Isabelle Pinson: The Fly Catcher (1808)
"We're learning that Molly's actually in charge …"

Molly The Kitten arrived here a year ago, just over six months old, after we'd successfully shanghaied her from the cat shelter. I had taken responsibility for interviewing her to determine suitability. We knew she was Max's sister, and we would have taken her when we'd nabbed Max a few weeks before, except she was still recovering from several diseases common to ferals, so we'd decided to wait until she'd recovered. They'd given her the humiliating name Parfait, I suppose because her coat features swirls of contrasting color. She was not then anybody's cuddly sort of kitty. She cowered in the corner of her cage and flew into a shredding rage when I tried to scratch her head. I finally managed to pick her up and sort of sit her on my lap by wrapping her in a towel, fresh gouges weeping blood from my offending hand. She glowered in the absolute antithesis of appreciation. She seemed like she might eventually tame just fine, though that sense might have been my arrogance talking. She came home with us and began what would become a year-long keep away game. She's still only somewhat tame.

In the last week, she's finally consenting to allowing me to touch her without me first bribing her with treats.
Late last summer, she'd finally concluded that she could trust me, but only while I fed her treats. This first dabble into Domesticity seemed to satisfy her, as evidenced by her deep, rumbling purring, as well as me, but she'd only extend sociability while the treats held out. Over subsequent weeks, she seemed to slowly lose her absolute defensiveness, sometimes consenting to a quick stroke, but sometimes replying with one of her signature swipes, sometimes accompanied by a bite, and these always drew blood. I persisted, and her resistance slowly receded until, over the last week, she has almost never rejected or punished my advances. Almost never. Last night, she even consented to a short period of ecstatic petting on the bed, but only for a few minutes, with strokes limited to her head, back, and neck.

Her brother Max almost qualifies as a Rag Doll cat. When he curls up, he defends no limits, and often roils in apparent ecstasy when I pet him. He accepts deep tissue massage as well as light tail pulls with equal equanimity. He's wide-open Domesticity incarnate. His sister watches these displays, but stays securely atop the cat tower, of which she's the clear superior, displacing Max whenever he attempts to take over the top tier. She's still mostly in the Watching From A Distance stage of Domesticity. One day, though probably not today or tomorrow, I figure that she'll eventually flop over to the other side and decide that maybe servility might not be the end of her. Some animals seem to inherit a sense of dependence upon people, but Molly must have been absent the day those genes were distributed to the students. She was born free and taught how to be by a mother who had reportedly never known Domesticity. Her values were set early and she might not ever outgrow her inbred suspicion of most everything human, including her under-appreciated champion, me.

Molly's her own person, and I hope Domesticity never blunts that orientation. She owns every room she enters. She plays lengthy catnip mouse games, famously strolling around with her favorite held tightly in her mouth, looking every bit like a grinning clown. I've been threatening to change her name to Lunch, because she seems unquenchably interested in eating. She even maintains a schedule, reminding me with pitiful howling should I fail to serve her supper on time. If Max tarries to the table, she'll eat his portion, too, though Max rarely notices. She prefers a few treats for dessert, however much she's just eaten, and submits to some appreciative petting then. She's perhaps a quarter tame after a year's exposure to our continuing accommodation, though she never fails to show up when I'm cleaning her litter box. She watches, scrutinizing my work, then strolls over to more closely inspect my result once I've finished, often leaving an appreciative deposit as if to re-assert her dominion. We're learning that Molly's actually in charge, though The Muse and I have not yet achieved her advanced level of Domesticity.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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