Archive for the ‘Tibbs’ Category

Sam and Cate’s farewell to Tibbs

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

We know friends with friendly cats. Our Tibbs was more of a curmudgeon: cuddly with Bill and me, often prickly with others, high-maintenance, and high-strung. Bill says Tibbs was just what we deserved; that is, he was the perfect cat for us.

Despite Tibbs’ mercurial ways, our kids accepted him as part of our family — their “furry brother.” They learned early to approach him with caution, lest he bat at them. And they internalized that a swishing cat tail is “saying no!”

As they grew taller, more coordinated, and more confident, they learned when and how to pet him. Tibbs seemed to accept that, with Mom and Dad too sleep-deprived to function, the girls were his most-likely source of attention. From time to time, he would sit quietly in sphynx-pose and allow the girls to ruffle his fur, apparently conceding that inexpert cuddles were better than no cuddles at all.

When we finished a carton of milk, Cate learned to place the cap on the counter, and call, “Come kitty!” to invite him to play “futbol.” When Tibbs would bat the cap onto the kitchen floor, Cate would cackle gleefully as she rushed to retrieve it, and then stand on her tiptoes so she could just barely reach to slip it back on to the counter. Then she’d say, “again!”

Sam says, “I liked it when he knocked over my toys!”

I’m not sure I have any images of Tibbs playing with the girls, but this video from March 2010 of him playing soccer with me is one of my favorites. Sam asked me to play this video over and over for her yesterday, and she laughs out loud when Tibbs bats the paper wad straight into his water fountain. Last night, while playing in the tub, she lost her grip and slipped back under the water. She popped up, turned to me and exclaimed, “I went into the drink!”

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Tibbs playing wrapper-wad soccer with Bob in March 2010

* * *
Over the final week as Tibbs grew sicker, the girls heard me and Bill fretting about what might be wrong. Several times during the week, they tried to help. Cate gathered various balls and kitty toys and brought them to Tibbs. Sam pulled Tibbs’ comb out of his drawer and wanted to try to comb him, which I helped her do a little.

They recognized that not eating was not good, and repeatedly pulled the bag of Greenies treats out of his drawer and demanded to offer him whole handfuls. That he only ate a treat or two before wandering off was a very bad sign.

On Sunday afternoon, I pulled our kitty blanket on to the floor, and invited the girls to come scritch Tibbs’ head. Sam said gently, “I’m trying to help him feel better.” Cate leaned over and carefully wrapped her arms around him in a gentle hug. Then Sam hugged him, too.

* * *
Two years ago, when the girls were still babies, they soothed themselves with Wubanub “kitty binkies,” that long ago succumbed to teething. From time to time, Sam or Cate has rediscovered them in a drawer, pulled them out hopefully, sucked the broken binky once or twice, and then returned them to the drawer, disappointed.

Auntie Emi’ was in Houston Monday afternoon, the same day that Tibbs died. When she came to visit, she helped me with a project. During naptime, Emi masterfully disassembled the old Wubanubs, removed the broken binkies, and stitched their little mouths closed, giving them new life as four tiny “kitty friends.”

Sam played happily with her two kitties for a bit, and Cate joyfully readopted hers. I’m not sure whether Cate was that attached to the kitty binkies, but she sure is now!

Emily reassembling the kitties’ mouths

Sam and Cate stuck myriad tiny spools on their fingers and wiggled gleefully

Cate hugging a reclaimed kitty

Sam cuddling a reclaimed kitty

Goodbye, Tibbs.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

In June of 2000, about ten weeks before Bill and I left consulting to attend business school at Rice, we accidentally adopted a kitten.

Bill and I were going to play racquetball with Chris and Brit at their apartment on Holly Hall. As we stepped out of the Jimmy, we heard a small “mew” outside, and being friendly, we said, “meow, Kitty” back.

