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ripsAfter getting a few hours of writing done after work, Ben and I walked up the street and returned to our apartment with a few deli wraps and a bottle of wine.

We then spent the night watching mixed martial arts fights on TV, toasting to various things, and envisioning how the next few months of our lives are going to unfold. Now that we will both work from the home, how are things going to change?It was quickly decided (after two glasses of wine) that as far as our growing home office was concerned, Ripley would be named Chief Executive Officer. It was also quickly decided that Rips would look really, really cute in a tie.

I thought it would be a good idea to install a water cooler in the living room so that we could take breaks and talk about the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars. We both agreed that any emails we sent to each other would now be referred to as “office-wide memos.”  

Ben also suggested that we instate a company policy prohibiting interoffice relationships in order to promote professionalism, but Ripley and I quickly struck it down. After three glasses of wine, we decided that instead of “dress-down Fridays” we’d have “drunk Fridays” – you know, just to keep everyone comfortable and to keep company morale up.

The list of things that our office wouldn’t have was highly encouraging, though. No more commutes, no more bagged lunches. No more dress code, no more dour 15-minute birthday celebrations. More importantly, no more spreadsheets (or, at least, very few), no more working on projects I don’t choose, no more phone addict cube mate.

I know that the challenges ahead of me are hard, but at least they’ll be my challenges. And even though my new boss demands to be fed twice a day and makes me clean up her poop, at least she doesn’t have the ability to talk. Or use emoticons.

lt. ripleyI am overwhelmingly pleased and relieved to announce that Rips is home and absolutely well. Ben reports that she is 100% recovered, barring the clumps of hair she lost while sick. She is demanding to have her belly rubbed whenever he comes home, she is demanding to be fed exactly “on the sevens,” and she is demanding whichever side of the couch that Ben happens to be sitting on at the moment. In other words, things are back to normal.

All of her tests came back fine – the vet said that dehydration was the main problem (caused by her vomiting) that led to a downward spiral that she wouldn’t have recovered from without a trip to the hospital (the bad vet that we took her away from, if you recall, recommended that we didn’t hydrate her until we found the root of the problem). Whatever caused the vomiting will remain forever a mystery, although the two best guesses are that she got a stomach virus similar to the one that shook me and Ben to our foundations that same week or that she ate something bad that her system had to work through.

I am so, so happy that I can stop worrying about her (and start worrying about the exorbitant vet bills, which I will pay with a smile) and start to enjoy Christmas and my time off from work.  The simple fact that she has eaten a single bite without throwing up – or that she’s once again energetic and vocal – makes me want to jump up and down. Ben called me late last night and said, “I know that it feels weird to call you and announce this, but I think you should know that Ripley just used the litter box!” Hearing that was kind of like seeing man walk on the moon for the first time.

Thanks for all of your comments and emails and calls – I felt less stupid after hearing about Buddy, Sammy, Firestorm, Jake, Jesse, and other kitties that are just as much a part of your families and hearts as anyone. Sure, this incident cost me my new laptop, but she’s a pretty great (and warm) lap-top as any. According to my calculations, she has a solid seven lives left of her nine.

Oh – and I’m feeling much better too. I’m still a bit weak and delicate after my traumatic flight and gross sickness, but all’s well. Although I will say this: never, ever go shopping for clothes in the days after recovering from the stomach flu. I was in the dressing room, trying on size 2 pants and midriff shirts and thinking, “Why am I SO hot today? Why does everything I put on make me look SO MUCH like a supermodel?” The answer: because all I’ve been doing is vomiting and eating saltines for three days. Just like supermodels.

Ripley has gone from bad to worse – we took her in to the vet yesterday morning after three days of her throwing up. After initial tests, the local vet had no idea what’s wrong with her. Both Ben and I didn’t like the vet – do you know that generally smarmy feeling you get around some people, even if you can’t place why? – so we rescued Ripley and found a better place, even with the vet insisting that she stay with him and that we were making a mistake by taking her somewhere else.

