mckitterick: aboard the New Orleans trolley (just Chris)
( Jan. 11th, 2012 08:58 pm)
My frail and charming old kitty, Tatsuko, has finally passed. For the past few years, Kij Johnson has had custody of her first in Seattle and then in Raleigh. I am grateful for the time I got to live with her, and grateful that Kij and several friends took such nice care of her after she moved.

We got her in the late summer of 1995. Bob was working in an emergency vet clinic in Oregon, and she had been run over by a truck. This encounter left her with a skewed pelvis and various other health issues, plus a hatred of change. Just moving across the hall to a brighter apartment (she was about a year old) made her panic - I remember her running back into the old (now empty) apartment and howling even louder to discover that even her old home looked different now. When we first brought her home, she lived under the covers for weeks, maybe even months, venturing out only when no one could see her for food, water, and the litter box.

Here she is in Seattle in 2001 - even then not a young kitty, but with the softest bunny-fur I have ever touched:

Eventually she grew braver and ferocious. She loved to wrestle, and for those of you who've raised kittens, you know this is code for "tear the skin of her humans." I learned to wear gloves when playing with her, and she learned that gloves = "I get to really attack!" She had asthma, though, so eventually she'd get to wheezing and gasping, so I'd leave her alone for a while until she settled down. This was especially fun when she was a little older: Her favorite toy became a dressage whip, which she'd chase for hourse if I'd let her, except for that she'd collapse from lack of oxygen at some point. Heck, sometimes she'd purr so profoundly that she would end up gasping for breath between each purr.

Oh, that kitty! What a joy she was.

Tatsuko was simple at heart. She didn't have complicated feelings; in fact, even those not particularly good with animals could pretty much read her thoughts, which consisted mostly of "Pet me," "Play with me," "Feed me," and "Ooh, that looks tasty," the last usually in reference to rodents. She was never demanding except of play when she was very young; as an older kitty, she was patient with other animals, letting them eat and drink first, and seemingly okay with waiting for attention. She loved the heat, going so far as to lie in the sun upstairs during the Kansas summer, as in this shot:

I have fond memories of laughing myself silly watching her climb the walls in our old apartment after we finally gave up trying to discourage her. She literally clawed her way up the drywall to above head-level. Drywall can be repaired (and I did repair it later), but that was priceless. Later I realized she just needed an alternative, so I screwed a big carpet sample to the wall for her to use. She loved that, leaping up and sideways whenever I stood in the hallway near her "climbing wall," trusting that I would support her weight as she scrambled side-to-side. She loved to use her body, and watching her do so provided great joy - perhaps especially since that body was so damaged. Never have I lived with an animal who actually asked for her daily prednisone pill, because she knew she'd be rewarded with her kitty treat (chicken-flavored laxatone)... which also served as anti-hairball medicine. Win-win.

One of her paws at each end was butterscotch-colored, and she'd attack it mercilessly. I suspect she enjoyed the humans' reaction to this behavior, as she'd kick and bite almost abstractedly, watching us laugh. Or maybe she was just confused as to why we were behaving this way. Here she ison one of her favorite pillows, ready to attack:

In her novel, Fudoki, Kij used Tatsuko as the basis for the protagonist, and this is perhaps even more true with the story, "The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles." (The art even looks a little like her.)

Here is what Kij wrote today about Tatsuko. The photo below is from about five years ago, when she was watching some mice playing in their cage:

"When I wrote Fudoki, it was Tatsuko I wrote about: 'Her fur was at first a blurred darkness. As she grew it changed to black flecked with gold and cinnamon and ivory, like the tortoiseshell of a hair ornament. Her eyes when they opened were gold, like a fox’s. She was small but fierce: in no way but size a runt, for she lacked the gentle resignation of the weak.' She had a butterscotch chin and three of her feet (but not the fourth) had butterscotch toes. She never weighed more than seven pounds. She had a chronic respiratory infection and a damaged pelvis from when she had been hit by a truck as a baby. She had the loudest purr I have ever heard.

"She was a dragon-baby at first – small but fierce, indeed. She scrambled five and six feet up the bedroom walls, using her claws the way an ice climber uses her axe and crampons. When we left that first apartment, Chris had to fill hundreds and hundreds of tiny, claw-shaped holes. She also liked Monster Atomic Cat and Devil Paw, but as she aged she settled down and became a mannerly little dowager, bird-boned, pleasant and elegant.