But it bothered me that I couldn’t figure out where the sound had come from. We saw no kitties on the ground or in the tree nearby. The next “mew” sounded like it came from under a red Oldsmobile Alero. When I got down on my belly to peer under the car, I glimpsed a swish of orange tail behind the right-front wheel, from a kitten in the engine compartment.

Oh, no! That’s no safe place for a kitty!

We cooed and cajoled until an orange, stripey kitten — coated from nose to tail with engine grease — emerged from the car, and offered it some water from a bottle of Ozarka.

When a clap of thunder startled the kitten back toward the wheel well, we scooped it up and put it in the Jimmy. All of a sudden, we were involved. Oops.

Lost kitten

I had little experience with pets. I naively imagined that someone had lost this furry bundle and would be overjoyed to see it again. So I snapped a photo, made up “Lost cat” posters, and recruited my brother to post them around the complex. Two people called that week, looking for older cats. But apparently, people don’t “lose” kittens.

A warm bath in the kitchen sink got rid of the engine grime, and his first trip to Montrose Vet took care of fleas, ear mites, and worms. The vet alerted us that this kitten was male and estimated his age at ten weeks, making him approximately an April Fools Day kitty. She gave the kitten — name T.B.D. — a clean bill of health and he was ours.

Bob at 29 with Kitten T.B.D.

Bill at 28 with Kitten T.B.D.

* * *
As consultants for Plaut, Bill and I were both still supporting IT clients in other states. Our friend, Susan, and my brother graciously agreed to catsit while we traveled during the week.

Initially, we confined the kitten to the spare bedroom, formerly Cindy’s room. But one Friday morning, Bill sent me an email with the subject, “Open Sesame,” and from then on, the cat pretty much had the run of the house.

Open sesame…

* * *
When Tibbs was perhaps six months old, we took him back to the vet for additional vaccinations and to be neutered. He weighed in at 11 pounds, and the vet tech encouraged us to switch his food from Kitten Chow to adult kibble, and assured us that Tibbs was fully grown.

Despite the tech’s pronouncement, Tibbs grew to become a strapping, 22-pound, adult cat. He could scale any cabinet, open doors, and even jump from the floor into the open freezer (?!?).

Jean captured this image of Tibbs, ready to pounce, in July 2002

Jean caught Tibbs, swishing his tail “no”, in June 2003

Tibbs in Jan 2004

Tibbs in Jan 2005

* * *
In November of 2005, during the week before Thanksgiving, two things happened. The refrigerator that had come with our house died. And we belatedly realized that our five-year-old cat, Tibbs, was becoming sicker and sicker.

Most obviously, Tibbs seemed really thirsty, spending a lot of time drinking from his fountain, and making a LOT of pee in his box. He also seemed hungry, but ate only a little of his kibble before wandering away. Less obviously, he was losing weight. And he had become less playful. What we mistook for the sedentary style of middle age turned out to be the lethargy of systemic illness.

Early in the week, we took him to Montrose Vet, where they tested his blood sugar and pronounced him diabetic. They sent us home with some glucophage tablets and a case of Purina DM, low-carb/high-protein, canned food to see if that would help.

But by Thanksgiving Thursday, Tibbs was struggling to breathe and his abdomen was distended. Glucose dysregulation was impairing his kidneys, and his body was accumulating fluid. Our vet referred him to VERGI on IH-10 near Bunker Hill for emergency care.

Tibbs was so sick that he almost didn’t survive. After Tibbs was admitted, they shooed us away to treat a more-urgent case. We were nearby at Target when a VERGI staffer called to say that Tibbs’ heart had stopped as they began treatment, and they had successfully resuscitated him.

Tibbs at VERGI in 2005, with IV ports for fluids, insulin, and lab draws

I remain grateful that Bill had not hesitated to sign the admission form authorizing heroic measures. Tibbs stayed in hospital through the weekend while they titrated his insulin dose. That 72 hours cost us $2,400, but saved his life. By this time, we had been trying to make babies — unsuccessfully — for more than a year. We had even started fertility treatments at OGA. For all practical purposes, Tibbs *was* our first baby, and we couldn’t bear the thought of losing him.