Now, this was all happening while I had to catch a plane in two hours to my parents’ house in North Carolina. Ben, who is the best man on earth, got in a cab with Ripley and rushed her to a real, actual animal hospital in Manhattan where the vet wasn’t just going to recommend procedures that would make him money and not help Ripley. The new vet immediately rehydrated her and gave her an ultra sound – since she might have swallowed a foreign object. Ben spent hours of his time talking with the vet and, heroically, gave them his credit card information.

Knowing that she was now in good hands, I booked it to the airport. By the time I got there, I was feeling… spacey, like I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Ben called and I could hardly put two words together to tell him how I felt. I thought it was just stress from worrying about Rips, but I found out soon enough that it was actually the stomach flu, which Ben had two days before and which has been sweeping New York this week. I’m 90% sure than having the stomach flu in an airplane is the worst, most embarrassing thing that could happen to a person – and all while crying about Ripley. I’m just endlessly thankful that I had an aisle seat and that the person next to me slept through everything. And that I’ll never see any of those people again.

After a night of vomiting and shivering in bed, my fever broke and I feel much better – “much better” meaning that I feel like I got hit by a train yesterday – physically and emotionally. I’m glad to have my whole family around me and am looking forward to a few days of relaxing and spending time with them. Ben is calling each time he talks to the vet, and, again, I can’t believe he’s taken that burden onto his shoulders while I’m gone.

I know that its silly to be so worried about my cat – there are people with much worse problems in the world – but I am. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to simply not know what the source of her problem is. It seems so much more difficult than when a human gets sick – Ripley is unable to communicate to us what she did or how she feels. I hate to think of her alone in the city, not knowing why she was taken away from her home or why she can’t seem to eat.

ripsThis morning, something very strange happened: I woke up naturally. I stretched out in bed, rubbed my eyes, and tried to put my finger on the strange feeling I had. Even though I felt more rested than usual, something wasn’t quite right.

The apartment was quiet – all together too quiet! With a start, I realized that it was past seven and the kitty alarm wasn’t going off. Usually by 7:01 AM, the kitty alarm has her paws on my chest and is howling in my face as if the world is going to end. Usually, the kitty alarm is nipping and pawing at any exposed body parts that she can find, although she greatly prefers toes.

Surely, I thought, sitting up and jumping out of bed, Ripley is dead. No other force in the world would keep her from harassing me for food.

I speed walked to the kitchen, noticing well that Ripley wasn’t tripping me up and jogging ahead of me like she should be. Upon inspecting her food bowl, I saw that she hadn’t eaten her dinner from the night before – a phenomenon that is simply unheard of. I called her name and started looking under things to recover her corpse.

Alas, she was in the bathtub. Obviously sick and not wanting to be bothered.

Later that day, at work, I began receiving a string of emails from Ben, chronicling the different places and variety of unfortunate ways he had run into cat vomit. “On the couch,” he would write. “Don’t worry, I flipped the cushion.” And, later, “Everywhere!”

When I got home from work, I found a few new batches myself – under the coffee table, in the kitchen. It was some sort of terrible Easter egg hunt, if you replaced Easter eggs with enormous globs of something that used to be a Grade D chicken dinner feast with gravy.

Ripley seems to be doing a little better now – although the kitty alarm didn’t go off around dinner time like it usually does, she is back to hanging out with us and stealing Ben’s seat on the couch every time he gets up for something. We’re guessing it’s some sort of passing kitty stomach bug.

Seriously, though – how can she just throw up somewhere and then just walk away to throw up somewhere else?  Shouldn’t kitties throw up by kneeling over their litter boxes? I could even hold back her whiskers for her.

carpet ripleyIf necessity is the father of invention, Ripley must think that it is truly necessary to eat way, way too much cat food. As the weeks of her diet have gone by, her tactics have become increasingly complex and increasingly desperate. And, ironically, the agility and energy she has gained through her diet has only given her an advantage in her constant quest.

In the first weeks, Ripley played with our emotions to get food – those big, dumb golden eyes looking at me saying, if you loved me, if you weren’t a cruel monster, you would give me sustenance. She would then throw her body against my legs and meow as if she hadn’t eaten in weeks. She would go nuts if either of us even approached the kitchen and even extra crazy if in the kitchen we 1) ate something or 2) opened a bag or can. It was a simple scheme, but it worked from time to time.

