and knees, and perhaps more adventurous than a kitten who just got his balls lopped off should be. He’s also a bit stinky, but, due to the aforementioned lopping, can’t be bathed for awhile.

Bean is thoroughly unimpressed.

I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t ready for another cat. I still tear up when I think about Chelsea’s last days, and Bean and I had settled into a comfortable routine. Why mess with that?

But I think that admission nudged my thinking along and toward a new kitten: It made me realize that I would miss Chelsea no matter what, and that I shouldn’t use her as an excuse for not bringing a  kitten into the household.

Yes, a kitten is disruptive, and that’s all right. That’s what I tell Bean, anyway.

Playmate, come out and play with me

19 06 2009

There will be no porn in this post. It’s about cats (NOT pussies). Got it?

It’s been about 2 months since Chelsea died, and while I think about getting a kitten, it’s more an abstract than real thought.

I have almost a week off between summer teaching sessions at the beginning of July, and toyed with the idea of getting a kitten then. I’ll be home; I’ll have time; I’ll be able to referee between kitten and Bean.

But I’m not ready. And I don’t know if Bean is ready.

Bean has never been an ‘only’ cat. Sweet Pea was three years old when I picked up the second legume, and thus grew up living with another cat and me. Now the other cat is gone and Bean is, I dunno, fine and needy and lonely but really, mostly fine.

She gets a lot of attention from me, which she doesn’t seem to mind. We’ve established a new routine, just the two of us, and it seems to be working. I think she gets a little bored being the only one of her kind around here, but, you know: projecting, anthropomorphizing, etc.

I know she’d hate the kitten. Hate it. Hissing and backing away and hissing some more and batting at the tiny critter whenever it came near.

It’s what Chelsea did to her.

But Chelsea and Bean also curled up together and tussled and chased each other and double-teamed me when they heard me crack open a can of wet cat food. That day I took Chelsea to the vet, I leaned her over Bean, to let Bean sniff her, one last time. Bean licked her head.

Instinct? Habit? I don’t know. It felt like good bye.

And, as I told lesleykim in a comment to another post, as hard as it was coming home without Chelsea, I don’t know that I could have handled coming home to a feline-less apartment.

So I want a kitten for Bean, and for me. Just not yet.