Tycho goes to the eye doctor

Well, the specialist was a bust.

We took Tycho in to see the eye specialist this morning. We had already called ahead, and warned them that Tycho was difficult and would need sleepy gas before they could examine him. We had an appointment of sorts — they’d said to bring him in anytime between 7:00 and 9:00, the earlier the better.

We arrived at 7:30, told them our name, filled out the little new-patient information sheet, and waited. Tycho made some noise in the car on the way there, but once we got into the waiting room, he was really quiet. After a while, they let us into a waiting room, which is when he decided that yeah, this really was the vet, and started hissing. We opened both doors on his cat carrier, but he declined to come out, and crouched there, hissing every now and then, tail lashing.

More waiting, and eventually the doctor came in. We did introductions all around, and explained again, as we had when we called in originally, that they’d need to put him under before they examined him. The doctor went to look at Tycho, who hissed. And the doctor flinched back, very visibly. Tycho was still being pretty mild — he wasn’t even yowling yet, like he usually does at the vet.

Then the doctor told us that we didn’t have a surgical appointment, so he couldn’t see Tycho today and we’d have to bring him back. We were a little bewildered by this, and explained that we did have an appointment. At which point the doctor said that he “didn’t really appreciate working on cats like this”, said we’d have to go somewhere else, and left the room.

This is crazy. Our regular vet would never think of refusing to treat a cat just because of the cat’s attitude. In fact, they’ve assured us they have much worse patients than Tycho. Jennie was so furious she was in tears, and I’m not too happy myself. It’s obvious that not all the fault goes with the doctor — his staff obviously didn’t pass along the message we left about Tycho being temperamental — but whatever the case, we were treated pretty poorly. And we still don’t know what’s wrong with Tycho’s eye, or how bad it was, or what’s going to happen next.

We can’t even get hold of our regular vet. She had to leave the office, because she got bitten by a dog this morning. I think there’s some kind of message there, but I’m not quite sure what it is.

It’s a pretty crappy turn of events, and we’re stuck worrying. We’ll get Tycho taken care of, one way or another; there are doctors out there who actually love animals and want to help. We may have to go on a road trip, which would be just joyous with a yowling beanlet in the back seat, but one way or another, we’ll make sure he’s okay.

He is himself again, I’m happy to report. He was pretty sluggish for about a day after his last vet visit, but he’s back to normal, struggling when we try to medicate him, and tearing around the house at the speed of beanlet. We’ve got our bitty back. We just want to know what we need to do to keep him okay. And because this doctor was scared of cats, or something, we still don’t know that.

Tycho’s eye problems

Last night, Jennie noticed some icky-looking stuff on Tycho’s eye. A thin line of whitish stuff on the outside of his eye, right next to the eyelid. At first, I thought it might have been mucus or something (he’s been sneezing a lot lately), but in any case, it worried us enough that Jennie took Tycho to the vet this morning. As always, that was a major production; they had to put Tycho in the sleepy-gas box so the vet could even examine him (as always).

Result of that visit: we still don’t know what’s wrong (pretty normal, for our cats), but we have an appointment for Tycho to see an eye specialist on Friday (not normal — first time any of our cats has needed to see any kind of specialist). The vet said it’s possible that it’s a tumor. It might also be just a scratch, or something like that, but she thinks his eye would be watering more, and he’d be showing a lot more pain, if that were the case. Or, knowing our cats, it might be something completely different. His eyelids are puffy enough that I’m guessing at some kind of infection rather than a tumor, but… well, I’m hardly the expert here. We’re keeping our fingers crossed — all we can really do, for now.

Well, that, and giving him the two different kinds of eye ointment the vet gave us; we’re hoping that they’ll even make his eye a little better by Friday, but we’ll just have to see. Both ointments have to be squirted directly into his eye, and both are a gel-like consistency (oh, for the days of good old liquid eyedrops). One has to be put in twice a day, and the other is four times a day, and we can’t give them both to him at the same time — we have to give him the four-times-a-day one, wait at least five minutes, and then give him the twice-a-day one, if we can still find him by the time the five minutes have passed.