After we started to see results and after my heart hardened against her pleas, Ripley had to move a step up from toying with our emotions. By which I mean, of course, repeatedly knocking over the trash can. Whether this was to find scraps or simply a gesture of warning to the humans — if you don’t feed me, I will destroy your lives – I’m not sure. But I am sure that raw chicken gets really, really gross after sitting at room temperature in the garbage after even an hour or two.

The next thing she tried was smarter. If Ben fed her, Ripley would scarf it down and then start harassing me as if she hadn’t eaten yet. If I fed her, she would know to go find Ben and play all hungry and innocent. It was truly an ancient war tactic: split the forces, confuse them, and conquer. We’re not sure how many double feedings she got from this method, but we caught on before too long.

Then a few nights ago I was making dinner in the kitchen. I opened a can of diced tomatoes and Ripley immediately ran into the room to inspect the situation. Ripley only gets canned food once or twice a week (variety is important in any diet, especially of the turkey-in-gravy kind) and she generally thinks that anything that comes in a can is a gift to be bestowed on her.

I said, “No, Ripley. This is not turkey in gravy. This is boring human food.” But she was convinced I was lying to her. And then she stood up on two feet and took two steps toward me in a desperate attempt to reach supposed canned kitty food. I’m guessing that by next month she’ll be perfecting a tiny kitty hover car or some contraption that will beam her to the nearest cat food location.

Read the last installment of Ripley: Cat on a Diet

lion ripleyIt was a week of reckoning for Ripley. Last Thursday she went in for her annual vet visit, which, among other things, involves getting weighed (if you don’t quite recall, Ripley broke our home scale a week into her diet and we’ve had no way to measure her success). After seven weeks of eating right and exercising, Ripley has dropped from 22 pounds down to 15 pounds. She has practically shed a cat’s worth of weight.

Also at her vet visit, Ripley got her annual lion buzz cut – since she has so much fur and is overweight, she has trouble grooming herself if we don’t help out. Not only is her lion cut absolutely the most hilarious thing we’ve ever seen (it looks like she’s wearing those tacky shaggy 70s boots on her paws and has a pom-pom glued to her tail) but it also showed us how well Rips is progressing – her belly is much, much smaller than last year and she now has an empty little pouch where it used to be.

Sure, the early morning kitty alarm has been trying for both humans and kitty and sure, Ripley has probably spent many long, hungry nights scraping by on whatever cockroaches she could catch, but it’s all worth it for how much healthier she’s looking and acting. Anyone who thinks that their obese pet is too cute and cuddly to alter should see what a wonderfully changed and energetic kitty Rips is today.

Also this week Ripley received an important missive from fellow kitty Tiger Harris, of Des Moines. Tiger informed us that there was a free kitty toy even better than milk tabs: milk rings. Tiger, who sounds very learned and dignified, writes in part:

Unlike the discontinuous tab-based milk cap holder, the milk ring rolls and bounces seemingly of its own accord. Moreover, the ring is suitable for holding around one’s front leg and chewing on vigorously.

Please find enclosed four such milk rings. While I have matured beyond the need for such a large supply of milk rings, I am delighted to share the wisdom of my experience. Play with them in good health.

Just as Tiger wrote, Ripley did prefer the milk rings to the milk tabs – they bounce and move better. And, unlike the milk tabs, Ripley will play with them on her own throughout the day without our having to throw one across the kitchen floor every once and a while. Not only that, but Ripley seemed comforted to know that kitties across the country are rooting for her continued success.

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 5)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 4)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 3)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 2)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 1)

ripley fatYou know those infomercials that come on early in the morning and late at night – the ones that swear that they have come up with the one exercise contraption that could change your life? How it’s always something either overly complicated (Bow Flex) or overly simple (a ball), but either way, the fitness actor using the contraption looks really happy and comfortable?