By Sunday, Tibbs was stable. Signing up for daily insulin shots didn’t seem like a big deal to me — my Dad had already been insulin-dependent for a decade. We took him home, and his Aunt Amy sent him a vase of lovely get-well-soon flowers. We settled into a new routine, Tibbs regained a few pounds, and he thrived again.

Tibbs checking out his daisies from Aunt Amy

Tibbs amongst his sharps in Dec 2006, before I learned the vet could safely dispose of them

Tibbs in July 2006

Tibbs in the soup cabinet, July 2007

Tibbs in May 2008

Tibbs in May 2009

Tibbs in Jan 2010

Tibbs was an excellent partner for “bedrest” everytime, especially the time that really counted in Feb 2011

Tibbs was not particularly amused by the babies or their playthings, Aug 2012

Tibbs in Mar 2012. When the babies were away in their beds, Tibbs still preferred to nap near Mama.

* * *
In retrospect, Tibbs probably stopped eating appropriately two weeks ago. He seemed hungry, and we were slow to notice that he ate only a little of his kibble before wandering away.

Puzzled, I scrutinized his food supply and noticed that the label had changed. Purina, in their continued quest for cost savings, had changed the formula of his food again, this time to add “natural and artificial flavors.” I don’t know what they added, but Tibbs refused to eat the stuff.

(It really, really irks me that Purina repeatedly tinkered with the formula of their prescription diets, which have a captive audience. The health of a diabetic animal — who cannot tell you how he’s feeling, and is difficult to test — depends on a predictable balance between food and insulin. I really wish they had just raised the price of the food every year.)

I called around to 8 or 10 cat clinics in our area, but by the time I had realized the issue, all of them had only the new formula in inventory. Despite my effort, I located just one can of the prior formula, and by then, Tibbs was already so sick he only nibbled at it.

Over the weekend, it became apparent to us that Tibbs was really sick. He was lethargic, and yet seemed to have trouble settling down to sleep. His belly became distended and his breathing became labored. Slowly, it dawned on me that we’d seen this before.

Monday morning, August 4th, Bill and I gathered Tibbs to take him to Montrose Vet for the last time. Sam and Cate expressed concern for Tibbs and insisted that they should come with us to the vet. Recognizing that no good could come from that, we sent the girls with Claudia to Weir Climbing Park. Sam cried as we took Tibbs away.

An x-ray scan revealed that Tibbs had fluid in both body cavities, consistent with glucose dysregulation. Dr. O told us, while the cause was unclear, “it cannot be fixed or managed, and he will not regain quality of life.” At 11 am, Tibbs gently came to the end of his life.

* * *
In 2005, when VERGI gave us the educational brochure about caring for a diabetic animal, I was horrified to read that the average diabetic cat only survives 18 months. In retrospect, that’s a population statistic that includes unfortunate animals whose owners make no effort to manage their diabetes.

Tibbs lived 8-1/2 years after diagnosis, and he thrived for much of that. I am confident that he lived a longer and better life with us than he might have otherwise. Nonetheless, I wish that I had recognized sooner that his not eating would dysregulate him, and acted sooner to prevent his final suffering. Go in peace, Tibbs.

Fleas suck. And how to kill them without poison.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

It’s July, it’s hot, and it’s rained a lot recently, which means the fleas are in bloom. We first noticed Tibbs scratching 4-6 weeks ago, and it’s always a surprise when our indoor cat manifests fleas. We were slow to go to battle against the fleas, given what we were up to at the time. But when the little ankle-biters start going after me, it’s war.

