Life at the top includes a kitty

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From his perch on a windowsill, Nin the cat looks out through thick, bullet-proof glass. He purrs as weather observer Eric Pinder strokes his back. Oblivious to 50-m.p.h. winds and 20-degree F. temperatures of the early-May weather tearing at the mountaintop just inches beyond his whiskers, Nin may be the world's happiest high-altitude cat.

On a clear day, Nin can stare at peaks 95 miles away. Sometimes he can even see the tops of New York's Adirondacks, 135 miles west.

More house pet than mountain lion, Nin doesn't go out much. He enjoys the warmth and camaraderie of the three-person weather staff and a volunteer cook. It's like living on a submarine, with 300 foggy days a year. But Nin doesn't fuss.

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With a jet-black cape and black spots on his mostly white back, he looks a little like a Dalmatian in disguise. He acts like one sometimes.

"Nin just loves attention - and lots of it," says Brian Post, another weather observer. "He loves to be rubbed and held, just like a dog." There's plenty of time to give Nin the attention he craves.

Cats have been part of life at the observatory since it opened in 1932. A photo of a previous summit cat, Inga, with frost on her whiskers, was a best-seller at the summit gift shop for many years.

While the humans work in shifts (eight days on the mountain, six days off), Nin is here full time. Barring a few trips to the valley, he's been on duty, providing companionship through long days and nights, for five years. According to Mr. Pinder, in fact, "[Nin] is the most important staff member here."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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