Well, I’ve discovered the new exercise fad for kitties. It’s easy, it’s safe, it’s genius in its simplicity. If you think about it the right way, it’s free. It’s not sold in pet stores!!!!

Before this week, the most exercise Ripley got was her mad dash across our entire railroad apartment each morning, from the bedroom where I get up to the kitchen where I pour out her food. We play with a kitty fishing pole with her periodically at night, but the kitty fishing pole requires human participation and I tire of it much more quickly than Rips. The kitty fishing pole also has a bell on it which I think drives us all crazy, cat included.

Enter the new toy: the thing that holds the cap onto gallons of milk. I think someone recommended it to me a while back, and from the moment it hit the floor, Ripley was running and jumping for hours, the kitty calories flying off of her (along with copious amounts of fur). It was better than any cockroach and way less gross.

I’m not sure what it is about this thing. It has a little tab on it that makes it bounce, and it’s spiral-shaped, which makes it fun to grab with your theoretical claws. It’s also brightly colored, depending on what fat percentage you’re into, although I’m not sure if cats care much about that. Most importantly to me, I don’t have to move at all while Ripley runs around with it, batting it through the rooms and throwing it into the air.

This is usually the part when I tell you that you can buy these milk tabs for three easy installments of $99.99 (made out to me), and that you should talk to your doctor about anything that you could sue me over. But no! If you drink milk, they’re yours (and your cats’) for the taking!

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 4)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 3)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 2)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 1)

cat on a dietOne of the articles I read about cat diets talked about how pet dieting was easier than human dieting because cats can’t cheat. You won’t find your cat, the article said, breaking down and jolting a burrito or digging around in the refrigerator late at night (as adorable as those two images are). Your cat only eats what you put in your bowl. End of story.But it’s not that easy, I say to the writer of this article, who obviously doesn’t live in New York, a city where you don’t ask if  you have a cockroach problem, you ask what kind of cockroach problem you have.

American CockroachWhat kind of cockroach problem do we have? We don’t have that many, but the ones that are around are big. Like, Gary Larsen cockroaches-playing-cards-and-carrying-briefcases big. After doing some research following the latest sighting a few weeks ago, we figured out that they are waterbugs, something that sounds about the opposite of you’re picturing in your head right now. They are not cute. In fact, “Waterbugs” is just a friendly way of saying “the largest species of American cockroach, the kind often used in pranks and horror films.”

The good news is (if there can be good news associated with the largest species of cockroach) that waterbugs need very warm, damp environments. Usually, they live in basements around hot water pipes and hot water heaters. Although they don’t actually live in our apartment, every once and a while they’ll get lost or go forging and come up to first floor apartments through drains and things.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Sure, it feels like getting punched in the stomach each time I happen upon one, but they’re just bugs. And they’re visitors, not tenets. But – they are bad in a different, more important way. They might be screwing up Ripley’s diet.

She had her first encounter this week. And as terrifying as these bugs are to me, they are like Six Flags for Rips. Even after the roach was long gone, Ripley began a vigil near the washer and dryer where it was spotted and now spends the majority of her time there, like it’s her own personal critter vending machine.

I’m torn over this. Sure, she’s controlling our pest problem and getting some exercise during the chase, but how many calories are in those guys? I mean, they’re huge. A quick Google search of “Calories in a cockroach” only led to me now knowing more about the cockroach metabolism than is necessary to live a full life. I did learn, however, that roaches are pretty much 100% protein. Maybe Ripley needs her power breakfast, just like me.

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 3)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 2)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 1)

ripley 2The more I read about kitty diets on the internet, the more I’m coming to understand why pet obesity is such a problem. Simply put, fat animals are cute. They’re all puffy and soft and covered in fur. You just want to rub your face in them. I mean, if I had a child that was overweight, it would be clear to me that I wasn’t doing him any favors by feeding him all day and rubbing his belly and throwing treats at him. But a cat? All I want to do is hug her and say, “Who’s a fat kitty? Who is it?”

What we don’t realize is that even though our cats and dogs and things look fat and happy, we’re actually making them uncomfortable and unhealthy. I don’t want my cat to get kitty diabetes or kitty heart failure (man, even kitty diseases sound cuter than human ones). I want my kitty to be fit and healthy.