Thing is, he hasn’t been running away when we go to get him, or struggling too much when we hold him down and put stuff in his eye. I don’t know if he’s subdued (or exhausted) from the trip to the vet and the aftereffects of the anaesthesia, or if he’s in too much pain to put up much fight, or if the stuff actually makes his eye feel enough better that he’s willing to put up with it for now. In any case, he’s certainly not acting like his usual self, and I’m worried about my bitty.

Sigh. Holding out for Friday. (We could’ve gotten him into the specialist earlier than that, if we hadn’t known for a fact that he’d need to be tranquilized for the experience; that wound up dictating the schedule slot.)

Wish him luck. Poor beanlet.

Life’s little mystery #74,512: Scented cat litter

So what’s the idea behind cat litter with perfume in it? I picked some up by mistake months ago, and still have most of it left, ’cause it makes the litterbox smell worse than before I changed it. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really want my cats’ butts to smell like some little old lady’s idea of appropriate (cough) fragrance (wheeze) for Sunday morning Baptist church service (gag). Thanks, but no thanks.

Glass Ceilings for the Complete Goober

We bought a used kitchen table a few weeks ago. It’s got a glass top.

This made for some entertaining viewing, because Noel climbed up on top of the table, lay down, and made herself comfortable. And Goober, who likes to harass Noel for as many of his waking hours as he can without getting distracted, spent a good forty-five minutes pacing around under the table, trying to figure out how to attack her.

Our kitchen table has more paw prints on the bottom than it does on the top. We get built-in amusement with our breakfast… all we need to do is put Noel on the table and wait. It’s not just a table, it’s an entertainment center!

Goobers for Dummies

I’ve decided to start a new series of nonfiction books. They’ll be similar to the “For Dummies” and “Complete Idiot’s Guide” books, but these will be “For The Complete Goober”. Each one will feature a picture of our youngest cat, Monkey, more affectionately (?) known as Goober.

If someone had invented an instant-replay for real life with still-frame-capture option, we would already have all the cover art we would ever need.

Personal Finance for the Complete Goober: Checkbook balancing, budgeting, document-gnawing, and sticking your stinky butt in people’s faces when they try to pay bills. Cover photo: picture of Monkey lying on top of the checkbook, gnawing on Jennie’s pen, with his tail knocking the stack of bills off the bed.

Bartending for the Complete Goober: Mixed drinks, shots, and bathroom faucets. Cover photo: picture of Monkey sitting on the edge of the bathtub, his paws wrapped around the water faucet, hanging half-upside-down from said faucet, trying to catch the drips, while the shower is running. Bonus back-cover photo: Monkey with a punk hairdo.

Cooking for the Complete Goober: Simple dishes, food-handling tips, and advice on when it’s better to jump on top of the stove vs. flopping around on the floor biting people’s ankles. Cover photo: picture of Jennie bent down to get a pizza out of the oven, with Monkey standing on her back.

Gardening for the Complete Goober: Perennials, biennials, and gnaw-ennials, featuring advice on exactly how much of the plant you can eat without getting locked in the bathroom. Cover photo: picture of Monkey, curled up inside a large pot, lying on top of a bag of potting soil.

Jogging for the Complete Goober: Tips for staying cool, how to hit your target heart rate, and how to obtain maximum complaining volume when Mom is carrying you the half-mile back home in a pillowcase. Cover photo: time-lapse photo of a monkey-colored blur crossing the street and tearing through the park, with a Jennie-colored blur (carrying a pillowcase) in hot pursuit.

Package Delivery for the Complete Goober: Overview of different carriers, insurance options, etc., along with instructions on how to escape from the house so you can steal the UPS truck. Cover photo: picture of Monkey sitting behind the steering wheel of the UPS truck, trying to find the ignition.

Homeland Security for the Complete Goober: How to keep your siblings in a constant state of fear, without getting kicked off the bed too often. Cover photo: picture of Monkey lying spread-eagled on top of Stefan, while Stefan cranes his neck backwards to wash Monkey’s ears.


Jennie and I journeyed to Cedar Rapids over the weekend, to visit my parents and brother and to have Christmas. (My brother was out of town for Christmas, so we all got together over New Years instead. It worked out well — we got to do our Christmas shopping at the after-Christmas sales.)