"I travel a lot and lots of people took care of her in Seattle and then in Raleigh: Nisi, Don and Vicky, Lorelei, Peter, Shelly, Kessel, Lew, Caroline, Eric, and so many others I can’t recall at the moment. She loved big hands and low voices. She also loved the water from canned tuna, roasted chicken, salsa, sleeping under the covers, sleeping on my head, sleeping on the couch, sleeping in the second bedroom, sleeping sleeping sleeping. Except for the salsa, she was a very traditional little cat."

I got to see Tatsuko a few times via Skype since she went to live with Kij - including yesterday - which was so nice. Her purr was still so loud as to rumble the speakers on my computer, even the day before she died. She was so sweet and her affection so important to me during the rough years when last she lived with me, as I'm sure was true for Kij, as well.

I don't really have the heart to write any more about my sweet kitty right now.

Goodbye, Tatsuko. I love you.


Thank you all for your kind words on yesterday's post.
[ profile] siro_gravity asked about me and dogs - don't I just have cats and hamsters? Yes, I've had dogs!

My first dog was Senja, a Norwegian Elkhound. She became "my" dog when I was eight, and soon was a blue-ribbon winner at dog shows. I mean, how many young dogs obey an 8-year-old boy at a public show? She lived for another five years; I'll save the story of her end for another time.

A couple of decades passed before I was ready for another dog. Kij and I got Sid from the Seattle Humane Society, where we had left a request that they contact us if they got a small, calm dog suitable for a tiny apartment. When they let us know they had a German Shepherd Dog that was "perfect for us," we were so sure they were wrong that we rode my motorcycle over to meet him. We went into the back room where all the dogs were kept and were met with a deafening cacophany of barks. This old German Shepherd sat quietly as the Humane Society worker opened the gate to his stall, then stood while the worker attached a leash and handed it to me. We walked Sid out into the exercise grounds, and he was so obedient and noble and calm - even in the face of wild dogs jumping all over - that we knew the shelter had been right. I rode home and got the car to bring him home. It soon became clear that he had been abused and had back injuries; he was very sad and quiet for a while. Then, suddenly, he became a goofball about three months in when he realized that we were his new pack. Sid lived with us for three years. RIP beloved Sid.

My third dog was Hope. Hope was a rescue dog from the Lawrence, KS, Humane Society. They'd named her "Hope" because they hoped someone would adopt an old, anxious Collie-dog. We were softies, and the name worked out. She moved to Seattle with Kij in 2005, where she lived another couple of years. RIP sweet Hope.

So: Yes, I have had dogs in addition to various other pets, including my One True Cat (The Great Helen of Peerless, Whose Face Could Launch a Thousand Combines; RIP Helen), my other two beloved kitties (Tatsuko and Sanju), and a number of mouses and hammies, including my One True Hamster (alternately Hammie-Boy and Hefner, who just passed away this spring).

Okay, I'm off to fix my overheating Saab and fetch my repaired Vespa.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (hamster boy)
( Nov. 20th, 2009 03:11 am)
Living with hamsters as pets guarantees frequent tragedy.

As recently as Sunday, little Hefner was healthy and full of beans. On Tuesday night, he showed signs of serious illness, with a belly full of scabs and infection. I brought him to the vet on Wednesday, where the kind Dr. Gibbs gave him a shot of cortisone to slow the growth of (suspected) cancer and a shot of antibiotics to kill the secondary infection from his chewing on the growths. She said that if he responded well to those, she could compound him treatment to give him another week or two. Then he had a healthy and relatively energetic night and day today. Wouldn't you rather go when you felt well than suffer for a week or two? So we fed him his favorite foods - blueberries and nuts - and cuddled the little boy, then brought him over to the vet.

The nurses at the front desk didn't even check us in, saw the teary eyes and brought us straight to an exam room. After some time alone with the sleepy Hammie-Boy, Dr. Gibbs took him to the euthanization room, and a few minutes later he returned asleep but not breathing in his ball. She said that he was full of tumors when she felt him after the procedure, so we had made the best decision.

I dug a hole in the rodent cemetery in the back yard and buried him in his favorite toy, his ball, with a pint of blueberries.

