I have now lived with the weirdest animal I've ever had the pleasure of knowing and studying (and sharing) for over two years. Winston arrived to live with us on April 1, 2005 and while it would be over-dramatic to say that my life hasn't been the same since, I can say without exaggeration that my life has not smelled the same way since. Since this two-year milestone recently passed, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the cat, the legend, the walking garbage disposal that is Winston.
In the beginning, there was only a picture...
Like you, the first time I saw Winston was via the Internet. My boyfriend and I had adopted Rudy in 2004 and because of his general surliness, we thought it might be helpful to find him a companion. Well, that, and we were really in the market for more mobile fur. So we started looking for a new cat to adopt in early 2005. Actually, my boyfriend looked and sent me Petfinder links and I mostly just ooohed and ahed. The day he sent me a link to Winston was a particularly gushy one. I'd never seen anything like this before:
I didn't know much about Persian cats. I thought they were probably sucky and snobby and their vagina faces intimidated me. But Winston was no mere Persian. He was not only an exotic shorthair, but mostly, he looked like an amalgam of every creature I adored growing up in the puppet-heavy '80s. I wanted him more desperately than a Mogwai. There had to be a catch, right? The text of the ad accompanying the pictures above read:
(Pardon the scan of a print-out. We like to do things in several steps in this household.)
So, no catch at all, really. We applied and went through a somewhat lengthy process of acquiring Winston. The rescue that was holding Winston, Only Hope, had a residency at a pet store on the Upper East Side on Saturdays, so we visited him there. We then received a home visit from Kris, the woman heading the agency, during which we learned more about Winston's story: he was bought by an affluent couple on the Upper East Side and originally named Jake (actually, he was originally named "Crazy" per his papers we received later). He was over-vaccinated, suffering from IBS and a hernia. Apparently, when said couple's designer cat didn't turn out to be as perfect as he looked, they had no more use for him and put in to have him put down. Kris, worked at their vet's office, rescued him and, after paying for his operation and rehabilitating his IBS to the best of her ability, put him up for adoption. She had over 100 applications for Winston, including a kid whose mother already had Persians and had her eye on Winston because "we could get him cheap." Though this was not necessarily an indication of that family's cat-parenting skills and, let's face it, ultimately true, it was probably a bit too cynical to convince Kris to sign Winston over to them. Seriously kid: show some warmth.
Finally, in early March, we got word that we'd been selected to adopt Winston. A series of events (including Easter) prevented him from being delivered until April 1 and the wait period was excruciating. He was finally delivered on April 1, fluffy and purring. Kris told us that we was a lap cat that followed her all around the house while he stayed with her. And so he seemed to be...for the night. Winston left his carrier and lay in both of our laps purring and purring and purring. He'd never do that again, not even the next day. At least he was polite enough to make a good first impression.
Winston's IBS was worse than we thought it would be. For a while, I thought he'd be incapable of producing anything solid. His condition was bad enough to make me feel trendy for 2005 (you know how hot chocolate fountains were back then). My boyfriend deserves all the credit for his exhaustive research and constant toiling in the search of a diet that would suit Winston's tumultuous system. About six months after we adopted him, Winston's diarrhea (once daily) was at a minimum. Today, he hasn't suffered from it for any extended period of time in over a year.
As his health improved, Winston only became brattier. He used to sleep on my pillow, purring loud enough to be a perfect stand-in for a white-noise machine, not that I wanted one in the first place. If this was cute, imagine my heartbreak when he stopped coming to bed at all, preferring to sprawl out on the people-free couch. He's learned to close his eyes whenever the camera's out. Because we don't feed our cats dry food and, furthermore, only feed them twice a day, they feel the need to hunt, which basically amounts to hunting the food we're putting in our mouths. Rudy's particularly bad, at times aimlessly biting our hands as we eat dinner (or straight-up stealing). At least Winston isn't strong -- he's merely annoying, not pain-inflicting. The only thing that's more pronounced than Winston's hunger is his stupidity, so he'll often forget what he's doing in the middle of harassing me for food and his excited purring ends up lulling himself to sleep on my legs. I don't mind: I tend to take affection where I can get it.
I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up some things that might not be immediately obvious in my Winston coverage. I certainly don't want it to seem like I'm parading my designer cat around. Sure, Winston is remarkable looking and, honestly, I don't know if I would have ended up being so bent on adopting him if he weren't. But his past is storied, and I'm proud to share an animal that has been brought essentially from brink of death. Furthermore, I know that sharing pictures of my cat as much as I do on a site that's otherwise pop-culture-oriented can seem jarring. I'm sure it comes off corny and cloying to those who don't read fourfour for Winston. There might even be a pandering to the lowest common denominator at times (cuteness rules, you know?). But I hope that underlying every picture and every word of gentle mockery I write about Winston, it's clear that the bigger idea is advocacy of unconditional love for your pets, and animals in general. I don't mean to get all Betty White on your ass, but I really believe that a bond with an animal is one of the clearest, straightest paths to happiness that life affords. My life is better with Winston in it.
Rudy's not so bad, either.