May 2013
High Rolls, New Mexico


May 6, 2024
Burlington, North Carolina

Dumped as a roughly 6-month kitten with three siblings and her mother, only Fluff and a brother survived the New Mexican winter and predation. Initially lured and caught in mid-winter 2013, my mother sent me a picture of this ball of caramel and cream fluff (a picture since lost to time) and I knew when I finished school, I would have a place I could give her a home.

November 27, 2013

With food and warmth, cat was lured inside and taken in to the vet clinic in Cloudcroft, where she was nearly set up for adoption. Luckily, my youngest brother was there to insist I was sincere in my desire to take her in when I was able. Thank goodness!

I was able to first meet her in November 2013, and my resolution only doubled. She was a sweet creature, full and fluffy and so very small, 5 or 6 pounds at most. The other cats in the house bullied her too, the poor thing. She wanted so badly to be loved and petted all day long, but she was tentative in placing trust. The tip of her tail was misaligned and she had a terrible fear of men and boots; abuse as a kitten was likely, especially given being dumped at the start of winter.

She had other more quirky ideosyncrasies. She had a deep investment in being high up, and it was common to find her on top of cabinets. She also would launch herself from these high places, which often resulted with a scrambled noggin... It took several tries before these high points could be blocked off, as she was very tenacious.

She hated the winter and the cold, moreso than the other cats. She hated loud stomps. She loved blanket forts. She loved to have her chin scratched. She has soft long fur, a fluffy and thin coat. Mom floated many names for her, including Cloudy and Princesa de la Pouff, but I fell quickly on the simple but apt name: Fluff, my fluff cat, my baby fluff.

According to Mom, all cats can be only two of three things: Sweet-tempered, Beautiful, and Smart. Fluff took the first two traits.

She also had the awful habit of forgetting everything in any given moment, reacting to normalcy with shock and surprise. In particular, if she somehow got back outdoors, she seemed to forget everything else... This happened around April or May 2014, where she snuck out while groceries were being carried in; fully forgot she had ever been inside; completely erased the faces and names of the humans who were caring for her over the last few months and fully ran off without looking back.

She was found two weeks later, waiting patiently at the door, waiting to be let in, as if she had never left in the first place. (I only found out about this event later!)

I graduated in December 2014, picked her up and began a 31-ish hour roadtrip to North Carolina. She was a trooper, but quickly developed an anxious tic of overscratching her chin and throat. By Oklahoma, she had started to cut through her fur. By North Carolina, she was actively bleeding from an open wound under her chin. Despite attempts to keep the area clean, it got infected and swelled up. Luckily, a visit to the vet set things right, though her anxious tic returned a few more times over the next couple of years. After a few more instances (that blessedly ceased after two years), she was left with a scar, a deep divet down the (her) right side of her chin. Any time she laid on that side, she leave patches of drool.

She otherwise set herself up well. During the day, she lolled in sunbeams and windows. At night, she cuddled close to start (either in the cook of my arm or in my lap) before shifting onto a pillow at the head of the bed. She was petted and snuggled and loved. She loved to be held, to have her tummy rubbed (she never once fought against it!). She had the run of the house, but would often choose to follow wherever I went if it offered the chance of an open lap.

One of her favorite things was to be under blankets. She would push and shove her way under them. There was more than one instance of someone starting to sit down only for an indignant chirrup to sound, muffled under the blanket. Several times, she would hop onto the couch and lower her head and bulldoze herself head-first into your side, trying to get under. I quickly became adept at making her blanket forts ("baby forts," as they quickly became known). She would happily lounge for hours, coming out with the most impressive bedhead.

Fluff didn't exhibit a lot of standard feline traits. She didn't understand how to play: if you used a laser pointer, she would sit and stare at your hand, not understanding the point; she would stare at cat toys, only slowly reaching out a soft paw to tap at it when conjoled long enough. It took a couple years before she even knew how to meow, she'd communicate nearly entirely with soft warbling chirrups. The meows were saved for when she was indignant about something.

She never figured out how to keep her claws in, so if her claws were left long, she sounded like velcro on carpet. It was hard to cut her claws, though, because she simply didn't react to scruffing and she could be shockingly strong despite her tiny frame.

Fluff loved to be petted backwards, to have her long fur ruffled up and down. She wanted to be rumpled and scrunkled in ways no other cat enjoys (I know this because I keep trying to pet other cats as I would her, and it's gotten me scratches and baleful looks!). She enjoyed hugging my arm, palm against her soft belly. For her, a wagging and whacking tail was a sign of contentment, not anger.