I took Thursday afternoon off work, and we made the drive, about four and a half hours. It was a good trip. The drive is a bit long, but it’s good to see these people I’m related to, eat a lot of good food, do a bit of reading in my dad’s copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach, exchange loot, eat a lot of good food, and meet my brother’s new cats. And did I mention the food?

It’s funny; I never had cats when I was growing up. All I saw of cats was when we visited my uncle’s farm and I went out to the barn. Now that we have our own cats (or rather, now that they have us), I practically go into withdrawal when I’m away from them over a three-day weekend. It was good to give some attention to Jon’s cats. Nemo actually sat in Jennie’s lap and purred; not his usual (aloof) style. Nada, on the other hand, as usual took all the attention he could get. Nil and Null were just orange blurs in the distance.

Jennie also got the chance to get together with her goddaughter Lisa. Jennie had told Lisa’s mom, and Lisa’s mom had sworn to tell Lisa, that we were going to be in town; so of course Lisa heard nothing about it. I happened to run into her at Wendy’s the night we arrived (so now we know where she works). It all worked out; we invited her along to a family lunch, and then she and Jennie spent the afternoon shopping (not Jennie’s favorite thing to do, but when you hang out with a teenager, I guess you have to make some sacrifices).

Our holiday gift-giving occasion (can you really call it Christmas when you celebrate it on New Year’s?) was good too; we actually scraped together enough cash to be able to give some gifts this year, and we got some good ones in return. Once I get around to doing some laundry, I’ll have to wear my new shirt to the office. Mom and Dad gave us a couple of Complete Home Fix-It manuals from Reader’s Digest — huge hardbound things, sturdy glossy paper and everything; Jennie and I are slowly reading our way through them, and then we’ll swap. Bunch of other good stuff. I haven’t even opened my new For Better Or For Worse book yet.

Good weekend. Cooler yet, everyone will be coming here next weekend, and we’ll be getting together with my cousin (who I haven’t seen in over a year) and aunt and uncle (who I haven’t seen in about seven years). Funny how you learn to look forward to family gatherings when you grow up.

Particle physics

Our youngest cat has a multitude of names. He came with the name Sox, but we also commonly call him Monkey (because he climbs things), Kangaroo (because he jumps like one — stiff back legs and everything), Prairie Dog (I’ve never seen a cat sit straight up on its haunches and stay there for that long like he does), as well as the affectionate titles of Goober and Wumpus.

(Why Wumpus? Well, obviously, because he’s a scary monster, and it’s dangerous to be in the same room with him. Or something. Don’t ask me, it was just one of those spontaneous name things.)

He earned yet another nickname this morning. He’s not the swiftest on the uptake, and he hasn’t quite figured out that, when he jumps into the tub while one of us is taking a shower, he tends to get wet. He didn’t actually jump in this morning, though; he just stood on the edge of the tub, poked his head around the shower curtain, and then jerked back as if mortally wounded when he got hit by the spray. Then he did it again a minute or two later.

As I was drying off after my shower, Jennie happened into the bathroom, and I said to her, in a very serious tone, “I have a question.”

“Oh God,” she said. “What?”

When he’s underwater,” I said, in the same serious voice, “does he get wet? Or does the water get him instead?

She chuckled, and said, “Y’know, I think the water might get him.”

I shrugged. “Nobody knows. Particle Cat.”

She laughed out loud.

A few minutes later, I was going down the stairs, and our newly-christened Particle Cat was flopping around on his back. I must have startled him on my way by, and he took off, using my foot as a launching pad. With his claws extended, of course.

“They have a fight,” I amended. “Particle wins.” After a moment’s thought, I added, “‘Cause Particle has Triangles.”

(If you’re clueless, go read the lyrics link I posted. If you’re still clueless after that, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.)

Conversations with cats

Jennie and I will occasionally hold mock conversations with our cats. As in, one of us will ask the cat a question, and the other will supply the answer, usually speaking in a distinctive voice so we can tell it’s the “cat” talking.

