But today is Sid's day. He turns sixteen, which is getting up there for a cat and he has all the ailments to prove it. He has kidney disease and irritable bowel, which require two different slightly conflicting diets that took us almost all of last year to balance, very stressful. We also recently discovered that he has high blood pressure. (How did we determine this? because he was yowling in the middle of the night, annoying the crap out of us. I felt very guilty when it turned out to be a symptom of painful headaches, not just him being old and deaf like I thought.) We have to crush up two pills a day in his food and feed him four, sometimes five times a day in small doses so his stomach doesn't get upset. But we do all of this because we love him and he's my baby-- the first cat I got who was mine and mine only. I grew up with a family cat, Snuggle--who was not very snuggly--but for my sixteenth birthday all I wanted was a cat of my own. I was going through a really tough time. I was reeling from an abusive relationship that had just ended and not coping well, struggling with self-injury, depression, and anorexia. Though, my parents didn't know the extent of what I was going through, they knew I was depressed and understood that a kitten would both cheer me up and give me something to feel responsible for.
Since I was young and uneducated, I got Sidney at a pet store in the mall. I would never ever get an animal from a pet store now because A. There are so many animals in shelters who need homes, breeding for pet stores should not be encouraged and B. Pet store animals tend to be cared for poorly and are often sick. But I happened to be in the mall and saw this little black-and-white kitten playing in a cage. Black-and-white was my favorite color scheme at the time and he was cute and looked forlorn, so I asked if I could see him. They brought him in a room for me and my best friend to pet and hold, but he spent the entire time running around in circles because as I interpreted, he was so happy to be free from that awful cage. I had to free him for good. So I put down a small deposit, went back to my parents and asked if they would pay for the rest as my birthday present and the very first place I went with my brand new driver's license was to pick up my kitten! My best friend Katie held him in the car and he fit in the palm of her hand. This is a picture of her holding him in my bedroom presumably taken the first week we got him.
I named him Sid after Sid Vicious. I'd mostly grown out of the Sex Pistols and gotten into less well-known (and IMHO much better) punk bands by that point, but Katie and I were totally obsessed with the movie Sid & Nancy and we liked to yell, "SID!!!!!" like Nancy does approximately 82 times in the movie (we counted. like I said, obsessed.) So he was Sid to give us an excuse to yell, "SID!!!!" Though oddly enough, I call him Sidney just as often as I call him Sid, perhaps because I like multi-syllable names for cats and dogs. (I also at some point gave him the middle name of Jonathan and the last name of Puffins. I have no idea how I came up with these, but as a result he sometimes is referred to as Sidney Puffins, Mr. Puffins, or S.J., short for Sidney Jonathan.) But as you can see here by his desire to lay down on top of my Flipper CD and next to my Doc Marten boots, he was true to his punk roots.
He also enjoyed a good game of Sonic the Hedgehog:
And he got along better with our family dog, Domino, than with Snuggle, who he terrorized (hence I couldn't find a picture of them together). Maybe it was a black-and-white thing.
When Sid was less than a year old, he moved with me to Madison, Wisconsin when I graduated high school early. Living on our own was a big adventure and Sid liked to get the best view in the house:
And Sid found some stuffed friends to fill in for Domino and Snuggle:
The only time Sid and I did not live together was the nine months that I went to school at Antioch College in Ohio, where I could not have (and would not want to trap such an adventurous cat as Sidney) in my dorm room. When I dropped out, I went back to Madison, Wisconsin for a couple of years and Sid came with me. He also moved home with me when I returned to Chicago to go back to college. Between my mom and my ex-boyfriend, he got very spoiled with people food. Here you will see Domino and Sid in what I call their fat Elvis phase. At one point Sid was a whopping 22 pounds, but I got him back to an average weight of twelve pounds.
Now he lives with his BFFs Kaspar and Lars--though he'd be perfectly fine if those obnoxious little brats went to live elsewhere because I was his person first.
And when I make him wear the rooster costume, he probably wishes that he could go live with grandma (my mom) again:
Even though he is sixteen and suffering from some old age ailments, he still loves to play with his favorite toy... pipe cleaners, which he will bring to my husband and me and yowl proudly like he killed a mouse for us. He also loves a good laser pointer and sleeps loyally at our feet almost every night (despite the rooster costume torture).
Sid saw me through several very rough periods in my life and I feel like in a way we grew up together. Though I love all of my cats--or sons as I call them-- he has a special place in my heart, so much so that I have a tattoo of his paw.
So I had to pay tribute on this birthday when he turns the age I was when I got him. I hope he's got a few more birthdays in him. What about you? Tell me about an animal you grew or are still growing up with.
Oh and I also have to give a shout out to Misha, who is author Jeri Smith-Ready's cat, who apparently was separated at birth from Sid because he also turns sixteen today!