She didn't understand how to act around other cats. When a roommate brought in her own two cats, the initial meetings were rough. She thought staring contests were a fun game. Despite being half their weight, Fluff terrified the other two cats.

It took several months before the two cats stopped growling and yowling when Fluff absently walked near, largely helped by what the roommate called "kitty rubs." With one cat in each hand, they were rubbed side-by-side, swapping scents. It worked well!

One of the cats, Mini, realized Fluff wasn't scary or intimidating... she was just dumb and the two became surprisingly close, especially when Mini realized how well Fluff worked as a free meal ticket! Fluff free-fed since a kitten, so took well to regulating herself. Mini devised numerous ways to nab a few bites from Fluff's bowl.

It got to such a concern, given Mini's weight, that we installed a micro-chip cat door in the bedroom door. It worked generally, though Fluff didn't mind sitting by the cat door to unlock it and letting Mini in...

On April 27, 2017, Fluff had her second escape, racing out the front door as a roommate talked to a neighbor.

The following weeks were awful. Sightings were reported on the neighborhood message board, nightly walks, investigating locations, visiting every shelter in the area, signing Fluff up on pet sightings pages, but to no avail.. I couldn't bring myself to sleep in a bed I had shared with Fluff for 3 years; instead I slept downstairs on the living room couch. I couldn't focus on much else except the slow resignation that she was gone.

Until she wasn't gone. Coming home after a late dinner on May 14, 2017, my roommate was putting away leftovers as I puttered upstairs. According to her, she heard a very familiar meow at the back door. According to my memories, I heard a shakey cry of my name that had me rushing downstairs to find the back door open and Fluff sauntering in, eager for a lap and pets.

Concerned for both herself and the other cats, she was quickly taken to an emergency vet clinic. After a very thorough look-over, she was deemed perfectly healthy, albeit covered in ticks (including a couple they had to remove from her throat). When they brought her out in the lobby and said we could take her home, the vet handed me something: a Certificate of Bravery. I had managed to keep things together, going into crisis mode. That, though, made me loose all my composure, right there in the lobby at midnight.

With shots and a weekend quarantined in the downstairs bathroom, she fully reintegrated into daily life.

A year after, on November 8th, I got an e-mail from HomeAgain (one of the missing pet sites a friend had uploaded Fluff to), about a membership soon to expire. The thing is, whoever had set the account up, had mispelled Fluff's name...

And lo, the story of Flupp began (with Flupp being a mysterious non-Fluff entity on which any bad behavior was blamed)! So engrained was it that I used Flupp as a name on my Google Home device groups and my island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

In 2019, Fluff's bad genes surfaced, resulting in several months of decreased eating and tooth extractions. In 2022, kidney issues cropped up (but were summarily gotten under control!). All throughout, she enjoyed days of baby forts, afternoons in the sun on the porch, a shift from dry food to wet pate.

She also became the conduit of several (only funny to us) jokes, thanks to the "Fluff voice," high-pitched and overly verbose, with constant self-affirmations to "being baby," and deserving of much better care, and requiring much more attention and love. Of course, all of these were true! It wasn't uncommon to hear a Fluff-version of Queen's "Flash" start somehow in the house (Fluff! A-ah! Saviour of the universe! Fluff! A-ah! She'll save every one of us!). And slowly, every surface she was allowed on were cushioned with self-titled Fluff Blankets, folded to the appropriate cozy levels, so she could lounge in comfort wherever she so chose. Stairs were added beside my computer desk, her window perches, and our bed, so she could easily go wherever she so chose.

Fluff also displayed some surprising moments of intelligent clarity: learning to run to tile or the litterbox if she needed to vomit; finding the perfect acoustic spot at the bottom of the stairwell to carry an indignant scream for attention that would ring through the entire house.

Over the winter of 2023, her eating habits started to decline again and she began to hide herself away in dark quiet places, eventually diagnosed as symptoms of hyperthyroidism in January 2024. The number of visits made her well-known at the two vet clinics, popular enough that staff would come out to the lobby to say hello to her and coo as we waited. As truly befit her, she was deemed "sweet" by all who met her With medications in hand, she quickly bounced back.

In mid-April 2024, her eating slowed again. What followed was a month-long process that began with medications, extra feedings and encouragement; ended with syringe feeding kitten milk replacement and pedialyte 4 times a day with small portions of baby food/cat food pate mixes every two hours. Given her long history of tooth issues, we originally assumed she was having more and had a date set for extractions. She would scarf down food in small bursts, clearly hungry, even if her overall intake was smaller and smaller.

