about About the CatCam

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About the CatCam

The CatCam first went public on 1996 September 20.

It runs from my home in San Jose, California. The camera itself is located underneath a card table in the corner of my living room. It sits at floor level, so that viewers get an image more from the point of view of the cats themselves.

The camera is a Logitech Color QuickCam connected to a Linux machine.

The recent images are all selected from "interesting" images taken by the CatCam. Interesting here means "significantly different," and the way that's done is two images (the current image and the last image taken) are compared by computing the sum of the squares of the differences in red, green, and blue values of all the pixels in the image. What this means is that for each pair of images that are taken, CatCam gives the image a "score," which is strongly favored for significant color changes in a lot of pixels rather than minor lighting level changes in each pixel (which happens naturally over the course of a day). Whenever this score exceeds a certain arbitrary value (I chose 107 from experimentation), a new image is inserted into the recent images section.

About Athena

On Sunday, 1999 June 13, I brought home Athena (pronounced ah-THEE-nah). She was born about six weeks before, and was being cared for by a private home in San Jose. She was semistray; by that I mean her mother was a stray (being taken care of by this family), but the kittens were all raised in their basement, and were used to humans around but didn't have constant contact with them.

When I first brought her home, she slept for half an hour (when I went to pick out a kitten, they had all just finished running around and were pooped). During the first night, Athena was very scared and crying for her mother and siblings, and wouldn't let me get anywhere near her. By the end of the night, she realized that she liked to be petted, and would let me get near her only when she felt comfortable (such as when she was tired and relaxed); otherwise she'd run away and hide behind things. She also started playing when I rolled balls past her (but she would only play with them behind her protective barrier, and would get uncomfortable even when I went to retrieve one of the balls to throw it back to her).

The next day, she was still uncomfortable about being approached (she was apprehensive when that big scary human hand was coming toward her, but when it touched her she realized it was the same one that pets and plays with her), but became catbox-trained (after two accidents, which are understandable since she wasn't even familiar with where the catbox was yet!). During the day after that, she became more comfortable with the house, figured out that the noises that the television and the game computer make aren't a cause for concern, and got more comfortable about that scary hand. She stopped constantly meowing for her fellow cats, but when I left the room and she was left alone (scared, hiding), she would meow until I returned.

By Friday, June 18, Athena was totally comfortable with the house, and played vigorously with long periods of sleep. She's stopped meowing when she's alone (only giving out one or two happy meows when woken up by petting), and wanted to play with Beowulf a lot more than Beowulf wanted to be played with: Beowulf kept a bored eye on her (often turning his gaze away even when Athena is right next to him), and would snarl and swat Athena when she was trying to play with his tail or jump on him. She also started to learn what no means, when she plays with things that she shouldn't (like climbing the drapes, which was a big hit). She loves to be petted and held and tickled, and for some reason likes to swat at my nose.

Athena is a very sweet little girl. She likes to play with cat ball toys, the laser pointer (she thinks that's just amazing), empty cardboard toilet paper rolls, and my fingers (she likes to lick and bite each one).

Beowulf had always preferred to drink out of the toilet bowl, even though there's a water bowl in the kitchen right next to the food dish. I had broken him of this habit by putting a water bowl in the bathroom as well; he goes to the water bowl since it's easier to get to than the toilet (he was getting fat enough that I was concerned about him falling in the toilet and having trouble getting out). Since Athena sees Beowulf usually drink out of the water bowl in the bathroom, she figured that it's the place where she should get her water, too. After Beowulf's death, I returned the water bowl to its logical place near the food dish.

Athena likes to sit in my lap and shoulders, loves to bother Beowulf constantly, and has learned to fetch the little ball toys that she enjoys chasing so much.

On 1999 July 20, Athena had her second round of feline distemper and her feline leukemia vaccinations simultaneously. By the next day, she had a high fever (104 deg F) and was very lethargic. After a quick trip to the veterinarian for a subcutaneous fluid injection (she was dehydrated from the fever) and some antibiotics for precautionary measures, by the day after that (July 22) she was back to normal. Athena has learned once and for all that she definitely does not like getting her temperature taken. From that point on I've simply made sure that she only gets one type of vaccination at a time to prevent a recurrence.

