When we took the cat to the vet earlier this year, we discovered that his estimated date of birth was in April, 1997. So of course, for simplicity's sake if nothing else, we decided he'd share April 23rd with me.
911 is known for his vicious nature. When we first met him, at his old house over on 19th street, the many contractors working next door studiously avoided him. Neighborhood children learned the hard way that not every cat in a sunbeam wants to be petted. Brian and I sported long scratches down our arms for months on end (that's my arm he's mauling in the above photo).
At first I worried, given his Monster Cat reputation, that I'd never come to like 9. When we first moved in, he was almost feral, spending most of his days and all his nights outside in the neighboring yards. I'd sit on the back porch at sunset, and he'd sometimes come and sit next to me. If I was still and quiet, he'd even curl up beside me, his body barely touching mine.
I joked with Brian that it was like parenting a teenager: every show of affection was on 9's terms. If he deigned to sit beside me, I'd better not acknowledge him, lest he hiss and scratch and run away. He'd talk to me when he was hungry, grunting in satisfaction when I put food in his bowl. And he liked to know we were around. As he grew accustomed to our presence, he'd follow us from room to room, not going so far as to hang out with us, but seeking out our company nonetheless. The first time he sat on my lap, I didn't move for hours, for fear of breaking the spell.
He's a mischief maker, a rough-and-tumble puss, the kind of cat that prickles and scratches his way into people's affections. He bites when he's happy, not hard enough to break the skin, just enough to let you know he's there.
Since we moved in with Hope last September, he's formed an uneasy bond with the other animals in the house. They squabble and fight, and Nine chases the dog down the hall sometimes, particularly when Re Dag's been trying to sneak his food. Sometimes Nine disappears for days, and I worry that we did the wrong thing bringing him here, that our prickly solo cat's not suited for communal pet-hood.
But the front window's where truces are made. There's only so much sunbeam, and the pets will go to great lengths to pretend one another aren't there. When I came home today, there were three beasts in the window: Phoenix, Nine, and the dog.
This is unprecedented. I've seen Nine share the space with one other cat before, but never the dog. I guess our little rapscallion is growing up.
Happy birthday kitten. We're so happy you're here.
And by 'we,' I mean Brian and I. The dog ain't signing your birthday card just yet.