Wednesday, February 18, 2009

an unlikely turn of events

They were not exactly fast friends. Already five when she was first introduced into his home, Max’s first response was barely short of indifference. To him, she was basically another, albeit hairless, lap cat. But then she started moving. And life for poor Max has never been quite the same.

“Relax, Max,” we have gently intoned ever since. But despite the fact cats sleep twenty-two hours out of a day, Max is not exactly a relaxed creature. When our daughter became mobile, it finally sent him over the edge into full-fledged neurosis. A living, breathing, moving stuffed animal is intensely interesting to an eighteen-month old. And our eighteen-month old was already intense to begin with.

So began Max’s love/hate relationship with my daughter. My daughter loved him dearly, he hated her with a terrified passion. The more she tried to win him over, the more skittish and slinky he became. She’d corner him, carry him, croon over him, and he, in turn, would cower and crawl away, crying for help. To his credit, he was incredibly patient—only turning his canines on her once, maybe twice, when she forgot to give heed to the twitching tail and pinned-back ears. But those were important lessons to learn, and I let her learn them on her own.

They lived in this manner of approach-avoidance for a good seven or eight years with very little changing. But then, one fall, his littermate, Ruthie, became ill and died, and life changed dramatically once again.

An affectionate cat to begin with, Max suddenly became downright needy. It wasn’t enough to sit contentedly on your lap. Oh, no. You had to be petting the kitty. And you couldn’t just gently stroke the kitty’s soft, vibrating back. No way. You had to rub the kitty’s nose. Again. And again. And again… And if you didn’t pet the kitty, over and over, the kitty would paw at you and nip at you until you either gave in or banished him permanently from the room. Which, of course, was only possible if you were in a room with a door.

This has been life with Max for the last three years. Scared to death of small hands and feet with big, loud voices yet desperate for the attention of anyone who will give it to him, something had to change. And slowly, without our noticing it, something did.

Sometime within the last year, either the cat changed, or the daughter changed, or both. Whatever the equation, I do not know who this cat is. The-cat-formerly-known-as-Max now allows my daughter to cart him all over creation, without so much as a sigh. He has even been known to follow her—the same cat that scampered away if she got within a ten-foot radius is now following the feet that threatened to trample him. He begged last night, for the second night in a row, to be let into her room to sleep with her. Begged. He sits with her—SITS WITH HER—completely still, for hours on end as she reads, curled up in her lap in a ball. ONLY WITH HER.

How is this possible? How can it be that the child who couldn’t be still enough to lure the cat who couldn’t stand movement is now the one that the cat who won’t lay still for anyone lays quietly upon? Huh??? Who is this child? And who is this cat?


I.I. said...
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I.I. said...

Seems like the cat has done a great job training your daughter. They do that -- it's all part of their preparations for the coming feline uprising. -- Alan