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Kittening

Kittening
Gosta Adrian-Nilsson: Figurer I Trappa (1923)
"I suppose that their feral beginnings serve them well."

Two years ago this week, Max came to live with us. Max was at the time a six month old feral kitten who had been captured, separated from his family, neutered, nurtured through a few common feral diseases, and held in a cage until we arrived to liberate him. He was mildly appreciative, not openly hostile, but very wary. I learned later from the shelter that the man who had captured Max resembled me, so I probably looked like the enemy to him. I set about disconfirming his initial impression of me. He became curious.

A few weeks later, we brought Max's sister Molly home from the same shelter.
She'd been sicker and had needed a few weeks longer to recover from her feral beginnings. She took a hunk out of my hand during the initial interview. I still found her adorable, though she was not at first in any way touchable. She carried deeper grudges than her brother and deeper suspicions, too. I found it difficult to disconfirm her suspicions from a distance. I contented myself with feeding her and gazing at her from across a room. Any closer contact and she'd disappear into the basement or under the BIG bed. She'd sometimes curl up next to Max, but she generally refused all contact with any other being, though The GrandOtter, who was living with us during that time, occasionally managed to stroke her back without getting bitten.

Two years into the arrangement, though, their world looks different. We have relocated into a home in seemingly perpetual renovation, a situation that Molly finds terribly upsetting. She's become the supervisor, overseeing every change and skeptical of their necessity. She generally prefers the way it was and never will be again. She still spends most of her days alone. I understand from our neighbor Larry that she spends most of every day in his back yard, eying his chickens and hunting mice in his greenhouse. He complained that Molly seemed to have chased away what he and his wife had considered to be their cat, though they had just put food out for him and never let him inside. Molly does have a way of dominating situations. I'm confident that if Molly was hanging out, no other cat, with the occasional exception of Max, would be long tolerated.

Max has become the unquestioned master of this home. He spends most of his days sleeping, and sleeping wherever he chooses. He watches as our workmen do their business and eventually makes some sort of skittish peace with them. He's clearly my cat. When I rise in the morning, he follows me to wherever I sit before plopping down in my lap for an extended pet. He's my morning inspiration and companion. He also usually crawls into bed with me to help me fall asleep at night, he being an obvious master of the technique.

I swore when we acquired these two people—for cats are people, my friend—that I would make it my business to turn them into kittens. I had not really expected them to beat me to it. Even Molly, whom I refer to as Molybdenum because she's such a tough case, consents to be petted and only occasionally extracts a pound of flesh for the privilege. Both appear as if by magic as their supper hour arrives, Molly for her kitty treat appetizer and Max for a straight shot of the wet stuff, freshly smashed. After, they'll leisurely bathe themselves, faintly purring, the very sole of self satisfaction. Later, they'll disappear out into the night and usually return before we head up for bed. When they're out all night, I suppose that their feral beginnings serve them well. In the morning, they'll return with fresh mouse on their breath and crash in a corner of the basement until early afternoon.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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