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What he is to be he is now becoming

The kitten and I continue on the adventure of exposing him to new things and setting his boundaries. I want him to be an affectionate cat that is open to new experiences, so I handle him often and try to bring new people into his environment. So far he hasn't embarrassed me in front of my guests.

Last week I hosted a small coffee meeting and brought two attendees over afterward to meet him. We stood near each other, and he walked from shoulder to shoulder examining these new people, both of whom have cats at home. Late this week he met two more people, briefly, again happily climbing onto new shoulders.

I hosted writing group in my apartment on Tuesday, and he was extremely charming. He had an advantage: we weren't exactly a tough crowd. We did manage to get work done, although he took almost every opportunity to use his feline wiles on us, usually with great success.

Today he visited the next-door neighbor and the cat that lives there, a 2-year-old female about three times his weight who hissed at him almost continuously. He was appropriately submissive the first few minutes, but then his desire to explore her entire territory took over, and his head popped up and his fur flattened again.

Come to think of it, six of the seven new humans my cat has met in the past ten days have been women in their 30s. He must be developing some strange ideas about what monkeys are like. Or maybe he just assumes that we're bonobos**, sending our most vibrant dignitaries to meet the regal new arrival.

Wait until he meets my friend's great dane. That should be a Kodak moment.

Of course, I am a never-married woman in my mid-30s with a new kitten and a digital camera; almost every minute of the day is a Kodak moment. Or Nikon, as the case may be. I have taken almost 800 pictures of this kitten in less than two weeks, some of them quite good. The cat has gone from squinting at every flash to gazing steadily as I snap, and I imagine that he has become kind enough to refrain from going supernova with cuteness the minute I put the battery in the charger.

The kitten has also gone from having to do chin-ups on the side the tub to being able to peek right over the edge, his back feet planted firmly on the ground. (I'm a sentimentalist, I gave him another chance to fall in, and he did, then popping out, grooming, and returning for a rematch. Every cat is peculiar in its own way.) He is long and lissome now, a sleek torso on spidery legs, his head growing into his ears. He still plays with his tail, but more hours of his days are spent basking or otherwise reclining, elegantly, ideally right in the middle of my work. The kitty fishing pole brings the inner child out again, but even this practice for his most primal -- or essential -- role seems more an opportunity to demonstrate his growing grace, speed, and leaping prowess.

Eleven p.m., prime kitty-crazies time. Crab-walking, banking off every surface, and laps around the apartment and up and down the surfboard are the stuff of my next half hour. I'm ready for sleep myself. If I want any, I'll have to get out the cat dancer and tucker the little monster out.


** Don't read too much into this.

August 2, 2002