Hefner was the gentlest, most easy-going, but most curious hamster I've ever known. He would run in his ball for hours. He let little kids squeeze him and wouldn't bite. He would sleep in your lap. He loved peoples' shoes. He took food so carefully from your hand that he'd sometimes drop it. He invented the litter box for himself so he wouldn't have to sleep in a mess. He was the best hamster ever.

We get so attached to our little friends. I'm not sure I want to keep doing this every few years. Perhaps a bit of a break before another little Rodent-American.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (hamster boy)
( Aug. 19th, 2009 12:10 pm)
Before Hammie-Boy started living with me, I wasn't aware that hamsters barked. Well, he's doing it now, in his sleep.

This little guy is the sweetest, most charming hamster I've ever known. He's cuddly, playful, and patient even with children. And curious! (See below.)

I have a question for those of you "in the know" about hamsters: Do they all bark? Just the boys? Or is Hammie-Boy a rarity?

PS: Just returned from physical therapy. No super-powers yet, but flexibility is increasing fast!

Just got this and thought I'd share. They do good work:

Since the 1st of the year, several small vet clinics, rescue groups, and animal control facilities have been able to transfer their difficult, long term, or at risk animals to our facilities. We are assisting Olathe Animal Control and KCK Animal Control primarily. Both have been able to maintain lower euthanasia statistics. I think that my facility can handle more dogs then we have in the past. First of all, I have a superior dog handler. However, we need more volunteer dog handlers. click for more )

Let's work together to make Kansas City a no-kill city. Please find a way to help us during this time. We have commitments that must be honored.

The Pet Connection
5918 Broadmoor
Mission, KS 66202
Jason Huff

Playing along with the Self-Portrait Meme:

Take a picture of yourself right now.
Don't change your clothes, don't fix your hair... just take a picture.
Post that picture with no editing (except to reduce the size, of course).
Post these instructions with your picture.

Here's me with my little hammie in front of part of my bookshelves. He's the brown-and-white lump on my arm, just below the photo of Theodore Sturgeon:
All seems well...

And just to prove I've followed the rules, a bonus shot. Guess who just dove from my arm? I think I'm saying something along the lines of, "Oh, no! Mr. Hammie-Boy!"
...until Hammie-Boy decides to take a dive onto the couch!

(No worries; he landed on a cushion.)

her last hours behind the cut )

RIP little Juno. I hope you get a better run next time around.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (baby hamster)
( Dec. 21st, 2007 02:36 pm)
I forgot to mention that I just adopted a new hamster!

She was a mommy about two months ago, bearing nine (!) pups... which is why her previous parents gave her away. Such lovely markings, and so sweet! Who knew that there were tri-color hammies, too?

At just five months old, she's already bigger than Chloe ever was. Plus she's quite muscular but gentle, even when she misses a piece of food and gets a big of finger, instead. Silly thing made her nest in the UFO wheel of the cage and totally ignores the nice nest-area that Chloe used to use. To each hammie her own, I guess.

Yay hamster!

EDIT: Here's another shot of her with my hand for size reference:

Last night, Tatsuko put a big hole in my foot. She hates when the neighbor cat comes by, so she was freaking out when he came up to the open back door (screen only; it was hot). When I went to the back door to close it and scare of the boy-cat, Tatsuko swung around and clawed me on the bottom of the foot, so now it hurts to walk. *sigh*

On the other hand, Chloe is SO CUTE! Had folks over for gaming yesterday and ordered cheep Chinese delivery, and I saved a little broccoli and carrot. She loves these so much that she doesn't even stuff them in her cheeks - the way she does with everything else - but instead gobbles 'em up right away. So CUTE!

Does anyone know where to find a full list of recalls on pet food? It appears that a second ingredient (beyond gluten) is part of the problem.

This scares me because, yesterday, Tatsuko barfed immediately after eating. This in itself is not extraordinary, but in light of this news makes me nervous.

Thanks to [ profile] james_nicoll for the tip.

Dear friends of the fur-people:

Just a few good-news items on a day when all the news is depressing. Even Dr. Drew spent the day talking about Virginia Tech.

- Tatsuko is learning to fetch. She's a very playful cat, especially this time of night, but tonight she's returning a crumpled-up grocery receipt so I keep throwing it for her. Too cute!

