Cat teaches adopter that every day is a gift

Fluff Fluff the black and white cat looking forward
Fluff Fluff has a serious heart condition, but that doesn’t stop her from playing, loving, and living life to the fullest.
By Nicole Hamilton

Sara Virgil was looking online one day for a cat to adopt when a photo of one with white and black fur named Fluff Fluff made her stop scrolling. Sara has always been drawn to cats who look like Fluff Fluff. In fact, her cat Bella, who recently passed away, was a tuxedo kitty. Fluff Fluff is too, although the tux she sports is a white one.

But Fluff Fluff didn’t catch Sara’s eye by dapper and adorable looks alone. She was equally captivated by Fluff Fluff’s story and how well she was doing at Best Friends in New York, despite having a serious heart condition. It’s a condition Sara knows well because Bella had one similar.

Sara reached out to the team at Best Friends to learn more about Fluff Fluff, although truth be told she was on the fence about bringing her home. In her head, Sara thought the timing might not be right. Her heart, however, was telling her to try.

Understanding a cat’s heart condition

Fluff Fluff came to Best Friends last spring and was adopted quickly, only to be returned when her adopters noticed she suddenly developed difficulty breathing. When the veterinary team at Best Friends examined her, they determined her symptoms were so severe that she needed to be admitted to a veterinary hospital. There, a cardiologist diagnosed her with heart failure.

Fluff Fluff was placed on medication, and once she was stable and her breathing rate was normal again, she came back to the lifesaving center, where staff closely monitored her appetite, energy, and breathing. Dr. Michelle Lugones, Best Friends veterinarian, examined her regularly by listening to her heart and lungs to make sure they were stable. “She’s a survivor and has such a strong spirit,” says Dr. Michelle. “She never complained about taking her medications. Not once.”

[Lesson from a cat: Hearts are made for love]

Fluff Fluff’s heart condition, called partial atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD), is uncommon in cats. And while it can’t be cured, Fluff Fluff can still enjoy the same things cats without AVSD can, whether it’s waking up their person to play in the wee hours of the morning or napping in the sun. That’s something the team made clear when talking to potential adopters about her.

Still, whoever adopted Fluff Fluff would have to be diligent about monitoring her health. And they’d need to administer medication to Fluff Fluff every day. They knew that person was out there. In a city of more than 8 million people, all it would take was one person to see Fluff Fluff’s photo, fall in love with her story, and decide to give her a home.

Support for cat and her adopter

The first thing Sara did after learning about Fluff Fluff was call the lifesaving center to get all the details she could. She’d learned a lot from caring for Bella when she had heart failure and knew what questions to ask. She says, “I especially wanted to know how stable she was and much, much more about her heart defect.”

Sara ended up talking at length about Fluff Fluff with Best Friends staff, as well as with Dr. Michelle. She even had Fluff Fluff’s medical chart forwarded to the veterinary cardiologist who treated Bella after she was diagnosed with heart failure.

By the time Sara visited the lifesaving center to meet Fluff Fluff, she already knew so much about her. But getting to pet her, and seeing how kind and gentle she was around everyone, was what finally made Sara decide to bring Fluff Fluff home. Her initial plan was to foster Fluff Fluff, at least at first. But after about a month, she made it official and adopted her.

Creating a safe, loving home for animals

Today, Fluff Fluff is thriving, as evidenced by her love of running down the hallway, playing whenever the need for fun strikes, and following Sara from room to room like her shadow. She sleeps in the nook of Sara’s arm and wakes her up at 6 a.m. by jumping on her chest. Then, she runs into the kitchen for breakfast.

Fluff Fluff (known to Sara simply as “Fluff”) is still the laid-back cat she was at Best Friends, and she’s still a sport about taking her medications, even though the number of pills she needs has increased since Sara adopted her. (Fluff Fluff is now under the care of the same cardiologist who helped Bella.) She’s also on a new diet to help her lose weight, and Sara monitors her heart rate regularly.

[Cat with a happy heart]

You could say that Fluff Fluff is living happily ever after. But the thing about happily-ever-after is that it can take patience and, at times, hope. Sara views every day she gets to spend with Fluff Fluff making her life comfortable as a gift. It’s something she learned from Bella, and it’s part of who she is.

“I have always strived to create safe and happy homes. Now, I want to extend that to the animals I adopt,” says Sara. “I’m not drawn to new, shiny things. I like vintage. Older cats, and cats like Fluff, have so much love to give.”

A little extra time for a whole lot of love

Some pets like Fluff Fluff may need some extra care, but just give them a chance and they will bring a whole lot of joy to your life, too.

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