Yesterday we lost our beloved cat, The Fuzz, at the age of 21 years and 7 months:
Born in June of 1991, he initially “belonged” to my next-door neighbor, a family renting one of the apartments in the complex. I first met him as a several-month-old kitten, past the fluffball stage but still quite young, sitting forlornly on the steps outside their apartment, waiting for someone to let him in. We made friends immediately – he was always a friendly, people-loving cat – and I started looking for him whenever I left the house.
It rapidly became apparent that my next-door neighbors were somewhat clueless about the finer points of owning a pet – like feeding it or giving it shelter. The adorable black kitten was often stuck outdoors, at all hours, so I set up a cardboard box outside my apartment for him, and lined it with towels to make it warmer and more inviting. When he started meowing piteously with hunger, I began feeding him as well. I spent many hours outside with him, petting and playing with him, but couldn’t invite him in because my housemate had an un-spayed female cat, and she (not unreasonably) refused to let him into the house unless he was neutered and vaccinated first. I couldn’t do that, unfortunately, because technically he wasn’t my cat, but theirs.
Nonetheless, I loved spending time with him, and he ran up to play whenever he saw me. We had a lot of fun together.
Which made it all the more heartbreaking when my neighbors were evicted, and moved elsewhere, taking the kitten with them. I knew they’d neglect him, but had no leg to stand on – either legally, since he was their cat – or practically, since they had taken them with him. I saw the mother and offered to buy him, but the mother refused, saying her little girl was fond of him. I insisted on giving her my phone number, in case she changed her mind.
Three agonizing days later, the mother called me. “I know I said I wasn’t interested in giving him up…but how much would you give me for him?”
“Fifty dollars?” I said. It seemed a paltry sum for such a wonderful kitty, but it shocked her. “Fifty dollars?” she said? Fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on my door, and the black kitten was mine. I got him vaccinated, neutered, and moved into my apartment that same day. I was completely smitten.
The Fuzz was never the brightest of cats, perhaps because of early neglect, but what he lacked in brains he made up in personality. He loved people, and was an attention sponge of the best kind. He would stubbornly jump up into my lap, repeatedly, until I finally caved in and gave him the petting he so clearly deserved. When friends came over, he would stroll over to say hello, rubbing his head against them until they petted him, at which point he would break into a loud, cement-mixer purr.
He had his faults, of course. He loved chewing on cables of all kinds, and I rapidly learned not to leave headphone cables or power cords lying about. Once, to my great embarrassment, he chewed through the phone cord while I was talking on the phone, and I had to explain to my friend that no, I didn’t hang up on him, the cat chewed through the phone cord! (Yeah, like he believed that.) During the two years that he lived with my brother and sister-in-law, he chewed through the power cord for a chest freezer, even though they had slathered it with hot pepper sauce in an attempt to keep him away. Amazingly, he did not get electrocuted – a clear sign that the gods were looking out for him.
He also loved chewing on plants. It didn’t matter what kind of plant it was – if it was green, he ate it. I had had many houseplants, but after a week or two I moved them outside or gave them away. I didn’t mind, though – it was just part of having The Fuzz.
The Fuzz was happy as an only cat for four years, but when I adopted Sweetheart, he good-naturedly accepted her and the two were soon inseparable. When Mike moved in with me, The Fuzz accepted him as well, and eventually adopted Mike as his special human, following him around the apartment, snuggling up to him at night, and spending long hours in his lap.
When the Fuzz was thirteen or fourteen, he began mysteriously losing weight, throwing up on the floor more and more frequently. We took him to the vet, but with no conclusive results. Finally, when he was sixteen, he sank into a near-coma – we couldn’t even get him to drink tuna water, one of his favorite treats – and we rushed him to the vet. He spent several days in the ICU, and I cried my eyes out, not expecting to see him again. (When a sixteen-year-old cat goes into intensive care, the odds of recovery aren’t good!)
Remarkably, he improved in the ICU, and after ultrasound and a biopsy, we finally had a diagnosis: irritable bowel disease. The vet prescribed prednisone, a liquid prep once a day, and we learned how to medicate him. Mike did some research, and discovered that wheat gluten, a common ingredient in cat food, could cause flare-ups of IBD. We put him on a gluten-free diet, and he stopped throwing up as frequently.
But he continued losing weight – irritable bowel disease is a wasting disease – and despite our best efforts, became progressively thinner. His wonderful personality didn’t change, but he became less active, more inclined to snooze the day away. As he aged – and he lived an astonishingly long time – his legs got stiffer, and he became painfully thin. Finally, after a final flare-up of the irritable bowel disease, it became plain that he was not going to recover, and it was time to say goodbye. We took him to the vet one last time, and he passed away peacefully in our arms.
Few cats live as long as The Fuzz did, and none were more loved. We asked for him to be cremated, and will scatter his ashes in the rose garden with Sweetheart’s, so the two can play together for all time.
It was time to say goodbye, but we’ll miss him.