- Sanju came through surgery just fine and is going home tomorrow. She even purred for the vet today. Hooray!

- My hamster, Chloe, is dangling from the bars of her cage, hanging by her teeth. Hee hee!

I felt the need to share some positive feelings.

Just got a call from [ profile] sanju_devil_cat's mom, [ profile] jensixstones, and have learned that Sanju's surgery went well - the remaining portion of a red sparkle-mouse has been removed - and she is recovering in the kitty hospital.

The surgery wasn't cheap, though, so if any friends of Sanju feel generous, the vet hospital takes donations! They're Lawrence Veterenary Hospital, and you can make a credit-card donation in Sanju's name (Jennifer Decker is her mom). Here's their info:

Dr. Kraft
Lawrence Veterinary Hospital
3210 Clinton Pkwy Ct
Lawrence, KS 66047

I was so worried about her last night when I learned that one is usually cut open in order to remove sparkle-mice... eeek! Such a relief.

Poor silly little kitty!

[ profile] kijjohnson relates a story of Tatsuko as Giant Electro-Deathray Kitty. I had forgotten about this and got a huge kick out of remembering. If you're a cat lover, check it out. *g*

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (baby hamster)
( Feb. 27th, 2007 12:36 am)
I've been making movies of Chloe's shenanigans tonight, trying to capture her charming manner of shaking the water-bottle while drinking and her full-body shake of the cage's front door. I got some of it, but now I have several minutes of excess. Anybody use a decent freeware movie editor out there?

By the way, I have discovered that the clamp that locks her gate is necessary: She gets the gate pushed open every day now by holding the gate and throwing her body against it while gripping the cage with her teeth. It is so cute; I hope I can post a movie soon. If it weren't for that 80-sheet paper clamp, she'd be on the lam every single day.

Little jailbreaker.
Aaaaah! [ profile] tatsuko_shikibu just went to the litter-box, and all you cat-owners know what that means: The Crazies. Unfortunately, I have a new leather couch, easily marred by the claws of a crazed cat.

You see where this is going.

So I've thrown blankets all over it to prevent her scratching it. Well, That was a bad idea: It only encouraged her to run crazily all over the couch because she was able to dig in. When I scolded her, she launched off the couch and soon started making barfy-sounds (stress upsets her belly). I had to hurry over and give her a nice big dose of Petromalt.


The couch clearly needs real coverage (at least when people aren't over). Upholstery fabric, here I come!

(And no mocking me about getting a leather couch that must remain covered most of the time. Yeah, yeah.)
For the third time in her little rodent life, Chloe broke out of her little residence and explored the larger house. She pushed open the front gate again, then spent at least 8 hours roaming the downstairs, presumably sleeping behind the entertainment center. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her appear between speaker and furniture, so I leaped up and grabbed her, then returned her to her proper home... this time with a big paper clamp acting as a front-door lock.

Within five mintues, she had stuffed an entire bowl of food into her cheek pockets, rendering her virtually too wide to fit through her tube into her upstairs bedroom.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (evil-Tatsuko)
( Jan. 23rd, 2007 11:59 am)
Cat minds are so easy to read: [ profile] tatsuko_shikibu's food array is near the sliding-glass back door, which is just an inch or so above ground-level. On the back patio is where I scatter bird & squirrel food. Tatsuko's bed is also beside this back door. The squirrels are having another party on said patio.

I just fed Tatsuko a few minutes ago, and she's going back and forth between poised-to-pounce, tail-lashing predatoriness at the back window and gobbling her tasty beef lunch. Squirrel-hunting fantasy, eating raw meat.

Soon she will retire to the bedroom and the warmth of the down comforter. The life of a cat.
Do you live with a dog? Then this is for you!

My friend Scott, who has worked at a vet hospital for many years and knows his stuff, writes this great healthy-dog advice in response to one of the stupidest pet meds ever to be marketed. Check it out!

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (baby hamster)
( Dec. 31st, 2006 12:16 pm)
You've heard me talk about how Chloe is so cute. Well, here's the proof:

[ profile] chloe_hamster is famous! Wheeee! (Oh, and that's Talk of the Nation or somesuch on the radio in the background *g*) Hamster cuteness!



mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)


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