Happy birthday (observed), Werner!

This li'l old man is 17 now.

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I don’t know if February 1 is his actual birthday but it seems pretty reasonable as an approximation; his previous owners had adopted him from a breeder in early 2003, and when I renamed him1 it was after Werner Karl Heisenberg who happened to have died on February 1, 1976.

He’s gotten along in his years. He’s pretty senile and often gets lost and starts yowling at all hours, especially at night. When he uses the litter box he forgets why he’s in it, and starts to walk off while stuff is still coming out.

He’s never been all that fond of strangers; when I adopted him it took him about a week to come out of his shell with me. It’s very rare that he’ll come out from my bedroom if there’s someone else around, and people are often surprised to find out that I have two cats.

When I adopted him in December, 2011, he was a complete nervous wreck, but so was I. He’d come from a home with way too many other animals (something like 8 other cats and a large dog), and they’d also had a baby as well. He was very clearly not getting enough food, and several of his teeth were beginning to fall out as well. It took a while for him to come to understand that the food I was putting out for him wasn’t going to all get eaten before he got any. Any food I put out for him he’d immediately eat all of and then barf it up. Eventually I got tired of giving him many small meals throughout the day and I tried a gravity feeder, so that he could see there was plenty of food available; that ended up working perfectly.

We were both learning to deal with some pretty heavy stuff at the same time, and having him around absolutely saved me from my own demons. He was absolutely an emotional support animal for me, and when it came down to one of my busybody neighbors trying to (illegally) coerce me to get rid of him for ridiculous reasons2, I found it easier to just move back to Seattle in August of 2012.

After moving back to Seattle he started to get very restless when it came to being alone all day, as my new place is smaller, darker, and has no view to speak of. Back in San Francisco we had a great balcony that overlooked a large yard full of wild flowers and birds to watch. So he needed a friend, and I adopted Fiona, and after some initial tensions they became fast friends.

A few years later his teeth had gotten particularly bad, and the vet said it was time to remove the teeth now, since the longer I waited the higher the risk of dental surgery would be to him. So, in he went for a cleaning and an extraction, and he had three teeth removed with a fourth one falling out on its own. He still hasn’t gotten quite used to the missing teeth, but he doesn’t seem to mind anymore.

17 is pretty old for a cat. Russian Blues apparently live to be 15 to 20, typically, although they can last well into their 20s given the right circumstances. I don’t know if he’ll make it that long, but at the very least he seems pretty comfortable these days.

His previous owners must have always yelled at him when they caught him drinking out of the toilet; he’s incredibly neurotic about being in the bathroom, and if I walk in while he’s drinking from the toilet he bolts, immediately. I’ve gotten him to be a bit less skittish about that, but old habits die hard.

Over time our mutual daily routine gets less and less complex. He doesn’t want to play much anymore; now he pretty much takes over my pillow the moment I get out of bed, poops on the floor at around 1 PM, eats dinner around 5 PM, and then when I come to bed snuggles with me until we fall asleep. He does have a rotation of sleeping spots throughout the day, mostly going between my bed and the upstairs couch. He’s having trouble going up and down the stairs, but he tries not to let it show, and he certainly doesn’t let me carry him.

I don’t know how long I’ll have him in my life but I’m so glad that I could at least make the last half of his (so far) more comfortable. We’ve kept each other going, and when his time ends I’ll be sad but I’ll hopefully be glad that I was here for him and that he was here for me too, when we needed each other the most.

Anyway. Happy birthday, poopbutt.

  1. His original name was Gandalf; his full name is Werner Karl Heisenflüff. 

  2. Every single time there was any animal-related incident in the building – people dumping cat litter on the roof (San Francisco, what the hell?), stray dogs getting into the building, that sort of thing – she would start yelling at me about my pet, and how by me having a pet that would encourage other people to get “a yappy dog” that would keep her up all night, or the like. And as my next-door neighbor she was very concerned about this latter possibility. 

    The building did indeed have regulations against animals, which I didn’t realize at the time that I adopted him, but California law protected me in multiple ways; first, he was an emotional support animal (encouraged/prescribed/notarized by my therapist), and second, California law requires that any owner of a building be allowed to have up to two pets anyway. The CC&Rs for the building were before that latter statute went into effect, but they didn’t specify punitive measures for rules violations, and so they were unenforceable. Updating the CC&Rs would have required removing that provision.

    So, there was no way to legally force me to get rid of my cat – so instead I was subject to an intense harassment campaign instead.

    The most delicious thing to me was that when I sold my place, it was to a young couple – with a newborn, screaming baby.

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