Animal House

We’ve long suspected that Maddi might like the cats better than she likes us. The fact that she went out of her way to say her very first word, “cat,” at barely six months, was our first clue, but certainly not our last.

She also has figured out how to call the cats with kissing noises, and has uttered the phrase “Hi, kittycat,” and if she happens to be on the kitchen floor, she’ll go straight for the bag of cat treats and shake it (although she also wants to partake of the kitties’ snacks, so this is really not encouraged). When she’s set down on the floor of her room, more often than not she’ll race on all fours to her little stuffed cat and affectionately butt its head and give its ear a slobbery baby kiss before moving on to her other toys. And while you can forget about her waving hello or ‘bye to humans anymore, she’s always eager to flap an ecstatic hello to any feline friend.

But lately, our little cat fancier has begun to notice other animals, too. First it was birds — for whatever reason, Maddi has taken a liking to her Nana’s attack parrot, Billy. Whenever we pass Billy’s cage and he gives us his usual malevolent once-over and begins chirping unintelligible threats at us, Maddi’s eyes light up at the sight of her feathered fiend. As he hops around on his perch trying to figure out how to fly free and peck our eyes out, Maddi giggles with glee. She has a few stuffed birds in her room, on which she lavishes her usual toothy attentions. When she bites their heads, instead of telling her to be nice to the birdie, it’s difficult not to think, “Good girl! You never know when that skill might come in handy!”

Maddi has recently discovered dogs, as well. The last few visits, she’s followed Nana’s ancient, longsuffering spaniel around the house, even to the exclusion of the cats. She’s also begun gazing intently at the dogs in her books, and about a month ago at the chiropractor’s office, we noticed that Maddi was staring over our heads. Lo and behold, high atop a cabinet was a stuffed husky dog. The very next day, we were off to Toys ‘R’ Us to get her kittie a little canine companion.

The cutest manifestation of our little animal lover’s affection for things furry and feathered is her delight in mice. The week she was born, a public health nurse came out to our house to weigh our new baby, answer questions, and shower us with educational books and pamphlets on everything from colic to vaccinations to sibling rivalry. Along with all the information, they gave Maddi her very first book, courtesy of the Friends of the Library. The soothing cadence of “Busy Little Mouse” soon became the only thing that would soothe our wailing baby absent the presence of food. She still will sit still far longer for this book for any other, save her beloved “Goodnight Moon.”

She got “Goodnight Moon” in September and it quickly became a favorite. It’s not hard to see why, when you watch how intently she focuses on the cow, the bears, the kittens and the little mouse. Two times out of three, when I ask her to pick out her bedtime story, it’s “Goodnight Moon.” And this past week, when we get to the page that reads “Goodnight, little house, and goodnight, mouse,” Maddi has begun leaning over the book, pointing at the mouse excitedly and giving the little rodent a sloppy, open-mouth kiss. Occasionally, after she does this, she will try to catapult herself over the side of the glider to fetch “Busy Little Mouse” in the most serious manner imaginable, almost as if she’s researching mice.

She hasn’t said “bird” or “mouse” just yet, but this past week she has started saying “high chair” (“hi-ta”), “Nana” and “milk” (that’s “mil” in Maddish) — the latter two being confirmed by people other than crazy Mommy. That’s a grand total of 15 words so far — not too shabby we daresay! I’m sure she’s due for a new animal-related word anytime now.

Coming soon: Pictures of our little animal lover at 44 weeks.

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