There was a time when we’d have glibly used flea powder, flea collars, bug spray, or foggers to eradicate the pests promptly. But now that we know most pesticides are endocrine disruptors, especially organophosphates, we avoid exposing ourselves to them. We’re instead striving to give the fleas a natural death, and it’s proving to take some work:

1. Get fleas off of the cat. In earlier years, we’d just dose Tibbs with Revolution or Capstar. But that seems hard on his system, and topical pesticides skeeve me out. So we’re combing Tibbs with a special flea comb every day, and multiple times most days. It’s essential to kill every flea and egg the comb catches. One can simply dip the comb in soapy water to drown each flea, but I prefer to crush them. And the near-permanent bruise on my index fingernail is recovering now that I’ve discovered rolling them to death with a hard plastic vitamin bottle. The crunching sound is surprisingly satisfying.

Bill combing Tibbs

Several sources also advocate bathing the cat weekly. I’m pleased to learn that no scary “flea dips” are required; again, gentle soapy water is sufficient to dissolve the waxy coating around their spiracles and suffocate the fleas. But bathing Tibbs is beyond my pay grade. When Bill thought I intended to try, he wrote:

Be sure to film your bathing of the cat. I’ll be sad that I’m not there (to claim the remains).

Heh. No baths for Tibbs.

2. Get fleas out of the house. Pretty much anywhere we’ve walked after being outdoors, and any surface where the kitty has been, could be fair game for nearly-invisible flea eggs, larvae, or pupae. We’re therefore supposed to vacuum everything, daily. (Note that one must dispose of the flea-filled vacuum bag immediately.) But it took me 3 hours Sunday to vacuum most every nook and cranny in the house, so it will be a few days before that happens again. I’m again grateful that our bedroom is a Cat Free Zone.


I’m also testing an internet remedy. Fleas are ostensibly attracted to white/light colors. They say you can fill a plate with soapy water and fleas will be drawn to it and drown. I filled a plate with Ivory soap and water and placed it next to the one crack we’ve identified where fleas are breaching the house from outside. Within an hour, one flea had met his end and the next day there were two dozen dead fleas. But given that at least that many jumped past the dish (to meet death-by-crushing on the bathroom floor), I suspect the dish is merely catching unlucky/stupid fleas, without actually attracting them. We may need a bigger dish.

drowned fleas

3. Get fleas out of the yard. The main way fleas reach our indoor cat is by hitching a ride on our socks/ankles/pants as we pass through the yard into the house. So to reclaim Flea Free Status indoors, we have to achieve Flea Free Status outdoors. But our yard is home to myriad birds and squirrels, and stormwater from our yard flows directly to the bayou, so I’d prefer not to use chemicals out there either.

If we had more time to prepare, we could plant mint and lavendar in the yard to repel fleas. A scorching drought would kill a bunch of the little buggers, too. Citronella repels fleas, and apparently cats as well. In the short term, I chose a spray called Orange Guard that uses essential citrus oils to repel fleas. Having sprayed half a bottle on the porch, walk, and grass nearby, we can now get to/from the car without collecting fleas. (One clear-cut victory! Woo-hoo!)

Orange Guard is safe for indoor use around pets and children, and it claims to kill ants/roaches/fleas on contact, so I also brought it inside to combat the breach in the bathroom. This turned out to be a bad idea. First, instead of killing the fleas, it only spurred them to jump away across the floor (where I had to crush them). Second, citrus oil leaves a vaguely oily residue on the floor. Third, it prompted Tibbs to abandon his bathroom/litter box for 2-3 days in favor of other areas in the house he found more suitable. Yuck, yuck, and yuck. Getting him to do his business where it belongs again required cleaning the bathroom thoroughly.

All of this has been a real pain in the @ss. Killing fleas naturally turns out to require real effort. But even after all that, I’m still sure I don’t want toxins in our house or on our pet. I’ll just be glad when flea season is over.

LOL Tibbs: Secret caffeine addict?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Tibbs with tea mug
“I can has tea now, but I’s too tired to lift it.”

