There’s something ineffably comforting about sitting at the microscope and pushing flies while a furry felid sits nearby watching. Although it’s illegal to keep cats in a lab, from time to time we’ve had visiting felids—for both short and long stays. The longest resident, and my all-time favorite lab cat, was Dusty.
Dusty was part of a litter of kittens rescued from an alley by my technician. Since she already had cats, and I had a territorial male cat, we had to keep him in the lab until we found an owner. This lasted a few weeks, and by then we’d grown very attached to him. We named him Dusty not only because of his color, but because he liked to explore all the crannies in the lab, thereby acquiring a coating of dust. He would greet me every day as I opened up the lab and gave him his breakfast. He also sat on my lap as I worked in my office.
Dusty liked to sleep in a large potted plant in my office.
One of his “tricks” was to claw his way up my legs to get a treat. Although his tiny claws were painful, I tolerated it because it was cute.
We eventually found a good home for Dusty. His new owners renamed him Odin, after the Norse god. I disliked that name and thought “Dusty” was much better. But he’s now grown into a lovely, sleek adult.
Perhaps the most beautiful cat we’ve ever housed was Maya, a longhair who belonged to a research student. We had her during hot summer days.
Maya lived in a non-airconditioned apartment over the summer. Being a longhair, she suffered terribly from the heat, so her owner decided to bring her, every day, to our airconditioned lab. She arrived and left in a soft cat carrier.
Like Maru, Maya liked to rest in enclosed spaces. She particularly favored the Plexiglas Drosophila cages where we ran mating experiments with flies.
When you have a cat around the lab for a while, you start wondering what you can do with it. All of us were into infinite felid regressions, so we did this:
Finally, we have Gordon, who belonged to my technician. Gordon would visit from time to time when it was too hot, or when there were too many visitors at home. We made him part of the Infinite Cat Project, an online site where you post a picture of your cat looking at a screenshot of the previous cat, who is looking at a screenshot of the previous cat, and so on ad infinitum. Such is the way one wastes time in the age of the internet.