brian_clareyIt took George the Cat a few days of slinking around corners and careful watching of the other cats before he became acclimated to life in our house.

He is the seventh cat to have taken up residence in our space — the eighth, if you count the soft gray kitten that didn’t survive the first few hours of life after being born underneath my daughter’s bed — and one of the four who remain.

The other three largely ignored George in those first few days, snubbed his nose-forward, feline advances in what seemed to me like an act of hazing, or mockery. After we fully integrated them, George fought with his housemates for simple things like space in the food line and time in the litter box. But he had youth and pluck on his side, if not size — two of our cats are as big as basset hounds — and eventually established for himself these basic rights. And in doing so, I believe, he learned a few things about himself.

I’m pretty sure George didn’t realize he was a cat until he came to us. He spent his first few months of life with another family as an “only,” disallowed from venturing outdoors where he might come upon another of his species. And cats don’t look at themselves in the mirror — or, at least, they don’t fully understand what they’re seeing when they do.

For those first few days, and for weeks afterwards, George studied the herd. He noted the spots on the couch and bed, the tight corners where they lazed in the afternoons and began setting himself there. He chose Tony — an apathetic cat the size of a small bear who’s adopted a second family around the block to supplement his diet — as a role model, and for the last couple months has taken to following him around, grooming him, flopping next to him on the bed as the evenings grow long. Sometimes he’ll hide around a corner and mount a sneak attack against his mentor, which Tony will fend off with nothing more than a sneer and a slightly raised paw.

Sometimes he’ll hide around a corner and mount a sneak attack against his mentor.

But George has earned a place for himself, at least with the humans in the house. He’s one of those cats who likes to be held over the shoulder like a baby, and he’ll nuzzle his cold little nose against your neck while he purrs. Sometimes, I swear to god, he’ll throw both paws around you like a hug. It’s absolutely irresistible.

Tony, affectionate though he may be, would never go for that kind of crap. But then, he’s made a point of proving to us that he’s perfectly capable of finding his own food, that he doesn’t need us. While George — still, to his mewling dismay, a housecat — is still figuring it all out.

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