At the Aquarium, there are sharks and sea otters, sea lions, Napoleon wrasses, Lion fish, lorikeets, and arctic foxes. There are many different animals who have spent their entire lives at the Aquarium, or been at the Aquarium since anyone can remember.
So it might surprise some to learn that the inhabitant who has lived the longest at the Aquarium is actually a common, domestic cat.
Of course don’t tell him he is common. Cats don’t take kindly to being put in their place.
Robert A Heinlein wrote, “Never try to outstubborn a cat”, and those of us who co-habitate with cats know it’s true. The Aquarium learned who wins when you gamble with cats when Topaz showed up at the construction site for the aquarium in 1997.
For those of you old enough to be sentient in 1997, El Nino storms were raging that year. A yellow, stray tabby (nicknamed Topaz) was no match for gale force winds and rain; the elements were truly at at their harshest. As such, the construction workers at the Aquarium site gave shelter to their unofficial mascot in a trailer, and the Aquarium was literally built around him. He took the invitation and made the place his own.
When the aquarium opened in 1998, Topaz moved into the administration offices and became a mascot for all staff and volunteers who enter through the admin door, oblivious to the irony of a cat living at an aquarium.
Cat people know that cats are never grateful house guests. They are haughty, entitled, fuzzy friends, who never doubt the necessity of their presence. But having Topaz greet all who enter to check in for their shifts has been a blessing. All these years, Topaz has stayed on in his unlikely house, performing his catly duties.
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” -Jean Cocteau
As odd as it is, Topaz the cat has become the visible soul of the Aquarium built around him, born in Long Beach, residing quietly inside, greeting those who approach him, a reminder than an Aquarium is not just a place that houses fish, but fosters the opportunity to be surprised and delighted with some new knowledge every day.
(Photos of Topaz from Yuki Danielle Lambert, thanks much!)
Just to remind the general populace, I believe cats and the aquatic world get on fine. My cat is named Tiburon (Tibby for short) which means “shark” in Spanish, and although she detests the water, she perfectly encompasses the attitude of most sharks I know personally.