James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Cat, though in a vaguely realistic vein that avoids heavy sentimentality. This debut by a food and wine writer from Philadelphia who has worked as a chef, bartender, merchant seaman, and college professor follows the nameless narrator when, one cold day, he finds a newborn kitten shivering on his doorstep and takes it in. Gradually he learns to appeal to the cat by various ruses, so that the pet- in-training soon responds duly to its name (Spike) and sidles up to its new owner's leg. As a none-too-successful painter, the narrator has the requisite sexy girlfriend whom he can't quite hang on to and who leaves him time and again, only to return when she loses interest in whatever guy has replaced him. Then he meets a weight- challenged girl who, despite chubby arms, has a certain attractiveness--but clearly is not the kind of sexy beauty who can keep on winding him around her little finger. Even so, he exercises his outstanding cooking smarts and explains to her how he ``trained'' Spike largely by allowing the cat to train him. She too learns how to make Spike respond. When the girl at last asks if she can leave the digs she shares with a friend and move in with him, he hesitates. Okay, she says, I'll leave you alone for four days and come back at noon on Saturday. If you're here, I'll stay. If not, I'll say goodbye to the cat and leave. Then the sexy girl calls for a date. Come Saturday morning, though, Spike's paw is run over by a car and the narrator must race to a vet. Meanwhile, he does leave his door unlocked. . . . No tears, only mild uplift, and just the right size for Bridges of Madison County folks.