And so we come to the third week of Ripley’s diet. I still haven’t replaced my scale (which Ripley cunningly sabotaged) so we’re not sure if she’s actually losing any weight or not except by eyeballing her. At this point, when Ripley jogs through the room, I’ll say to Ben, “Don’t you think she looks really streamlined today?” and Ben will say, “Yeah, she’s really cutting through the air better.” But I’m not sure if I’m just trying to placate Ripley and if Ben is trying to placate me. I’m sure it makes us all feel better, though.

The biggest problem we’ve dealt with this week is the Ripley Alarm. The Ripley Alarm goes off at exactly 7 AM each morning, which is about 20 minutes before our Tradition Alarm goes off. The Ripley Alarm consists of Rips jumping onto the bed, placing her two front paws on my chest, and meowing in my face like the world is going to end. You can only turn the alarm off with cat food. There is no snooze button.

After a few sleepy discussions on this topic, last night we decided that Ripley was associating us being in bed in the morning with her feeding time, since feeding her is the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. This morning, we agreed, we would not feed her until after I had left for work.

Well, the kitty alarm went off as usual this morning and I ignored it. The kitty alarm then followed me to the bathroom, still going off, and sat on the rim of the bathtub and on the sink meowing constantly. Then the kitty alarm and went off again in the kitchen as I fixed and ate my breakfast (the meows got desperately louder as I poured cat-food-sounding dry cereal into a bowl) and then as I sat in the living room checking my email. Unlike traditional alarms, the kitty alarm will attempt to trip you, stick it’s noise in your milk, block doorways, and generally make you feel like a bad person.

About ten minutes into our experiment, Ben yelled from his office, “Sounds like it’s working!”

When I left for work this morning, she was still going off.

Week 2 of Rips on a Diet

Week 1 of Rips on a Diet

fat catIt’s been two weeks since Ripley decided to reclaim her life. She now eats 1/4 cup of dry food twice a day (at seven in the morning and seven at night) and gets regular exercise by chasing a toy I bought her that consists of a kitty fishing pole with a feather and bell lure. By following this regiment, we hope, she will shed many of her 22 pounds.

However, our experiment has taken a sadly ironic turn. When we tried to weigh Ripley tonight, on the 14th day of her diet, my digital scale answered not with a number but with the sad words, LO BATT.

I looked up my scale on the internet so that I could order a new battery, only to discover that my scale had a lifetime lithium battery that should, in theory, last for as long as the scale. I dug deeper and found a disclaimer on the website that stated that if the scale was used extremely heavily – like in a gym locker room – the battery could die over time. But I had only had the scale for about three years and weighed myself about once a week — maybe twice a week during bouts of low self esteem. How could I have worn out a lifetime lithium battery?

Ben figured it out as soon as I put the question before him. Ripley broke the scale. Since we moved to New York a year ago, Ripley’s favorite place to sleep at night is, yes, on top of the scale. And the scale was probably constantly reading Ripley’s weight for hours at a time, all through the night, crying out for someone to please, please help this obese cat! Twenty-two pounds! Twenty-two pounds!

It must have died quietly sometime in the last two weeks. At the end it was probably only whispering: twenty-two pounds… twenty… two… pounds. The constant weight of my enormous sumo cat was too much for it, lifetime guarantee or no.

So. I don’t know if Ripley is losing weight. She seems hungry all of the time, when before she wasn’t. I take this as a good sign. She has gotten very good at bothering us at almost exactly seven in the morning and seven at night. She has even started begging whenever we’re eating anything, which she’s never done before. On the plus side, she seems to be much more energetic and active – not spending quite as much time in The Office.

In any case, I’m mailing the scale back to the company tomorrow and should get it back in a few weeks. In freak cases like this, they replace the scale for the cost of shipping. Despite not knowing our progress, we’ll keep Ripley on her diet and exercise plan and in high spirits. I’m just worried about where she’ll sleep in the meantime.

Read the first installment of Ripley: Cat on a Diet