Athena had her first experience with the Outside on 1999 August 13. She was playing on a window screen when the latch managed to work itself open and she fell a story onto the ground outside (into low bushes and soft dirt). When I discovered what happened, I found her less than a meter from where she initially landed, waiting for rescue. Other than being frightened, she sustained no injuries whatsoever, and was back to normal after I brought her back inside in only a few minutes. The latch has been secured and hopefully Athena learned a valuable lesson.

On 1999 November 19, Athena had to go to the hospital to get spayed. Though she was scared, within five minutes after returning home she was back to her normal level of calmness, and within a few weeks was completely back to normal, without any complications (finally).

As of 2002, Athena has matured into a happy, active, affectionate cat. Thankfully, of all the recent cats, she has had no additional medical problems; every regular trip to the vet since has been uneventful.

As with Loki, I invited the CatCam audience for a few days to suggest names for the kitten (after I knew she was a girl). Here were the names that were suggested (numbers in parentheses indicate how many times the name was suggested):

Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena (2), Beowife, Brunhilde, Cammy, Cleopatra, Diana, Freya, Gaea, Gwendolyn, Gwenivere, Hera, Isis, Jasmine, Kit, Luna, Mariah, Mulan, Nefertiti, Pandora (2), Pearl, Persephone (2), Rhiannon (2), Sara, Selena, Sonja, Teevee, Venus, Vesta, Yoshi, and Zoe.
About Beowulf

Beowulf (pronounced BEY-oh-wolf) was named after the hero of classic epic. Creepily enough, for he had a "brother" (i.e., another cat we got around the same time) named Grendel who died in a car accident, which thankfully I wasn't around to witness or clean up after. Nothing strange was done with Grendel's arm, I swear. Seriously. I mean it.

Beowulf was a brown, fat tabby cat, and was the sweetest cat I've ever known. He had a tortured and quiet meow, because when he was a kitten, he got laryngitis (startle him when he's sleeping and he'll make the strangest sounds). Like most cats, he slept most of the time, and he also liked sleeping on my bed with me every night. When he'd finally made it up on the bed (he was very fat, remember), he always rubbed his head against the lamp I have next to my bed and against the wall -- of course, making huge amounts of noise.

And Beowulf snored. Really loud.

When I was living in Saratoga with my family, Beowulf managed to get himself caught up about 9 m (30 ft) in a tree -- and of course, on a small sprout of branches, when there were no other branches in sight. (We don't know how he got up there. One theory, supported by circumstantial evidence, is that he was chased up the tree by a dog.) Don't listen to Garfield or Superman -- the fire department won't help you get a cat out of a tree. So my family and I had to throw a long rope (how we found one I can't remember -- we never had rope handy) over the tuft of branches, with one end attached to half of a kitty carrier with some food and water in it. We winch it up to him, and what does he do? Believe it or not, he gets right in. Mama didn't raise no dummies, and we reel him down to safety. Of course, the branch breaks as we're pulling him down, and he lands on my brother. No injuries on either side.

By Thursday, 1999 October 14, Beowulf had a noticeable bump on his cheek, below his left eye. The veterinarian withdrew some fluid and discovered that it was an abscess, so Beowulf spent the night in his care. It turns out that the abscess had affected one of his canines, which had to be removed. Plus Beowulf got a teeth cleaning while he was there.

The bloodwork involved during the visit, however, showed that Beowulf had an elevated blood sugar level. Further investigation revealed that he has diabetes, and has probably had it for a long time. Yep, every morning, I had to give him an insulin injection. Beowulf hardly noticed that he's being stuck, and seems a little perkier than usual. By 2000 February, Beowulf needed a small booster insulin shot at night, and had become totally used to being given injections; they didn't bother him at all.

Unfortunately, unlike human diabetics who have access to sophisticated testing equipment, it's very difficult to properly monitor the blood sugar level of cats, which can go up and down not only as a course of their daily meals (or lack thereof) but also due to internal changes (in some diabetics, the pancreas beta cells which generate insulin sometimes spontaneously kick in. This means that Beowulf had several hypoglycemic (blood sugar too low) episodes and had to be rushed to the hospital, despite neither his food intake nor his insulin dosage changing. Each successive episode was clearly taking its toll, as it took him longer and longer to recover.