A week before then, her weight dropped significantly. Fluff was always a tiny kitty, usually clocking in about 6 pounds; her weight fell to 4.9. She seemed to be losing her eyesight, which I tried to account for with all her needs. A couple days before, she stopped joining me in bed at night and stopped sitting in the windowsill in the morning, staying in her cushion nest under the window. When she did get up, it was wobbly and aimless.

The night before, she stopped taking food at all, vomiting when I syringe-fed her. She would crouch in dark corners, pressing her head against the wall. When she stopped responding to my voice, we took her in to an emergency vet (she didn't make a sound in the car) and came out with shots and syringe medications and prescription high caloric foods and gels; with a plan to get further care at first light in the morning.

I checked on her every hour, every thirty minutes, every twenty minutes. I didn't want to disturb her if she was finding it easier to rest with the shots... but I think I fully knew before then. I would pet her, adjust her blanket, tell her I loved her and that if she need to go, she could go. She tried to get up, moving one of her front paws over and over, only pausing when I hooked it with a finger. And then, to my greatest shame, I would find myself overcome, and I would leave the room, telling her to "rest as best you can," until I would check again 20-30 minutes later. I left the lamp on so she wouldn't be in the dark.

At 4 am, I finally decided I would try to sleep. I told her I loved her, that if she needed to go, she could go. I turned off the light. I told her to rest. I told her good night. I put in headphones (usually I connect to a BlueTooth speaker, but I didn't want to disturb her) and started the latest episode for "The Empty Bowl" podcast.

What could only be 5 minutes later, she started sucking in wheezing breathes. I scooped her up in my arms and rocked her. We didn't need a carrier to take her back to the emergency vet - she didn't move from my chest.

She only left my arms once, at the start to be taken back in case they could find something to do. They could not.

Sedation allowed her respite, and I told her how much I loved her, how much she meant, silly things from years ago, how I only wanted her to find peace.

She passed just before 5 am, swaddled in a soft towel. She offered no protest, she just relaxed and let go.

In all liklihood, it was a cardiac event, brought on by weight loss and worsening hyperthyroidism. By the time it was obvious, there was nothing that could have reasonably been done.

But I don't want to hold onto those things, Baby Fluff. There so much more of you that deserves remembrance. In no specific order, a list of things that made you special to me and everyone that met you, that I want to hold on forever, commit to memory forever:

The way you pranced after me when you realized I was leading to the back door, that you'd be able to spend your afternoon in the sun outside in the screen porch. Your bell jingled softly with each dancing step.

How you would get attention so politely, sitting and reaching up with an outstretched paw and tapping in sets of exactly 3. It was so cute and sweet; it endeared you to Ron so much that he would do anything you asked for because you "asked so politely!"

The way you would flop in the most dramatic way on the desk or floor and squirmy-wormy your way onto the keyboard, looking up with the biggest baby eyes to get attention and pets. Unless we were on the floor, then you'd do your best to flop just out of arm's reach, only to look back at me with the biggest, most pleading eyes. I guess you just wanted me to prove that I loved you enough to move closer.

How, no matter what it was or where, you would come join us on household activities, just wanting to be near, I suppose? And people say cats aren't social creatures!

The way you would go all-in on headbutts. You knocked my phone out of my hand and onto my face so many times in bed. Just a full lowering of the head and slamming with every ounce you had.

How fiercely you rubbed your cheeks on the edge of laptops.

The way you had such resting bitch face in nearly every picture I took of you, but I knew you were happy.

How you so rarely blepped. It was such a rare treat when you did!

The way you would find pillows to lay your head on, be it my hand, a plush toy, a plump fold in the blanket.

The warbling chirrup sound you made whenever I called your name from a different room or brushed your cheek as you napped.

How you would just drop whole tribble-sized clumps of fur sometimes. I still have no idea how you didn't end up bald, and you clogged the vacuum so fast when I was cleaning. I could brush you every single day and end up with a second Fluff!

The way you would only allow yourself to be carried like a baby, cradled in my arms on your back. Any other method brought out the claws and distrust. When you were younger, you liked very much to be carried around the house and lifted to sniff things you couldn't normally reach.

How you would angrily lead me to bed at any time of day, demanding that I lay down so you could be cuddled and cozy. The longer time I laid in the morning, the better in your opinion! And an afternoon nap was a special treat for you, too!

How you put so much faith and trust in me that you regularly would sit right behind me or sit against the wheels of the computer chair, as if you truly believed I'd always know you were there and not accidentally snag you... You have no idea how bad I felt, every single time, and how it's now engrained to look backwards before I push back in the chair.

The way you left me for a month in 2017 and let me mourn you, knowing you were gone... and then returning just when I'd lost all hope and stayed with me for another 7 years, nearly to the day. Thank you for choosing me, just as I chose you.