Friday, September 25, 2009
Like the other members of my family, Miss Maple appears here, when she does, under a pseudonym. I've owned her since she was eight weeks old, and she turned thirteen this month. I originally bought her in part to keep Jerome company after my divorce took me down to one cat in grad school.
The black coat is no accident: My particular circumstances practically screamed for it, as the superstitious associations with her fur color went quite well with the rough patch I was going through as well as the address of my new apartment, which included the number "13." Twice. (If only I could have gotten a "666" prefix for my phone number at the same time! Alas, that had to wait...)
So, knowing that female cats don't usually care to be picked up, but not knowing that it's difficult to sex kittens, I set out one weekend to purchase a black male kitten. A newspaper ad sent me about twenty minutes north of town to a trailer where someone was breeding cats. She said over the phone that she had several black kittens, so I went there to take my pick.
There was no doubt which one I would take home once I picked her up. She was much more lively than the others and she immediately looked straight into my eyes and rubbed noses with me. The breeder assured me she was male (Hah!) and even gave me a discount. (I would learn on a subsequent visit to the vet for a completely unrelated reason that "he" was not only a "she," but was also in heat.)
The reason for the discount became evident almost as soon as I turned in to my driveway at home. We'll just say that Miss Maple was a little bit messy for a while. Not being at home much, I had to confine her to the bathroom for a couple of months until she grew out of her problem. I suspect that that period, and always being in the shadow of Jerome's attention-grabbing, larger-than-life personality eventually caused her to become less sociable than she might otherwise have been.
Back in Houston, she'd often sulk in a corner by herself and would immediately leave if someone was petting her and Jerome came into the area -- which he always would if there was attention to be had. I hated that, and I would always remember a picture I had of her as a kitten, standing on my shoulder. I knew she liked attention, but, apparently, she wanted all of it or none.
And so it was that I decided that after Jerome, Miss Maple would have her day in the sun. There would be no second cat to steal attention from her. And now that she's the only cat, her old friendliness is starting to come out more. She has always been a sweet cat, but now she shows up for petting sessions without necessarily having to be coaxed. She's a little more vocal now, too. She almost never comes when called, but she will usually "answer" with a characteristic twist of the head. Best of all, she seems to have eased her old "boycott" on rubbing noses with me.
In addition to her coming out of her shell, she has also taken up a new habit: Sleeping on my shoes. The above shot (click to enlarge) was no fluke and took no particular planning or skill. She's always nestling herself on my shoes. In fact, that's where she usually is these days when I'm at my desk writing.
And that's a really good thing: This writer's gotta have a cat!
PS: This old Christmas shot of Miss Maple is too good to pass up.