Beowulf finally went into an unrecoverable catatonic state early on 2002 November 22, probably due to another hypoglycemic episode. He suffered severe brain damage and would never recover, so he was mercifully put to sleep around 9 am Pacific time; his brain was already dead, but his body didn't know it. Beowulf lived a very happy and very long life, given his medical conditions. He will be missed.

About Loki

On Monday, 1998 October 12 I brought Loki (pronounced LOH-kee) into my house. This was one month and one day after Ebi died, and I was confident that I was ready to accept a new kitten. Beowulf was walking around like he owned the place, anyway.

Loki was a white golden-point Siamese cat with tan-orange ears, nose, and tail. He was named after the Norse god of mischief.

Loki was supposedly suffering from a "cold" (i.e., an upper respiratory infection, or URI) when I got him from the adoption agency (which I will be kind and not mention by name). I was told he had gone through full treatment (which turns out to not be the case since he was still suffering from symptoms), and that he would be fine soon. Indeed, as the week progressed, Loki showed clear signs of improvement.

On Saturday, October 17, Loki clearly had taken a turn for the worse, and was very lethargic. I took him to an emergency pet hospital, where he was put into immediate care and had several close calls. The emergency doctors suspected feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and Loki improved to the point where he could be transferred to a veterinary clinic. On the morning of Monday, October 19, he was transferred to Quito Veterinary Hospital (an institution I am very fond of), and unfortunately gave up his fight around noon. Sadly, it was only one week after I had first seen him.

Further investigation (which, while gruesome, was essential because I had Beowulf to worry about) pointed even more strongly toward FIP, although it is not certain (unfortunately FIP is a disease which is difficult to diagnose with absolute certainty); chances are something like 90% that it was FIP. FIP is a very unpleasant disease which is rather contagious, tends to attack when the immune system is undeveloped (such as in kittens) is occupied (when the cat is already very sick) or compromised (such as a cat with feline AIDS). When an FIP-infected cat starts gets sick, there is nothing that can be done; there is no cure, and usually the cat's last days are very unpleasant. Fortunately for Beowulf's sake, a strong, healthy, adult cat is unlikely to contract FIP (which is actually very common in the environment, particularly for outdoor cats or cats in groups).

Loki was presumably exposed to FIP at the adoption agency from which I got him, or perhaps before they got him (which by the nature of the disease means that the adoption agency might have known he was sick, but not that sick), and unfortunately by the time I got him was beyond hope.

As a footnote, on Sunday, October 25, Beowulf started showing similar signs of illness that Loki had shown. Needless to say, this was devastating to me, as all outward appearances suggested that Beowulf had contracted Loki's FIP: this was the nightmare scenario. Coming to terms with his possible imminent death, a visit to the veterinarian (we started the examination with me making it clear that I don't want him to suffer) revealed that he was merely suffering from the URI -- the upper respiratory infection -- which were the original outward symptoms Loki had. Beowulf was put on antibiotics and recovered fully in a few days.

Before I got the kitten, I asked the CatCam viewing audience for a list of names from which to choose the new kitten's name. In all, there were 205 unique suggestions. Here they are (numbers in parentheses indicate how many times a particular name was suggested):

