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Happy Birthday, Your Lordship

He had his birthday last week, although the celebration was on the small side. Born on St. Patrick’s Day, Finian O’Brien, a “fine broth of a lad,” turned 4. As they say in Killarney, “‘Twas a grand occasion.”

Now you would expect a 4-year-old’s birthday to be celebrated with a bunch of balloons, a few games with a gang of other 4-year-olds, topped off by ice cream and cake. Plenty of loud hijinks. Fuggedaboudit. Finian’s not very social.

Instead, he enjoyed his private party with a tuna and sole classic. One of Fancy Feast’s best sellers. Finian is our Maine Coon cat, and yes, he is very spoiled. I followed up this gourmet dinner with a teaspoon of vanilla ice cream – no cake – and he lapped it up with great satisfaction…two meows.

His actual birthday present was small: a little package of three velvety mice. No, not real ones, but almost better from his perspective. They have tummy pockets that close with Velcro … after you fill them with catnip. Ahhhh – now that’s a present, Mom.

Most cats purr when contented. In four years, I have never heard this lovely beast purr. I don’t think he’s unappreciative, I just don’t think Finian was issued a purr button at birth. Either that, or he has yet to be truly pleased.

Our former feline, Ollie, was approximately 93.4% Maine Coon. I was captivated by his good looks and his endearing personality. He possessed the wide, high-plumed tail, the lynx ears, the large snowshoe paws filled with fur. When we lost Ollie after 17 joy-filled years, I was devastated. He was truly irreplaceable. But time went by – lonely lap time – and I thought, if Ollie was a Mostly Maine Coon, think how grand a real one would be. Think again.

He arrived as the lightest face in a litter of five boys at the breeder’s farm. Since Maine Coon kitties are highly sought after, about the only place to acquire one is from a breeder.

I watched the breeder’s daily posted photos or videos after their arrival. Before my eyes, they grew from a squirmy, closed-eyed crew to be adorably bright and active.

Somehow, the breeder grabbed their attention lined up on a bench looking up at his camera – four of them. Finian was always the one by himself – either off to the side or behind the other four. If the pictures were of a cat tree with a kitty on each level, Finian stood on the table nearby. I was so enchanted with his images, I never wondered why he was always apart. He’s still a loner.

I had a different set of expectations of this little creature. I did think he would be a buster – 15 to 18 pounds, not unusual for Maine Coons. He topped off at just under 12 pounds. I also thought he would be super playful and affectionate – typical of the breed. Wrong again. He will tolerate attempts to engage him with a toy, but only occasionally. Affection? Nada.

He has favorite perches all over the house, but none of them is a lap. Yes, we live in Finian’s kingdom. We play by his rules. Remember, dogs have masters, but cats have staff. That old saying has never been truer than in our house…I mean in Finian’s castle. We’re the serfs.

Finian’s breakfast falls automatically to Dear Richard, the earlier riser. Afterwards, Fin succumbs to brushing – a must with these long-haired beasts. It has literally taken all his years to learn to tolerate this daily ritual. Grooming is immediately followed by exactly nine snack treats. He timidly approaches each tiny square with a suspicious sniff, a look up at me, then a consuming lick. Repeat. Repeat. Each one tentative, uncertain. I wonder If this shy little guy will ever become confident.

And yet, despite his lack of cuddles, nuzzles, and purring, I do love him. His solitude harbors a tolerant, sweet nature. He meets everyone at the door, sniffs their credibility, and once satisfied, leaves for a nap station. He’s not the least bit destructive, in fact he’s very respectful. He’s so careful that in four years he has broken nothing.

Between long naps, he spends hours at the window, spellbound by birds and squirrels. But come 5:50 PM, he plunks himself in front of us, patiently sitting until the clock chimes 6. Then he heads to the laundry room, ahem, his throne room, for dinner. He expects to be followed by the dinner serf.

I was bemoaning his lack of tenderness to a visitor, and she exclaimed, “When you’re that beautiful, you don’t have to be nice. You can just be.” I hadn’t thought of it that way.

Yup, I’ll take it. I’ll wait for his little crumbs of affection because he is so special. Note to self: “Buy more catnip – the Lord of the Manor should be well pleased.

Marcy O’Brien writes from her home in Warren, PA. She can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.

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