His Royal Flocculence

There was this cat who used to hang out in our yard.

There was this cat who used to hang out in our yard. When we had a dog, she’d chase that cat. When she died, the cat would sit on her grave. Every day. My husband was sure the cat was evil. But he’s a dog person.

I’m a cat person. My best friend growing up was a gray cat named Greeneyes. I’d had a cat as an adult; we’re a dog family. But I always felt something for that cat in our yard, that gray cat, that gray fluffy cat, who understandably didn’t let me near him. Whenever our screen door squeaked open, it could mean sudden death.

I learned his name was Fluffy. My neighbor fed him, but no one owned him. There are half a dozen identifiable cats in the neighborhood: two black ones, two tabbies, the ginger, and Fluffy. Unlike them, he wasn’t exactly a feral. He was supposedly sweet and a little bit social, but he didn’t have a home.

Fluffy disappeared, last year. I wondered where he went. I missed him, but you know, cats disappear. Months later, I heard through the grapevine, that he was terribly ill. I learned that he’d been rescued by a kindly cat lady who had raised $2000 from strangers, neighbors, to get him surgery. I was astonished that someone actually cared for this cat. That people would care that much.

Then one day he came out of hiding.

I heard the cat lady was having landlord problems and needed to find a place for Fluffy, for the weekend. I can’t even begin to describe the lobbying I had to do…to open our house to not just a cat but THAT cat! But so many neighbors cared… and it seemed like the least we could do for all that terrorizing!

Fluffy arrived in our back bathroom in a crate full of blankets and pee pads. He hissed if you tried to pet him. (Proof that he was evil.)

Fluffy was in tremendous pain. He’d gotten a disease called stomatitis that makes a cat allergic to its own tooth plaque. His mouth was so inflamed he couldn’t eat. He hissed at his food and clawed at his face. The poor thing had been skin and bones when half-starved the day he jumped into the cat angel’s car, begging her to save his life. Three months after he’d had all his teeth pulled out, he was still healing from the surgery, and still suffering from the disease.

The ratty little thing gave us a valentine: his affection.

A weekend turned into a week. A week turned into a month. After six or eight weeks my husband put it to me straight: “You want to keep this cat. Just say it.” He was right. It felt good to have a lockdown project of saving someone’s life. My husband and son were skeptical. All they ever got was hisses. Sometimes I got a purr. Fluffy moved out of the bathroom and into the guest room. I made a little environment for him under the bed where he could go from his crate to the litterbox and sneak out for food when no one was looking.

Surgery does not cure all cases of stomatitis. Six months after his extraction, Fluffy was still suffering what I called “painstorms,” a fierce wave of pain in his mouth that would cause him to twist and writhe, claw at his face, fall off the bed, run for the darkness. When my guys finally witnessed one, their compassion grew. And on Valentine’s Day, the kitty did something remarkable. The ratty little thing jumped on the bed and rubbed his head against me. Then my son. Our hearts burst open.

I’d been guided by Kathy, the cat angel, who brought food and medicine and blankets and supplies, and guided me every step of the way. But I wanted to step up my game. I’ve had enough adventures in healing to know “chronic” doesn’t always mean forever. An allergic reaction usually means doing some detective work. I put him on a natural cat diet and began tracking his responses to interventions.

He perched on my desk and looked noble.

And then one day magic happened. Fluffy crossed the threshhold and started walking around the house like he owned the place. He started walking around on our chests like he owned us. One day, he jumped up on my desk and perched like for the first time, looking noble, a promising familiar.

When summer came, I let him go outside for a little while. He picked his way around the yard, sniffing every leaf, purring, radiating joy. He realized where he was! He was home! I was first-day-of-kindergarten nervous, worrying he’d just disappear, worrying he’d get sick again. He took a good long catnap in his regular sunny spot, and when he woke up he circled me, meowing, telling me how happy he was to be back in his life, and then trotted ahead of me back into the house, just like a dog. He slept for two days on the shoe rack in my closet, and when he emerged, he was transformed. Finding his place in the world again, his soul had fully returned to his body. I knew he would make it.

A world of fluff!

Fluffy has found his way into the heart of my dog family, working the harmonizing magic that is the gift of his species. He loves our laps, has gotten used to being held and carried, and has even won the dog guy over with all the kneading, purring, and snuggling. Dave calls him H.R. Fluffinstuff, Fluffaroo Banzai, and The Right Fluff. This month the little guy even started chasing a fleece ribbon for the first time ever, gumming it ferociously. Our house is full of Fluff.

He’s not completely recovered but most days you’d never know he’s immune compromised. Whenever he eats chicken the pain comes back. (Chicken is in everything and it’s the #1 pet allergy…but they don’t tell you that!)* When he gets stressed out the pain comes back. We’re not supposed to let him outside but it’s amazing what good it does him to roll in the dirt, to lie in the sun. He comes back full of burrs and foxtails…but weeding a cat is one of life’s unexpected pleasures.

I wish I could thank each and every one of those people who donated to his operation. I wish I could support Kathy more in her cat-rescue services — and Linda and Kerry and all the cat angels whose civic work keeps feral populations down, who shepherd the cat community into safety and out of squalor. Who turn fearful outside cats into serene inside cats, saving birds, stemming disease, and most importantly, not reproducing.

Fluffy is so healthy now that he kind of wants to go back to his old happy life. He loves being outside as much as he loves snuggling up on my back when I’m asleep, singing to me when there’s food on the way. He discovered open windows. He’s come back full of feral snacks and stoned on carbs, uninterested in dinner, or taking his medicine. I got him a harness and taught him how to walk on a leash. He’s very excited about being close to me all the time.

Today Kathy came by and saw his progress. She was astonished by his health and vitality. He twined around her legs and sat on her lap, purring his gratitude.

woman with cat in lap
Reunited with his angel, Kathy. Skin and bones, Fluffy had jumped into her car and begged her to save him.


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Does your cat have stomatitis? Doing lots of research and working closely with an excellent vet, I believe his anguish was caused by a combination of things: FHV (he missed his kitten vaccinations and is a carrier. Herpes virus causes nerve pain activated by stress), stress, and food allergies.

He was on 2mg Gabapentin for a year, but this is the diet that turned things around for Fluffy:

But the thing that really helped turn him around was a consistent feeding schedule, lots of love and patience. I do let him go outside sometimes because there’s nothing like a dust bath and a sun bath to make him feel relaxed and healthy. On a leash of course!

(Now if I can only teach him not to go off and eat with the ferals…A 10-year diet of low-quality food used up eight of his lives…!)

** turns out it’s not a chicken allergy but canned food does not list all the ingredients that go into the CAN. Certain treatments give him super flare-ups so canned food only rarely. His fave, now that he’s fully healed, is grain-free kibble. And if he eats it daily for more than a week or so he gets a bit agro!

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