Adolf, Akimbo, Aldan, Alex, Amanda, Amelia (2), Amon-Ra, Amy, Angelika, Anubis, Aruca, Asari, Asia, Astrid, Atlas, Barry Cooda, Bast, Bastet, Bean, Bear, Beelzebubba, Billy Bob, Black, Blackwater, Blake, Brindle, Bubba-Louise, Callie, Cameron, Casey, Cassady, Celeste, Chester, Chicxulub, Chub, Chucky, Cleopatra (2), Cloe, Coco, Conchobar, Cooly, Cosette, Cosmo, Coyote, Crook, Cu Chulain, Dammit, Darcy, Dean, Dehli, Desdemona, Dezeray, Doug, Ducat, Ebi Furia, Ebi II, Ebita, Elvira, Erik, Esperanza, Esther, Ethan Allen, Fangtang, Fitzhugh, Flo, Fluffer McKitty, Fozy, Fraidy, Freidrich, Freya, Furrball, Gavin, Gilgamesh (2), Gilly, Grendel (6), Halston, Hannah, Hercules, Hrothgar (2), Ipo, Isis, Jackanapes, Jaco, Jasmine (2), Jazz, Jelli, Jorge, Juxtaposition, Kali, Kani, Kato, Keesa, Kelly, Kiki (2), Kingkong, Koshka, Lassie, Laura, Lemieux, Leo, Loki (3), Louie, Lucifer, Luna, Maggie, Margo, Mariska, Marteena, Max, Maxine, Meelie, Mennoly, Meowaloha, Meowderpuff, Micerino, Michael, Miko, Moki, Monet, Mordecai, Mufasa, Nadia, Napolean, Nefertiti, Neon, Nikita, Nina, Octavian, Odyssey, Omni, Omri, Orlane, Osiris, Paco, Panthea, Patches, Patchouli, Pea-Pod, Percival, Petey, Pixel, Pleione, Poppy, Priscilla, Prophet, Raja, Rapscallion, Rocky, Roman, Roscoe, Rover, Sammy, Samoyed, Sandy, Sarah, Scallops, Scooter, Scrote, Sebastian (2), Shaco, Shadrack, Shak, Sheeba, Shiva, Sirabi, Smidgen, Smitty, Socks, Sonia, Sonja, Spanky, Spot, Spurty, Steel, Strider, Sy Snoodles, Taco, Tallon, Tashina, Tekeela, Teufelschen, Theodore, Thor, Thrud the Barbarian, Tia, Tidy, Tomato, Topaz, Trouble, Truman, U.F.O., Unagi, Velvet, Vermithrax, Vinci, Vishnu, Wallydrag, Wasabi, Winthrop, Wolfgang, Xander, Xena, Yeti, Yoda, and Zola.
About Ebi

Ebi (pronounced EH-bee) was named after the Japanese word for shrimp; when we first got him, he was the runt of the litter. We have a suspicion that we got him when he was a little too young; for several weeks he tried to, er, get milk from Beowulf. Pretty embarrassing, especially when, uh, he kind of missed the nipples.

Ebi was the troublemaker of the two, though he was still a really good cat. He'd meow when he was bored, he'd pick fights with Beowulf (but when Beowulf got tired of it, Ebi lost), and he, uh, occasionally got caught trying to, uh, get close to Beowulf. (He was neutered just like Beowulf, so it's not like anything can happen -- eventually he gets bored and finds something else to do; Beowulf was completely unaware anything sinister is happening the whole time.)

But overall, he was a really sweet cat. Shortly after we got him neutered, he was very jittery and spastic. He had mellowed out a lot since then, but he'd still jump when there's a loud noise -- especially if you catch him deep in sleep (usually when he's resting his eyes are closed but he's aware of what's going on around him) -- Beowulf would hardly blink.

Ebi also served as a (bad) alarm clock; if I would sleep too late, in the late morning, he'd start meowing and hop up on the bed to wake me up.

At this same cursed house in Saratoga (with a blind corner that people would race around), Ebi got run over by a car, while I was leaving the house to head to school. He was missing all day, and when he came home, his front paw was big and flat like it had been hit with a cartoon mallet. We brought him to the vet, and it turned out no bones were broken and he had no other injuries, which we all found hard to believe but were relieved. So he ended up with a shaved paw, a bandage, and an attitude. And we put forth a new ruling: they're housecats now.

Unfortunately, Ebi died in his sleep on 1998 September 11. He just peacefully went to sleep and didn't wake up. He will be missed.

About the author I'm a programmer and thus I'm generally a lazy person. For more information, check out my about the author page on my homepage.
About these pages

These Web pages were created with emacs and the generic Unix macroprocessor m4.

Images and logos were created with Adobe Illustrator 7.0 and a little bit of Adobe Photoshop 4.0. The camera is a Logitech Color QuickCam. The still pictures were taken with a Sony Digital Still Camera DSC-F1. The font used in the logos and icons in Sho Roman.

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