Cuddles - a Rescued Ragdoll Kitty
Almost exactly a year ago, I did something completely out of character. Under a severe flooding threat, I drove seven hours round-trip to adopt a cat I'd never met. Cuddles (renamed appropriately by our family), was a 6-year old retired breeder. After extensive research on Ragdolls, I stumbled upon the website of his previous owner who'd fallen on hard times and decided to close her cattery. The picture of his gorgeous eyes drew me in, and I was hooked!
I tried to be thorough with my questions beforehand, but nothing could prepare me for the scene I drove up to when I went to pick him up. Little did I know that he was living in one room in an abandoned house with no running water. At first sight, I thought he had mud on him, but it turned out to be flea dirt all over his white coat. In fact, he was so infested that the fleas had eaten away his fur and even infiltrated his nose. As soon as I called to him, he came running toward me and threw himself at my feet to be petted.
Before coming home, I'd scheduled an appointment with a feline veterinarian and a feline master groomer to make sure he was as healthy and comfortable as he could be. I'd decided this kitty deserved to get the royal treatment! Cuddles was in such bad shape that the vet refused to believe he was a Ragdoll until she saw the papers. Severely underweight, his tail was stained with urine, and he'd been shaven because of all the matting in his coat.
The groomer couldn't believe her eyes either, and wanted to see those papers too! She told me it was one of the worst flea infestations she had ever seen. The treatment from the vet had killed the fleas, but Cuddles needed several baths and a lot of combing to remove them from his coat. Despite the stress he must have been under, Cuddles never once got aggressive with anyone.
Once he was home, the years of abuse became even more evident. He would only eat off the floor and was afraid of laying on anything soft. He cried when we left the room until we finally figured out that it was because he didn't think he was allowed to follow us. The minute we started petting him, he purred. Once trust was established, the cat "who doesn't like to be picked up" happily let us carry him from room to room until he was confident enough to roam on his own. Still today, he's terrified if he's more than a foot outside our house. My husband thinks it's because it's the only safe place he's ever known and because we are his first real family.
We figured a new life means he needed a new name. It took us two weeks to decide on one, and boy does it fit him! Cuddles loves to snuggle. If he sees us headed to the couch, he will run to meet us and curl up as soon as we sit down. He prefers to be touching both my husband and me simultaneously, and it's a bonus if there's a comfy place to nuzzle his head. Surprisingly, he loves a gentle belly rub and being groomed, so we try to do that almost every day. He likes to sleep with my husband and me all night, but only if he's invited twice! So that's how he plays hard to get.
The cat who was only ever fed dry kitten food now feasts on Tiki Cat. Due in part to regular trips to the kitty-spa, his short coat is long and shiny. Now that he lives in the lap of luxury, he's put on a hefty five pounds. No more brown stains on his front paws from those horrible fleas, Every time I take him to the vet or groomer, they tell me how they cannot believe it's the same cat!
We think Cuddles is the all-in-one pet. Though he looks like a cat, Cuddles likes to play fetch, comes when we call him and always greets us at the door, much like a dog. When he's especially happy, he sticks out his tongue and purrs like a pigeon. Touching his fur is like stroking the down feathers of a bird. He loves to bunny-kick Yeoww cat toys and enjoys spying on birds from the massive cat tower that now occupies the space next to our french doors.
It's not that Cuddles is without fault. Our clean laundry is his favorite "prey" to attack, so I have to fold it in secret. Cooking is now an issue too because he's always throwing himself at my feet. And who can get off the couch and be productive when there's a sweet kitty always begging to snuggle with you?
In the end, one of the craziest things I've ever done is one of the best things I've ever done. We had no way of knowing that soon after we adopted him, our family would face a very tough year. In addition to multiple health issues and surgeries for all three of us, our little girl was diagnosed with autism this past summer. Cuddles has been there for us through it all, giving comfort and refusing to leave the side of whoever was hurting. He is the sweetest living being I've ever known and a daily joy to our family.
Some people say how lucky he is to be rescued, but I feel we are the lucky ones. Our daughter tells everyone that Cuddles is her cat-brother, so he's a true member of the family. I really cannot imagine life without him. In fact, we joke that he has ruined us from ever getting another animal because he is that wonderful. If you had Ragdoll of the Year, I'd say he should be the winner.
P.S. The first picture is of Cuddles in the abandoned house, but it's not very good. I took it from far away, and then zoomed in, so you can't really tell how filthy he was. Sorry, it was the only one I got! I couldn't get him out of there fast enough.