Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Waiting for Wendy

By this time tomorrow, I will be owned by a longhaired, torbie-and-white feral kitten, whom we plan to call Wendy, short for Wendelina Pantherina. (The name is a variation on a name I found mentioned in Harry Potter and the name of a poisonous mushroom, Amanita pantherina, which was too cute to be wasted on a fatal fungus.) Like T.S. Eliot, I believe that every cat needs to receive both a unique name and a name that won't embarrass anyone in public.

I am now on a mission to borrow a wire crate, so Wendy can hang out with us instead of disappearing to hide in some secret corner, making an occasional skittish appearance at the food bowl around 3 am. Some feral indoor cats live like this their whole lives; their owners seldom see them. We have other plans for Wendy; we hope she'll develop into a debutante, presiding over social gatherings, just like Eliza Doolittle. I plan to teach her to enjoy people and Persians, petting and cat massages, and all kinds of good food. I also need to help her learn to purr and to play with toys.

How the heck do humans teach kittens to act like kittens? I've been reading a lot of instructions online. Some people withhold food and use it to entice the kitten closer and closer, into their laps. Nah. My theory is that I'll just have to become a kitten myself. I spent two years in a theater school and did every stupid acting exercise there is. I have no dignity; I'll do whatever it takes, short of sampling her kitten chow or using the litter box.

If all goes well, in coming months she'll develop into a happy lap cat, or at least a bed cat, keeping us warm at night. I intend to talk to her all the time, mainly on educational subjects and her own wonderful self. If nothing else, this cat will have high self esteem. With any luck, she'll start talking back, as our other cats do.

Soon, no doubt, as she moves into adolescence, I will need to start reciting from my unpublished collection of sermons for cats, entitled Nice Pussies Don't! While I love kittens, I love grown cats even more, especially those who have complex, sociable personalities, which I believe come from being told repeatedly, in hundreds of different ways, how fabulous they are.

I presented our scheme to our vet today. After just three weeks of mourning Bunnelina, I expected the doctor to tell me, sensibly, that it's still too soon for us to bond with a new cat. (I know she was appalled when another client showed up with a tiny kitten just 6 weeks after her cat died of lymphoma, claiming that her late cat was the "spirit guide" that sent her to the kitten.)

But our vet thinks Wendy is a good idea. She thinks a feral baby, who isn't aggressive but is just scared, might turn into an easy, unthreatening companion for our teenaged cats. She says the kitten probably won't be as crazy-playful as regular kittens (no doubt because my kitten-acting skills won't be up to snuff). She also understands that I have too much time on my hands right now, and I need a cat-project to take my mind off Bunny. I will always miss Bunny, so I just have to get used to it. Might as well make myself useful.

It's nice to feel hopeful for a change. Wendy is a little more than 10 weeks old, so socializing her will be much more of a challenge than if she were a 5-week-old baby. According to one article I read, every day after 8 weeks makes the socializing process more difficult. But Wendy seems to have a good character — no biting, hissing, scratching, or giving dirty looks. That's more than could probably be said about myself at her age. So here's to a new, fur-filled beginning.

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