A Tail of Two Kitties

I still remember it like it was yesterday. May of 1997. My mom picked me up from Phoenix Christian High School, just after 3:00 PM. We headed north, to Guiding Light Christian School, where Colleen was nearing the end of sixth grade and Elli the end of second grade.

My mom went into the school, and emerged a few minutes later, Colleen and Elli in tow – and a cardboard box in her hands. Curious as to what she had, I got out of the car. Almost immediately I heard the mewling of a young kitten.

Looking in the box, I saw an almost completely white tiny little kitten. He had a stubby charcoal gray tail, bright blue eyes, and ENORMOUS ears – so big were they that I would, over the following few days, try to convince my mom to name him Yoda. No dice.

Fitzwilliam became his name, or Fuzzy for short. And he was a hellacious little ball of furry energy. With absolutely no warning, he would come charging into the living room, dash about chasing some invisible bug, and then charge out again. If you threw a ball of paper, he would chase it down and savagely destroy it. And heaven help the bugs that sat on my parents’ screen door – if Fuzzy was sitting inside the door, he would quite literally launch himself up the screen to try to get at the bugs.

When Fuzzy was neutered, he came home from the veterinarian in a daze – but as soon as he recovered, he set off on a lifelong quest to find his balls. He knew that when he had gotten into that big blue PetsMart box, he had them, so every time he saw that box thereafter, he would jump in and look around. Soon, he would expand his search to other boxes.

Not long after my family got Fuzzy, we went on vacation to Colorado for a week. When we got back, Fuzzy had meowed himself hoarse, but he was so happy to see us that he spent the entire night in my mom’s bed, licking her hair. Gross, yes, but he was ecstatic to see his minions return.

As I approached the end of high school and Fuzzy grew into an adult cat, he started taking to sleeping in my bedroom with me. I don’t know why, but for some reason, he found the combination of my bed and the human in it to be the most pleasing and comfortable.

After I went away to college, Elli moved into my room and I moved back into the bedroom that had been mine through the end of elementary school. But did Fuzzy sleep in Elli’s room with her? Not when I would come home, he didn’t! No, every time I came home, he made his way to the front of the house and jumped up in the bed with me.

In 2004, after I moved to California, my family rescued a female kitten named China. China too liked the front room of the house, but she liked it just fine when nobody was there. And so, on my first trip home from California, Fuzzy came trotting into the room to jump up in the bed with me – only to have China come streaking in, jump up on the bed, and hiss at him. He glared at her, then turned tail and trotted off to Elli’s new bedroom in the addition built the previous summer on the back of the house.

At the end of the summer of 2007, I moved back to Phoenix, just as Elli was headed off to Flagstaff to go to school. Over the course of the following year, I worked at the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley, and on nights when I worked the night shift there and then had to work the morning shift the next day, I would stay at my parents’ house – at 15 miles closer to the Hermosa Inn than my place, it only made sense.

My parents had me stay in Elli’s old-new room, as my own bedroom was being used for storage of various things (and was slowly being turned into a playroom for my then one-year-old nephew “Jose” and the various foster babies passing through my parents’ home at the time). And the first night I was there, Fuzzy – who was ten years old at that point – come trotting into the room as I was getting ready to go to sleep, jumped up on the bed, and gave me this look that said, “Haha, I won, China loses.” From that point forward, every night that I stayed at my parents’ house, until I moved to North Carolina, Fuzzy would at some point during the night, end up joining me in that bed.

A year after I moved back to Phoenix, my parents decided they needed to give China away (along with two other cats that were living there at the time). Having multiple cats was causing horrible allergies for my dad, so they decided to give all of them away and just keep Fuzzy. I knew China had always liked me, and I knew she was a very nice cat, so I offered to take her. She was most unhappy about the move from my parents’ house to my house in Peoria – just as she was unhappy about the move to my apartment in Phoenix a year later, and she was darn downright TICKED about the move to Winston-Salem a year after that – but the first night she was in my house, she did just as she had done for the first time nearly four years earlier – she came and jumped up in my bed.

Over the last two and a quarter years, since I moved to North Carolina, I haven’t seen Fuzzy very much. But he always remembered me, every time I went home – he knew he could count on me to open up a can of tuna and give him the packing water, and without China around, he was free to reclaim his spot next to me in my bed (by now, moved back to my old bedroom).

As he’s gotten older, he’s gotten more and more frail. His coat has gone almost completely grey, his teeth have been falling out, he hasn’t really been able to run, and he’s had trouble balancing. He’s pretty much given up on trying to co-exist with Elli’s much younger and far more energetic Chiweenie, Jones, and just taken to hiding from him. Then, a couple of weeks ago, his abdomen began to swell and he started to have trouble digesting food, and my parents knew something was wrong.

Fuzzy had contracted Feline Infectious Peritonitis, and the only way out for a cat is to be put to sleep. And so, my parents said their good-byes to Fuzzy, and today, he was released from his pain.

Tomorrow, when I get home from Durham, I will make sure to give China a hug. I’ll hold on to her for longer. I’ll be reluctant to kick her out of my bed or out of my chair. I still have her – but even she is now reaching middle age for a cat.

There are people who say they don’t like cats, because cats are evil, and they don’t have the capacity to love. I beg to differ. I know two kitties who have had great love and affection for me. One of them I get to hold onto for years to come, but the other one is now gone from this world.

A little while ago, I posted about Fuzzy on Facebook, and I think it bears repeating as I close:

May you catch all the invisible bugs.
May you get all the canned tuna you can eat.
May there be no obnoxious Chiweenies to torment you.
And above all else, may you finally look in the big PetsMart box and find your balls.

Farewell, Fuzzy. Safe travels.

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Fitzwilliam “Fuzzy” Gawne, March 1997 – October 2012

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