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Published Aug. 25, 2007

On the Citrus County Animal Services Web site, it states: One female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 (cats) in seven years.

One such cat is Teacup, a 2 1/2-year-old, female, mixed tabby, the offspring of a feral cat. She is the unofficial host at Haslam's Book Store on Central Avenue, which opened in 1933.

"When she was born, she would sit in your hand like a little a teacup," said Raymond Hinst III, a Haslam's employee.

Teacup is usually perched atop one of the computer monitors at the front counter, where she takes it all in with her knowing cat eyes. Watching the customers as they enter and browse the stacks. Watching as they purchase the latest title, as well as one of the classics. Quick to relieve your hand of a snack.

Yet she's willing to return the favor with a vibrating purr, closing her eyes halfway and pushing her head into the palm that caresses her.

She sleeps during the midafternoon in a paper bag that employees call her office, or under a collection of Then and Now travel books that are just a few paces away from the 10-cent bookshelf.

When employees enter the building, she's waiting on her high perch for her first treat of the day. "She just loves Ahi Tuna Jerky, which smells similar to Red Tide," Hinst said.

Haslam's employees sometime tell a story about an older woman and Teacup. The sum of the versions goes something like this: An older woman entered the store and saw Teacup perched in her usual spot on top of a computer monitor. The woman went on with her shopping, all the while thinking and preparing to give the employees at the cash register a piece of her mind. After she worked up the proper amount of courage and gathered books to purchase, she walked up to the counter and began yelling at the cashier. She told them she was horrified to see a stuffed cat in Haslam's. Just about that time, Teacup raised her head. The woman backed up and began to cry as the employees consoled her.