Sasha the cat lived with us five years.  Five years of allergy hell for me.  Five years of furry heaven for my wife.  Sasha seemed thimble-sized when she arrived.  She was billed as hypoallergenic.  Not so.  Even when she was teeny, she had me wheezing.

It was maybe a year before we realized that Sasha thought she was a squirrel.  The neighbors had dogs, so she wasn’t too inclined to go exploring much past our little cement back yard, where she might have met others of her kind.  So, watching out the windows, she saw squirrels.  Wandering about the back yard, she saw squirrels.  And, as noted in the previous entry, it was not infrequent that she happened upon squirrels inside the house.  Squirrels were everywhere.  And so on occasions, Sasha would be seen gamboling back and forth across horizontal branches in the front or back yard, as she’d watched the squirrels do.

We noticed that the squirrels were growing familiar with Sasha.  I’d interpreted Sasha’s hiding and then pouncing on the squirrels as evidence of predatory behavior.  Yet, the squirrels always got away.  Slowly, I realized she was playing.  The squirrels understood.  Eventually, Sasha would sit and watch the squirrels.  The squirrels would come right up to her, looking for morsels.  Everyone was relaxed.

The squirrels were way too intimate with the insides of our row house.  One squirrel, Other Mama, would come in a third story window, go down two flights of stairs, wiggle underneath the dining room door and wander into the kitchen to look for treats.  One morning, I walked into the kitchen to see Sasha in one of her customary positions, sitting by the refrigerator, waiting for it to open.  Patiently sitting next to her was Other Mama.

Humans have tamed each other over millions of years by selecting neoteny as a desired feature in a mate.  Humans have tamed dogs by selecting those that effectively evidenced puppy behavior as adults.  It seemed that Sasha was exhibiting neotenous behavior as she played with squirrels that her contemporaries would prefer to slay.  Still, Sasha was very selective about whom she would play with.  With the squirrels, evidently she kept her nails in when pouncing.  With me, nails were always out.  It didn’t feel like she was playing when I observed long, red streaks upon my forearms.

Sasha now visits when her new human goes on a vacation.  It takes five seconds for her to feel at home.  Departing from her carrying case, rubbing against Marcia, scratching me, she goes to the window to see which of her buddies are close by.


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