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Kitten Gnomics

Why does a kitten chase its tail?

To get to the other side.

This makes as much sense as any other answer, I’ve decided. Of course, it may be because I’m still dizzy  from watching our new 8-week-old kitten doing 30 rpm as she seeks in vain to catch that furry snake that has been following her for days.

As adversaries, they are well matched. The wily snake manages to stay tantalizingly close, yet always slips out of Gabby’s claws. But Gabby is nothing if not persistent. So, they while away the hours, locked in combat, rolling and tumbling across the floor until they both call time out and take a nap. The snake, of course, cheats during these breaks. While Gabby dreams of cheese puffs and butterflies, or whatever it is kittens dream about, the snake is rarely still. It uses this time to work on its moves, coiling and snapping like a restless whip. No wonder Gabby can’t keep up with it.

To her credit, Gabby also works out, practicing her moves on anything snake-like. She trains tirelessly with the jump rope. Unfortunately, she also seems to draw no distinction between cords of flesh and cords of electricity and thus the tangled webs of  electric wire under every desk exert a hypnotic attraction on her peanut-sized brain. And, not content to simply dive into the mess and get herself hopelessly ensnared, she insists on chewing on the wires. This could be a problem.

So far, our relentless vigilance and crafty tactics have kept her from frying the computer wires, or herself. We hope it’s a phase she’ll outgrow. Yet, the whole tail-chasing phenomenon doesn’t seem to be limited to kittens. Plenty of humans I’ve known, self included, waste many an hour in the brainless pursuit of goals that, really, might be better left on the theoretical shelf. I vividly recall as a child once desiring a turquoise blue four-foot-tall plush bear. The rationale for this desire escapes me now. I seem to recall that I actually saved up my little all and purchased the thing. Where it is now I couldn’t tell you. Probably moldering at the bottom of some landfill. The passion which led me to acquire it died as mysteriously as it began.

No doubt, all kittens must one day experience a similar rude awakening when, at long last, having fought the good fight and prevailed, they realize suddenly that a mouthful of fur isn’t really all that much of a treat.

I suppose we all learn this in some way or another as we go through life. We chase our mad desires across six lanes of deadly traffic and, if we’re lucky, emerge on the other side dazed and confused, wondering whatever were we thinking. And yet, perhaps we aren’t so different from our tail-chasing kittens. After all, it’s better to have loved and crossed, than never to have loved at all.

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