In May of 1989 my mother and sister were at someone’s house for a party. During the party, my sister, who was 8 years old at the time, learned that a stray cat had given birth to a litter of kittens in the host's yard. She asked my mother if she could bring one home and keep it. My mother said she'd have to talk to my father about it. In retrospect, it was pretty obvious that my father would say "yes" because he has always been an animal lover. After my father agreed and I protested a little bit because I was afraid the kitten would trash our house and belongings, it was agreed that we would be taking in one of the little kittens. Other than tropical fish, it would be the first pet my mother, sister or I ever had.
My mother and sister went back to the house to pick up the kitten they had chosen. Choosing which one to bring home was easy. All of the kittens were short haired and quite rambunctious. One, however, had long soft fur and was very even tempered. So, that little white and orange kitten came to our home. With his soft cotton-like fur and his huge puffy tail, we decided to name him Fluffy. Although it seemed like a really cliché-ish name for a cat, my sister wanted the name and none of us would ever argue that it didn't fit him perfectly! (And it was better than her other choice of Puffy!) At that point, we thought Fluffy was a female. After a visit to the vet to get him cleaned up, de-wormed, de-clawed, etc. we learned that our new little kitten was a boy. I guess it's good that we didn't name him something feminine.
Since Fluffy was a stray, we had no idea what breed he was and figured he was a mixed breed. Shortly after we got him, my sister got a book about cats and there was a picture in there that looked exactly like Fluffy. It descibed a breed of cat called a Turiksh Van. He looked very much like the pictures in the book. He had a ringed tail and the top of his head was orange. Because he also had some orange spots on his side instead of a solid white coat, we figured he had a little bit of something else mixed in, but seemed to be mostly Turkish Van. About ten years later, I was walking to my friend Chrissy about how Fluffy loved water. He jumped in the sinks to get to the running faucets any chance he got, he climbed into the shower with me more times than I can count and always played with his water bowl by splashing in it with his paws. She said, "there's a bread of cat that likes to swim. They call them swimming cats." She went and got the book where she'd read that. When she came back she said "It's called Turkish Van." I should've known!
The early days weren't always easy. We kept him locked in the laundry room during the night and when we were at work and school. When we were around, we kept gates up to keep him in only the kitchen, family room, laundry room and bathroom. It took him several years to realize he could easily jump over the gates. Once he figured this out, we took them down and gave him free roam of the house during the day when were home. We still locked him in the laundry room, which by that time was now "Fluffy's Room," when we weren't around or were asleep. We didn't do this to be cruel to him, it was so he didn't leave a trail of destruction. For the most part, Fluffy was a good kitten. He knew he wasn't allowed on certain furniture, seldom ever jumped up onto the kitchen table or counters and stayed out of rooms where he shouldn't be. However, he had a penchant for chewing things. If we ever left a piece of paper laying around he would be sure to shred it. It didn't matter if it was a coupon, receipt or a brown paper grocery sack. He would tear anything to shreds. On occasion he even chewed up a paperback book or two! When he wasn't chewing paper or cardboard, he was chewing the edges of our carpets. As time went on, he outgrew some of his chewing habits. The paper chewing mostly stopped, but our carpets and plants still suffered abuse from his teeth his entire life.
Over the years, it became a nightly routine to chase Fluffy around until he hid behind the sofa to keep us from putting him in his room. We'd eventually lure him out with treats. As he matured, we began to leave him out of his room more and more. We thought we were doing something good for him since he put up a fight every night, but he seemed to disagree. When we left him out at night he would sit in the kitchen and yell until we got out of bed and put him away. We did finally do away with locking him away after one exceptionally cold winter week made us worry that his room would get too cold for him during the night. He eventually got used to being out at night and he spent the rest of his nights roaming the house and only occasionally yelling at us in the wee hours of the morning. Every few weeks he'd find a new favorite place to sleep each night. Eventually he settled on an old paper case lid that we'd tossed under the kitchen desk. Because he liked it so much we left it there for a few years.
Speaking of Fluffy's voice; there was a time when we weren't even sure he had one. For the first 7 years or so of his life, he almost never meowed. When he did, it was very quiet. He did plenty of purring and made little moaning noises that ranged from quizzical to annoyed in nature, but seldom would we hear a meow. After many years of near being quiet Fluffy slowly realized that he could be loud. He also realized he could get a response from us by being loud. Whether he was trying to tell us it was time to feed him or sitting in the bathroom sink at three o'clock in the morning wanting to drink from the faucet, he would meow and meow until he got what he wanted. He always knew that we couldn't say "no" to him!
Even though Fluffy was the most mild-mannered cat you'd ever want to meet, he did occasionally get annoyed with us. Usually it was when we were holding him to keep him out of someplace he shouldn't be for a little longer than he would have preferred. That's when he'd hiss. The problem is that he had a really sad hiss. He'd put his ears back and let out a sound that barely resmbled a hiss and certainly wasn't very threatening. Then he'd look at us as if to say, "Hey, why aren't you scared?"
Fluffy was spoiled by all of us every chance we got. Due to urinary tract surgery that he had when he was four years old, he was only supposed to eat eat special cat food that would prevent future problems. This didn't stop him from begging at the kitchen table like a dog until someone gave in and slipped him some people food. He would eat almost anything, even some vegetables. However, his favorites were pizza, pasta and anything with garlic in it. He might have been Turkish, but he was definitely raised Italian! Spaghetti was a particular favorite. I think it was because it resembled string. As a kitten Fluffy would swallow any string he could find. If we had a helium balloon around you'd find Fluffy with the whole string swallowed and the balloon in front of his face. So, I think in his mind spaghetti was the only "string" that we would let him eat without taking it away from him.
His other favorite people foods were Cheerios and ice cubes. This was especially true when he was a kitten. If you threw one across the kitchen he'd run after it with all of his might. If it went under the kitchen table he'd dive through the chair and table legs after it. His legs and head would clunk against the wooden legs and we'd all cringe, but Fluffy was unfazed. If we threw these, or a cat treat and it didn't go flying across the room, he'd smack it with his paw like a hockey puck so he could chase it. He enjoyed the chase as much as the catch.
In his later years, Fluffy did slow down a little but never became a cat who just laid around. He would still run through the house like a maniac. He'd start in the dining room and run to the other end of the house ending at the bathroom door where He'd jump up the door jamb as high as he could and then slide down. He did this so frequently that his back claws wore right through the into and into the drywall as high as 4 feet up the wall. He still played with his toyed and reacted to catnip, even though he never really had the crazy reaction to the herb that most cats do.
Despite the typical "old age" problems that everyone goes through at some point in life, Fluffy was happy-go-lucky right up until the end of his life. In keeping with his true form, at the very end, his veterinarian told us "I'm sorry, but he passed." before my mother or I, who were present, had a chance to respond, Fluffy responded by suddenly waking up looking up and letting out a meow. He did pass away shortly after, but we'll always remember that Fluffy went out his own way and on his terms, the same way he lived his life.
Click here for more photos of Fluffy