Today at the store, Jennie got some of those magnetic letters that you can put on your refrigerator. Good cat toys. We got some a month or two ago, and they’re all missing now, most of them having been knocked under the stove or the refrigerator. Hence the need for refills.

So Jennie put the new letters on the fridge, and Sox immediately started leaping at them, pulling one down, batting it under the fridge, looking briefly forlorn that he couldn’t reach his toy anymore, and then pulling another one down to play with.

I was watching him do this, and I asked him, “What are you going to do when you’ve filled up all the space under the fridge, and there’s no room for any more letters under there?”

Jennie supplied the answer, in her best Sox voice: “I don’t know, Dad. I guess we’ll just have to get a new fridge.”


In case anyone ever wants to make sense of us talking to (or about) our cats, here’s a guided tour of our household’s catspeak and the origins thereof. For your reading amusement. Don’t expect any coherency to this post; it’s just random rambling. (Once, I had an idea of how I was going to structure this post, but I’ve forgotten. Pretty normal.)

So our oldest cat is named Stefan, after a character I created for an Ars Magica game and then never got to play. We got him from the Humane Society when he was still fairly young and kittenish. He quickly earned himself the nickname “Stepped-On”, so named for his undeniable talent at placing himself directly in front of our feet whenever we were walking around the apartment. (It probably didn’t help that we were in a very small apartment at the time.)

A while later, Jennie spontaneously started calling him “Beanbowl”.

We still don’t know where the name came from. My best guess is that she was trying to call him “Bean Boy” and I misheard. But wherever it came from, it stuck.

We didn’t pick Stefan; he picked us. He jumped into Jennie’s arms as soon as he saw her, and when she called me over, he perched on my outstretched arm. He once climbed into a pouch in the repair guy’s toolbelt. So (yet another nickname) we call him our pet-me-love-me boy.

Stefan hates going to the vet (what cat doesn’t?), but he is still Stefan. When the vet comes into the exam room, he will purr, rub up against her legs, and hiss, all at the same time. The vet calls him a twit.

Then, a year or so after we got Stefan, we moved into a rental house (which is in itself a tale for another day), and Jennie got a full-time job. And Stefan got lonely being alone all day. The thing that finally got our attention was when a neighborhood stray wandered onto our screened-in porch, and Stefan came over to sniff and say hello. The stray hissed and growled, and despite this, Stefan was still anxious to sniff and be friends. Hmm, thought I. He needs a little brother.

Off to the Humane Society, where we got a little orange kitten like Jennie had always wanted. We named him Tycho (lifted from a city name in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), although he quickly earned the nickname Psycho, from his habit of tearing madly around at top speed and crashing into things (like walls), his ADHD, and (when he actually manages to focus on anything) his sheer intensity.

At some point, I made reference to him being the Lesser Beanbowl. Seeking to shorten that title, I wondered: What’s the diminutive form of “Beanbowl”? Well, obviously, it must be “Beanlet”.

That one really stuck. I don’t think he even knows his name is Tycho. But when we say Beanlet, he knows exactly who we’re talking to.

We’ll sometimes refer to something moving “at the speed of Beanlet”. If you’ve met him, you understand.

When I was growing up, a phrase that my dad used on occasion, like when we were getting ready to go to the store (and especially when things kept coming up to delay us, but we finally headed out), was, “And we’re off… like a thundering herd of turtles.”

When Beanlet goes charging madly around, we can hear him throughout the entire house. I’ve commented that he sounds like a thundering herd of Beanlet. (Yes, the singular is deliberate.)

There’s an old Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin decides to get even with Hobbes for all the times he (Hobbes) has snuck up and pounced on him (Calvin). So there Hobbes is, lying on his back, taking a nap. And Calvin takes a flying leap directly at Hobbes’ belly, letting out a holler as he goes. Hobbes wakes up, takes the situation in at a glance, and bares teeth and claws. Calvin, still in midair, tries frantically to change course, to no avail. In the last frame, he limps away, saying “I keep forgetting five of his six ends are pointy when he lies like that.”

