In the fall of 1997, Rachel and I (who were not, I believe, technically dating yet) started talking about (me) getting a cat. We happened to have this conversation at a party in a dorm room in earshot of a friend of a friend who was hoping to be a veterinarian and so was interning at the Warwick Animal Hospital. He told us that one of the nurses there had found and rescued a litter of abandoned kittens, and so if we were interested, hey, free kitten. So it was that we found ourselves in the back room of the animal hospital watching three tiny kittens frolic and mew and play, and we decided to take home the one the nurse had named “Stupid.”
I had decided in advance that my cat would be named Fluster.
I seem to recall that we drove home from the animal hospital with Fluster on Rachel’s lap in the backseat, and when we arrived back at my apartment in Providence I raced around to solicitously open the door for her while she gingerly carried Fluster inside. He was five weeks old, and he fit in the palm of your hand.
Being a responsible person, I’m sure I wouldn’t bring home a tiny new kitten without having all of the necessary things in place, but I seem to remember not having cat food (or, perhaps, not having enough cat food) and so one of Fluster’s very first meals was a small piece of Pizza Pie-er crust. I think we can probably trace his love of baked goods to that moment. It was a rule in our house that one must not ever leave bread, or pizza, or cookies, or cake, or crackers, or really anything made of grain, anyplace that Fluster could reach.
Fluster started out unbelievably tiny, but he didn’t stay that way. We fed him little cans of Iams cat food, and he just wolfed them down. After he ate, you’d pick him up, and you would be holding a warm ball of mushy cat food with a thin layer of kitten wrapped around it, his little legs dangling off of your palm. I don’t know if it was the food or genetics, but in two short years Fluster went from this:
He was a frankly enormous cat: not fat, just long and tall. We used to joke that he was part mountain lion. He was, however, a most un-cat-like cat. He was not shy, or cautious, or graceful. He would gallop into a room, rubbing his face on every available surface or person. No one could visit our house—not friends, not family, not repairmen, not painters—without getting an enthusiastic greeting from Fluster. In 2004, we bought a house and had the kitchen renovated, which involved teams of contractors and workmen in our house for months. The other two cats, as cats will do, spent most of the time cowering under the bed upstairs. Fluster became a part of the workday. They had systems to keep him from dashing out the door; they called him Schmitty.
All of our cats were inside cats, but Fluster wanted nothing more than to get outside. If you left a door open and unwatched for more than a second or two, chances were he’d make a break for it. A very few times in his life we let him outside on purpose: he’d generally find the dirtiest patch of ground and earnestly roll around in it.
The classic Fluster story, of course, involves his trip to the emergency vet many years ago for some kind of urinary blockage. He had to stay overnight, and when we picked him up the next day, the report we got included the log of the staff’s attempts to care for him:
Attempted to feed cat. Cat was fractious.
Attempted to give cat medicine. Cat was fractious.
The best quote, though, and the one Fluster was unable to ever live down, was the first notation by the vet who placed his urinary catheter: “Difficult to exteriorize the penis. Small?”
That was when we started calling Fluster our “little guy.”
Fluster had the loudest purr of any cat I’ve ever heard. You could hear him from across a room, just rumbling away like a motorcycle. He was not always the most accommodating cat, but he was sociable, friendly, and occasionally cuddly. He was a happy cat.
When we brought the twins home, I don’t think Fluster knew what hit him.
Like all the cats, Fluster was astoundingly patient with the babies. When we ignored him to take care of the children, he kept on purring. When they tugged his fur and swatted his face, he kept on purring. When we left their food out on the table, he ate it.
Still, while I don’t want to say the babies gave Fluster cancer, they couldn’t have helped his stress level. For about nine months, we gave Fluster his medicine, and hoped he’d hang on. And he did hang on, until one day he couldn’t anymore. He made it easy for us: it was obvious he was in pain, and that he wasn’t really going to be able to be our Fluster anymore. So I held him, and stroked his head, and said goodbye, and now we only have two cats, and it’s totally strange to be able to leave groceries on the counter for 15 minutes without having the bags torn open or to be able to go downstairs in the morning without having to crush up a pill in wet cat food or to be able to leave the door open while ferrying packages from the car.
I won’t deny those things are very convenient, but I’d trade them in a heartbeat for our Fluster.Miscellany | Comments (12)