1

Example:

The cat was lying on a cat bed, barely visible under the blankets, an IV wrapped around one of her front legs. Judging by the triangular shape of her head, her black nose ears and ears, she seemed to be a Siamese. Not that I was an expert at identifying cats; I only recognized this kind because one of them clawed into my neck when I was a child. It hurt like hell. And the cat got stuck so firmly Mom had to call the firefighters so they could come and pull it away with a crowbar. Seems like I wasn't very popular with animals at the time.

We stared at the Siamese in silence for a while. The dogs, cats, and rabbits in the cages also contributed to this silence, making the place feel more like an animal morgue than an animal hospital. The only sound was the steady beeping of the cat's heart monitor.

"So," I said, stroking the cat's paw, "did you guys find out the problem?"

Takeshi sat at the examination table behind him. "We tested for infection, kidney failure, stomach ulcer, intestinal cancer—the common diseases that'd make a cat stop eating. We found nothing."

"Maybe its an, uh, psychological issue?"

"Psychological issue?" Takeshi repeated, scratching the back of his hood. "Well, the owner of the Siamese moved into a new apartment recently."

"What's that have to do with anything?"

I did this to have variation. I didn't want to repeat the Siamese or cat too much. Is this alternation annoying? Should I just stick with one of the words?

5

What you're talking about are epithets, and depending on who you talk to, they are either a necessary tool of writing or the bane of existence.

When overdone, epithets can make a simple conversation between two people feel like an orgy. If Bob, Frank, the blond, the redhead, the plumber, and the lawyer are all referred to in the same scene, it's hard to keep things straight. There's nothing wrong with repeating names when clarity is required. In your case, however, there are places where it's unambiguous who you're discussing, so you don't necessarily need references at all. Consider this:

The cat was barely visible under the blankets she was wrapped in, an IV line taped to one of her front legs. Judging by the triangular shape of her head and her black nose ears and ears, she seemed to be a Siamese. Not that I was an expert at identifying cats; I only recognized this kind because one of them clawed into my neck when I was a child. It hurt like hell. And it had dug in so firmly that Mom had to call the firefighters so they could come and pull it away with a crowbar. Seems like I wasn't very popular with animals at the time.

We stared at the poor thing in silence for a while. The dogs, cats, and rabbits in the other cages were strangely quiet as well, making the place feel more like an animal morgue than an animal hospital. The only sound was the steady beeping of the heart monitor.

"So," I said, stroking the cat's paw, "did you guys find out the problem?"

Takeshi sat at the examination table behind him. "We tested for infection, kidney failure, stomach ulcer, intestinal cancer—the common diseases that'd make a cat stop eating. We found nothing."

"Maybe it's a, uh, psychological issue?"

"Psychological issue?" Takeshi repeated, scratching the back of his hood. "Well, her owner moved into a new apartment recently."

"What's that have to do with anything?"

2

While it's a good idea to vary your descriptions occasionally for variety, in this instance, Siamese is not just a way to refer to the cat, but a way to differentiate this cat from other cats.

If the scene were in someone's living room, then Siamese would help you identify that cat as opposed to the tabby, tuxedo, and tortie cats also lying on the couch.

Here, you're pretty much talking about one cat, so I would treat "cat" more like "plumber" or "lawyer" in Roger's excellent answer, and use the cat's name as the variable instead.

The only place I would use it in your example is here:

"So," I said, stroking Sheba's paw, "did you guys find out the problem?"

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