To Hell and Back Again: Tibbs Goes to the Vet

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Bob spent part of last week up in Las Vegas with our friends Cindy and Paul. For Bob, the timing was great because it fell in a window where she could spend some relatively unfettered time with friends whom we haven’t seen in too long. The timing was terrible for me since I was coming off of more than six weeks of constant travel, and all that I wanted to do was to stay home and work on many long-neglected projects.

For poor Tibbs, one of those projects ended up being a trip to the veterinarian.

Because The Monster hates the vet, I got the cat carrier out of the closet on Friday so that he would not instantly go on guard right before we tried stuffing him into it. This gave him almost 96 hours ahead of our Tuesday morning appointment for him to realize that there was nothing threatening about the hated cat carrier that was open on the living room floor. Really. Nothing Threatening. I promise.

Needless to say, but El Diablo gave it a wide berth over the weekend. And on Monday. Cats don’t recognize national holidays.

So, since Tibbs has to be sedated to get his teeth cleaned, and by sedated, I mean a general anesthetic, since the horse tranquilizer dose for cats gets a little dangerous at the levels required to “calm him down”. This meant “removing his food” before I went to bed. Which I dutifully did. And which he dutifully let me know how hungry he was on Tuesday.

Note: hungry cats somehow tap into some sort of predator mode. I don’t know why. Also, for some inexplicable reason, this seems to tie into some sort of “fight or flee” reflex. Inconvenient, that one is.

So, I go to pick up The Cat, and The Cat is talkative. Mostly about food. And the lack thereof. And we walk. And he is still talking. Why are we headed away from the food? Are you aware that the Food Dish is supposed to be over there? You may not be aware of this, since you’re Not Around Much, but Mom usually feeds me in the morning, and I’d kind of like that trend to continue, if you don’t mind.

Never trust a cat that starts getting polite.

Dearest Papa, why are we headed towards That Blue Thing?

Dearest Papa, you’re sleep walking. Here, let me help you wake up!

I told you not to trust a cat that starts getting polite.

As it is, Tibbs bit me and squirmed his way out of my grasp. The hard way it is.

Getting vertical
Much like Maverick and Goose from Top Gun, when Tibbs feels a bogey on his tail, he goes vertical. Fortunately, we have step stools. This did not please Senor Gato Supremo.
Getting vertical
Who bugged out to the bathroom.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Which was a tactical mistake since the bathroom has a door. That closes. That he can’t (yet) open. Thus, Tibbs was captured and transported to the vet.

Too many hours later, a suddenly friendly kitty was returned to me. At least he was friendly long enough to get his delayed shot of insulin and to inhale a can of food. Then the realization set in.

You did this to me….
Screw You!
…and I didn’t like it!
Screw You!

Fortunately, whoever said love can’t be bought never had a cat. Love costs between $4.99 and $7.99 depending upon time of day and from which store you buy it.
Screw You!

In Tibbs’ case, love is a roasted chicken that Daddy shares with him. Unfortunately, he often neglects his own food in anticipation of such a “treat”. Note the hungry-sounding kitty and the completely ignored food dish that might satisfy said hunger.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

And the cat lived happily ever after. Or at least until the next time he had to visit the vet.

What’s in a bed, revisited

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I mentioned that Tibbs will sleep in the most uncomfortable-looking places. My cousin Mary forwarded an hysterical photo that makes me wonder if it’s a universal orange tabby trait:

orange kitty in lasagna dish

What’s in a bed?

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Sometimes I just have to wonder how our cat, Tibbs, decides where to sleep. On the one hand, he’d rather be on a dish towel than a cold tile countertop, and a pillow than the floor. On the other hand, he also makes choices like these:

Tibbs racked out in a cardboard box
This can’t be comfortable, and he had room to settle differently

Tibbs crammed onto Bob's desk
He was persistent getting here, but I just can’t see why

I repeatedly shooed him off my desk and into my lap, into Daddy’s chair, into his window seat, etc. But when I wasn’t looking, he ducked behind my laptop and wormed himself into this awkward posture half on the scanner and half off. Silly cat.