This is particularly applicable to Beanlet, because his claws are very sharp, and he likes to say hello with his teeth. He’s front-claw declawed (as are Stefan and Noel), so he has three pointy ends (one head, two back paws) and three non-pointy ends (two front paws, tail). So we like to say that fifty percent of his ends are pointy. Especially when we play extreme sports (meaning that Beanlet is lounging on the floor, and one of us comes over and tickles his belly with our feet).

We also call him Squeaky. It’s hard to imagine a cat squeaking, but if you’ve heard Beanlet, especially when he’s sleepy or hungry, you would have to agree that “squeak” is the only word to describe it. Imagine the sound Chrono’s cat makes in Chrono Trigger, and you’ll be close. Beanlet is a champion squeaker.

Beanlet does not rub up against the vet and purr. He just hisses, and yowls, and bites — even when they’re just trying to get him on the scale to weigh him. He even has a sticker. The vet calls him crabby. (The vet calls all three of our senior cats crabby. On the plus side, I’m assured that they get a lot crabbier than even Beanlet. They’ve never had to get the pole out for Beanlet.)

Then one day, after we had moved to Omaha, Jennie noticed both Stefan and Tycho making lots of noise at the apartment door. She opened the door, and there was a little white fuzzball.

She went to the apartment office, and together she and the landlady went around to all three apartment buildings, asking if anyone belonged to this kitten. Nobody did. It’s not even clear how she got into the building. The running theory is that somebody had moved out and left her behind, and had been let out when the crew came to clean out the vacated apartment. But the last move-out had been two weeks prior, and she was too healthy (and too well-groomed) to have been left locked in an apartment for two weeks. So, in the end, she’s a mystery. Women often are.

We already had two cats, and technically the apartment complex only allows two cats to an apartment. We made sure to get the exception in writing.

This was shortly before Christmastime, so we decided to name her Noel. She didn’t get her first nickname for a couple of weeks, because we couldn’t find her for a couple of weeks. It turned out she was crawling under our bed, and from there was climbing over the top of one of our drawers, and hiding inside the drawer. That particular drawer had a huge pile of stuff outside it, and we hadn’t actually opened the drawer for probably a couple of months beforehand. It took a while before it even occurred to us that she might be in a drawer that we never opened. She’s always been our skittish child.

Those first couple of weeks, she didn’t make a sound. We were starting to wonder if she was mute. But once she got settled in, we couldn’t shut her up. Meow. Meow. Meow.

Hence her first nickname: Noisy. (It didn’t stick as well as Stepped-On and Psycho, though. Probably because it’s not as alliterative.)

I’m not sure whether she even knows her name is Noel, because we usually just call her “baby girl”.

She’s our high-maintenance child (she’s earned the nickname “diva” to add to her repertoire). She’s the one who hid behind the toilet and didn’t want to come out when we first moved into our house. She’s the one who currently isn’t eating, apparently on hunger strike in hopes of getting us to send the new kitten back. She’s also the one who is always trying to drink our milk; she hasn’t quite caught on yet that she’s very lactose-intolerant, and will just go throw it up.

She also happens to be our local bully. She didn’t let being smaller than Stefan and Tycho intimidate her. No sir. She beat them up early and often. She liked to sit on a high piece of furniture and swoop on them when they went by, thus earning her the further nicknames “thug” (from a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin threatens his mom with a water balloon) and “vulture” (a Peanuts reference this time).

And then we got Sox. No story behind his name; he came with one. His nicknames aren’t alliterative, either, but I think they will stick. His first nickname is Monkey. (I wish I had a picture of him climbing up our vacuum cleaner earlier tonight.)

He’s also quickly earning himself a place among my ranks of marsupials. When I hide my hands under a blanket and scratch the sheet to get his attention, he doesn’t pounce like a cat. Instead, he does a high, slow arc, often with back feet down — very reminiscent of a kangaroo. Go figure.

Although I have to admit, I’ve never seen a kangaroo shake its butt like that.

