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If mice had evolved to have long, silky hair and generate purring sounds in their throats, they might be curled up in our laps right now. Of course, a pet mouse is somewhat small, so a rat would be better. Perhaps people do grow to love pet rats. Ron Weasley tried, but that rat turned out to be a servant of the Dark Lord.

Of course evolution didn't go that way. Mice and rats are vermin and prey for cats and owls. Actually, cats are also prey for owls, but who would let an owl perch on your shoulder, let alone curl up in your lap? Hmm. Harry Potter had an owl pet, and Hermione Granger had a cat. Along with Ron, their pets formed an interesting triangle, don't you think?

If people resemble their pets, as hypothesized about dogs and their owners, do they also act in ways similar to their chosen animal? Cats jump on counters, knock over lamps and vases, and race around batting balls on the floor. Mice sneak around and hide in nooks and crannies, coming out when the house is dark and silent to forage for food. Are certain people like that, too?

Let's take a peculiar social arrangement among humans: that of guest and host. Sylvia moves through her house like she owns it, because she does. My movements signal the opposite, because I don't. Her footsteps resound on the floor, but mine are barely audible. She turns on lights when she enters a room and often leaves them on when she leaves, but if my need for the bathroom drives me into the house before she is awake, my hands and dark-adapted eyes guide me through the darkened rooms to my goal as discretely as possible.

It isn't that she would mind my turning on the lights, and even waking her up. In fact, my desire to have the least impact on her life probably irritates her more than a light coming on or a heavy footstep. It's my perceived role as house-guest that makes me creep about. Sylvia welcomed me heartily, no mistake, but the fact that this is her space makes me want to be invisible.

That makes my situation in the studio rather interesting. How would a house-mouse coexist with four of her daughter's cats? You might expect me to hide and only poke my nose out when they are sleeping, but no. We more or less share the space, since all of us are on an equal footing as Sylvia's guests. They sleep next me on the bed, and sometimes want to sit on my lap or have me pet them. They entreat me to feed them in the morning. I guard them and they guard me.

Why would they need guarding? That is another interesting story, of which only the outlines exist. A few days ago a knock sounded on the back gate and a person called out Sylvia's daughter's name. The person was a slight woman standing in the alley with her dog on a leash. She began by expressing her frustration in her friendship with Michaele, and how it had taken her a long time to work up the courage to confront her fears and knock on the gate. Perhaps because of my house-mouse role, my attitude was friendly and open, and we struck up a conversation.

When Sylvia appeared the mood changed. Sylvia was guarded and bristling, like a cat ready for a fight. She countered the woman's accusations with questions about her mental health and seeking therapy. The woman likewise hardened her stance, much like a dog facing a spitting cat, wary but not willing to back down. The confrontation ended in a stand-off, both sides “forgiving” each other, without any of the promised relief that true forgiveness creates.

That encounter made Sylvia nervous about Michaele's cats staying alone in the studio, and led to my moving back in, to protect them from cat-napping, of the kidnapping kind. Since then the cats and house-mouse-house-guest have made friends and seem to be living in harmony. The lion laying down next to the lamb is no more fantastic than a mouse sharing a bed with four cats. It's all a matter of defining your role and everyone agreeing to the conventions for smooth social interaction.