How Data met Spot

Data walked into the animal shelter. He thought that owning a pet would be a way to become more human. After comparing the pros and cons of different pets, he had chosen a cat.

"Hello," a shelter worker said pleasantly.

"Hello. I would like a kitten," Data said.

"Right this way."

She led Data down a hallway into a room full of cats. Kittens of every color and size tumbled around playing.

"Would you like to go in?" she asked Data.

Data nodded and they stepped in.

The shelter worker was immediately down on her knees cuddling the kittens. Data got down too, and reached to pet a little black one. As his fingers brushed its back, it flinched away.

"Cats are picky. Try another."

Every cat he tried to pet ran away. Data wondered if cats were more perceptive and could tell he was an android.

He looked around the room and his gaze found another cat. This one was sitting a cage with a small force field in front of it.

"Why is that cat confined?" he asked.

"She scratches any humanoid that comes near her. Vulcan, human, Betazoid, she doesn't discriminate."

"Why?" Data asked.

She sighed. "She was found on an abandoned space ship, the only survivor. She was in the only section of the ship with life support, and apparently had been living off a replicator. She'd learned how to jump and hit the panel that makes the last thing the replicator made. Fortunately, that was cat food and water. My guess is that she was a new kitten and hadn't gotten used to humans."

"I would assume that is not normal cat behavior."

"No, and she's unique in other ways. Watch."

The cat's tawny orange fur rippled and was replaced by tabby stripes.

"Intriguing," Data said, "May I hold her?"

"I told you, she scratches."

"I am aware of that. May I?"

"I suppose, but don't say I didn't warn you."

She pressed a button and released the force field, then stepped back.

The cat—who Data now realized was a kitten—had been pushing on the force field, but when it dropped, she strode out and studied Data.

He studied her, then reached out very slowly to put a hand on her back.

She didn't move, in fact she let Data stroke her.

"Wow. Try picking her up."

Data tried. He held her out at arm's length. She wriggled out of his hands and crawled up his arm using her tiny claws. She settled on his shoulder and started purring.

Data gently pulled her off, making little scratches in his uniform shoulder. He held her close, and she hooked her claws into the front of his uniform and began batting his combadge. She mewed loudly.

"I will take her," Data said, almost unnecessarily, considering the grip she had on him.

"I wonder why she likes you," the shelter worker said as they walked back down the hall.

"Perhaps it is because I am an android," Data speculated.

She looked at him. "Of course, you're Commander Data."

"I am."

"That does make sense. From what we can tell, she was just barely able to leave her mother when they were separated. So the ship's systems would be like a parent."

The very thing that Data thought would make it difficult to get a cat had actually helped. The kitten's paws flailed, and she pressed Data's wrist on the precise point that opened a panel. She had found the exact spot. Spot…Data knew that that was a common pet name and that no other animal on the Enterprise had that name.

Yes. The cat's name would be Spot.

The newly named Spot protested loudly when she was introduced to Data's friends. She pawed at Geordi's VISOR (the only part of him she found acceptable) and hissed at Riker. They all thought that Data's new cat was a menace with a Data-trying-to-be-human name.

But Data knew better.