Sox still has 87% pointy ends, and one thing I had forgotten about having a kitten is that smaller paws mean smaller claws, which mean smaller tips of the claws, which translates to… very sharp. Jennie and I are both constantly bleeding from dozens of puncture wounds. It doesn’t help that he’s not just sharp, he’s a sharp monkey. I’m getting new freckles on my shoulders, except that these aren’t really freckles, they’re scars from where he tried to walk behind my head from one shoulder to the other, and then lost his balance… or tried to attach himself to my back from midair. He also likes to climb up our legs, regardless of whether we’re wearing long pants at the time, which is always an adventure.

I had to come out into the kitchen last weekend to rescue Jennie. She had bent over to get something out of the oven, and Sox had leapt onto her back. She couldn’t stand up for fear of blood loss.

Sox is absolutely fearless. He chases his brothers and sister around the house, even the ones (Stefan and Noel) that hiss at him. He’ll walk right into the middle of your dinner plate if you don’t stop him quick enough. He wants to explore everything, and we have to keep explaining to him, “No kittens allowed in the dryer. No kittens in the dishwasher. No kittens in the refrigerator.” Once he was about to leap up onto the open oven door, just as we were taking the pizza out. I still worry about that one. 450 degrees. Ouch. That one would have resulted in multiple emergency-room visits… one for him and one for me.

Despite all that, he fits into my hand, and is very cuddly when he’s not tearing the place up or trying to eat my clothing. (Both he and Stefan like to eat my watch band and my sandals. Must be a gray-cat thing.)

All of our cats are very cuddly when they want to be. Stefan loves to curl up in my lap while I’m on the toilet; it’s his favorite spot. They’ll all occasionally curl up with us in bed, or more often, on us. You’ve heard the old “I ran out of sick days, so I called in dead”? We talk about having to call in cat. After all, when an adorable ball of cuteness is curled up on you, who wants to disturb it?

Our most notable vocabulary word that doesn’t directly refer to a cat is the “bumblestick”. This is one of those plastic sticks with feathers and a bell on the end, like you can buy at any pet store. The word came from the way I wave it madly through the air, humming “Flight of the Bumblebee” as I go.

Oh, and then there’s my assertion that cats are full of fuzz. (They must be — look how much keeps leaking out. Part of our move-out bill at our last apartment was for cleanup of “excessive cat hair”. The stairway in our new house is slowly turning orange.) I once commented that our kids are probably going to end up getting into arguments with their science teachers. “Wait a minute, cats are full of fuzz! What’s all this bones and shit?”

Sigh… cats. Very cool. Very entertaining. Very hungry (Stefan has been sitting in front of the monitor for a good half hour now, trying to get my attention, so I suppose I’d better go feed him now).

Suckers (us)

We brought home a new kitten yesterday. It was all my fault.

Our vet’s office has a cage in the waiting area, and sometimes they’ll have kittens from the Humane Society there for adoption. I went to the vet on Wednesday to pick up more food for Noel, and of course I stopped to play with the kitten, like I always do when they have kittens there.

I got home, and Jennie had to laugh at the forlorn look on my face. She’s the one who called the vet back and asked how much it would cost to adopt the kitten. She’s also the one who went over there yesterday and picked him up. So it can’t really be said to be all my fault, but, you know. 90%.

His name is Sox, and he’s very cute, extremely playful, and pretty darned cuddly in his less-hyperactive moments. (He’s snuggled up in my lap as I type this.)

He and Tycho took to each other right away, chasing each other around the house, sneaking up on each other using the furniture for cover, and generally having a grand old time.

Noel hisses when she sees the kitten, and spends most of her time hiding from him.

Stefan is spending most of his time in the basement now, so he has a shorter trip to the litter box and, therefore, less chance of passing Sox on the way. When he sees the kitten, he not only hisses, but growls and, if Sox gets too close, screeches. Despite this, Sox keeps trying to romp and play with Stefan, so there’s a lot of screeching. Stefan is not a happy kitty cat. (He’ll get over it. He did with both Tycho and Noel. Still, I’ve started calling him my “grumpy old man”, and throwing a blanket over his head when he gets too testy.)

At this point, I don’t trust them all together when neither Jennie nor I are around. When I leave for work, I’m going to shut Noel and Stefan in the basement, so they can pout, and leave Sox and Tycho upstairs, so they can tear madly around and break everything we own.

Life should be interesting for the next few days.