And clearly, neither of us learned anything last week. (Silly Bob!)

Cat Fun, part 2 (aka Are you the slowest Wildebeest?)

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Is your Tabby a little too tame? Do you wish your cat had better stalking, herding and other predatory instincts? Do you hate your plants? Have you run out of things on which to spend money? Well, a Bengal Cat could be right for you.

Imagine, your house pet could be only four generations removed from something that brought down antelope on the open veldt. What fun, what games, what absolute hilarity that might open up for you in your life! All in this easy-to-carry form factor.
Kinda small, ain't it?

The old saying that “curiosity killed the cat” did not mention the fate of the ficus, poinsettia, fern or other flora that happens to share your home. How cute would it be having a trio of these portable cuisinarts wandering around looking for things to turn into paste. How adorable!
One should eat what one kills...

While all of this may seem like too much for one household, you are just not expanding your mind enough. Given the COMPLETELY latent predatory nature of the cats and the rock-solid science and genetic engineering backgrounds of the breeders, there is absolutely no way that when Cuddles is laying on your stomach, with his head near your throat, that this image is going to pop into his sweet little 30 pound mind.

Is this what YOU see in the mirror?

No way.

Edit: Note that we did not take any of the above photos. We do not know anyone who owns a Bengal cat, or if we do, they aren’t terribly proud of paying >>$1,000 for a cat. That, or they are too busy working overtime to pay off the loan needed to buy the cat to let us know. Hope this clarifies the “Bengal Cat Confusion”.

Furminator demonstration video!

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

In case you’re wondering whether the Furminator is right for you, Tibbs agreed to participate in a demonstration:

The Kitty will tolerate most anything to stay in the Daddy Lap. :-)

However, the real point of this post was to figure out how to include video in our blog. I know several of our readers (who have grandparents to satisfy) are already adept at blog video, but it’s new to us.

Rather than uploading and linking to our content at a third-party site like You Tube or Vimeo, we decided to play with our webhost’s native tools. DreamHost supports a flash media player by Jeroen Wijering and we’re giving it a go.

The FLV filesize is a tiny 4 mb compared to the original 53 mb MOV file, and conversion was easy. And the player seems to run seamlessly here in Firefox. My only complaint is that it displays a black box until you hit play, rather than a still of the first image. Other than that, it seems ok.

Now we’re interested in how it works at your end. Does it play in your browser (e.g. IE, Safari)? Does it play instantaneously? Does it stream fluidly without interruptions? Is this size big enough or should we go bigger? Please let us know what you think.

Also, if you have a favorite application for editing digital video, ideally one that’s low-cost or free, we’d love to hear about that, too. Thanks!

Cat Fun, part 1 (aka In Praise of The Furminator!)

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Save money at Amazon
Our cat sheds. A lot. We’ve tried multiple combs and brushes over the years, but we discovered a new product to try while cat-sitting for Robin’s friend Sandra. It seems that Sandra’s cat, Oliver, enjoyed being “furminated” to the point where one did not get any stray fur when one pet him. Hmmm, I said. We need one and need one of these ASAP. So, off to the friendly pet supermart I went, where $40 later, we had a small Furminator and a bottle of goo that I have no use for (it was a combo pack).

Obviously we could have saved a few shekels if I had not have wanted it Right Then!, but then fur waits for no man. But it does stick around when you don’t want it to do so. So we started Furminating Tibbs:

And when I got tired, we handed it off to Bob:

WARNING!! It seems that there may be some sort of massive side effects with the Furminator that may cause your cats to vaporize. No word if this is linked specifically to how “fluffy” your Fluffy is. (Tip of the hat to Chris for the heads-up!)

We had something similar happen to us, but fortunately, it was contained in our Furminator Disposal Unit (FDU), seen to Bob’s right. Tibbs was very curious to smell the residue:

Careful! That could still be dangerous!