30 Sep. 1987 - 08 Feb. 2007
Servalan was the only cat I've ever had with an actual breed registration and pedigree. When I was ready for a fourth cat, I thought I'd try getting a purebred one as a new experience. She was of the type of Burmese that is now considered "old-fashioned" in the show ring, but which I prefer to the more modern type. As a kitten, her looks were not terribly prepossessing; in fact, she somewhat resembled a bat. However, she grew up to be a sleek and lovely cat, worthy of her namesake. (Some images of the original Servalan can be found here.)
Servalan was promptly adopted and raised by Taliesin, who was very fond of kittens. She loved him and they remained close for the rest of his life, but once she passed kittenhood she started to wreak havoc among the other cats (then just Boojum and Barsina.) Servalan had an aggressive nature and was fond of pouncing on and attacking the others, just for the fun of it. Fortunately, her pugnaciousness declined as she grew more mature, but she was still formidable enough to make the others back off. Red was the only one she ever seemed to be intimidated by, possibly from his sheer size, as he was very easygoing himself.
After Taliesin's death, Servalan didn't have any real companions among the other cats for a couple of years. She did show some interest in Minx when the latter was a kitten, but that didn't last through Minx's adolescence. In 1997, however, I adopted Furrfu, and Servalan took an immediate liking to him. Her relations with the rest of the household in her later days were mostly peaceable, if not cordial.
In her younger days, Servalan became the only one of my cats to learn something approximating a "trick". It was actually her own idea: when demanding attention, she would occasionally tuck her head upside-down between her front legs, push with the hind ones, and turn a somersault. This may have been accidental at first, but she soon realized that it got her attention and praise, and she started doing it more often. I tried teaching her to associate the somersault with the word "Over!", with partial success: she understood what I was asking but, catlike, would only respond if she happened to be in the mood. The photo here is a composite of snapshots taken at two stages of the somersault. As Servalan grew older and her girth increased, gymnastics like this became impractical, so the somersault trick eventually became a thing of the past.
Being a thin-coated Burmese, Servalan was even more fond of warmth than are most cats. She was always one to seek out sources of heat to nap on, including the top of the stove while the oven is on (I discouraged this), laundry fresh out of the dryer, patches of sunshine, and above all her own personal heated cat-bed (seen at the top of this page).
She was always a loud, talkative cat. In her younger years she would often charge around the house making an odd, growly sound. We moved to a new apartment when she was about a year old, and while unfazed by the move, she insisted on getting acquainted with the new place by climbing onto each piece of furniture in the room and meowing loudly at all the other pieces. (I think she was mapping it by sonar or something.) In her elder years Servalan developed spinal arthritis and seldom ventured far from her heated cat-bed. When she wanted to be petted or fed, she didn't come looking for me -- she sat on the bed and yelled at the top of her Burmese voice for me to come to her.
Servalan was extremely long-lived. In her last years she developed a few health problems. At age fourteen she had a bout of inflammatory bowel disease, which led to serious weight loss; however, the disease was successfully controlled by medication, and she regained her normal weight and had no further trouble with it. She had some geriatric kidney failure, typical of older cats, and received supportive care for that, but it never reached severe levels. In the end, it was the arthritis in her lower spine that finally proved too much for her. During her last couple of years it became more severe, and in her final few months she walked stiffly and had some problems with constipation, probably related to the arthritis. She was still cheerful, alert, and talkative, spending most of her time on her heated cat-bed, where she enjoyed frequent rub-downs and head-rubbing sessions. On the night of January 6, 2007, she suddenly began having difficulty walking, being unable to put weight on her left hind leg. Her condition grew worse over the next day, even with increased anti-inflammatory medication, and she was finally unable even to turn around on her bed, and was having spasms of pain despite the painkillers I gave her. The arthritis had evidently reached a point where it was severely interfering with her nerves, and there was nothing more we could do. On the morning of February 8, I had her put to sleep. Her age was nineteen years, four months, and eight days.