We got Chutney in January 1996. After spending the day driving around Los Angeles looking for kittens, we found a litter of four, 12 weeks old. Scott took one look at them and said “I want the calico, she beats up on her brothers!” Little did we know that was exactly how feisty she’d be for her entire life. We got one of her brothers, Mough, to keep her company.
Her name came from an episode of The Simpsons:
Bart: Rough day, Apu. Make me a squishee and don’t spare the syrup.
Apu: Oh, perhaps you would like to try an experimental flavor of my own concoction. A delicious Chutney Squishee..
Bart: Oh… okay
Apu: You can really taste the chutney!
Scott said that episode made him think that Chutney would make a great name for a cat.
She was a spunky kitten and grew into a beautiful cat. Her tortishell fur was always glossy and smooth. The white spot under her neck was some of the softest cat fur ever. And big white whiskers. I’d find them sticking up out of the carpet sometimes.
When she was little, she could really fly around. I had a Koosh ball on a string and she’d jump around after it, leaping several feet in the air. Her favorite place to hang out was the top of the kitty house I built out of some wood and carpet in our carport. And she never met a sun puddle that she didn’t like.
She was the dominant cat in the house. In her mind, the pecking order went: Scott, Chutney, Amy, Mough. She had a loud voice and always let us know when she was unhappy. I’ve never heard sounds come out of a cat like when Chutney would do her banshee wail. Scott was never afraid of her, he’d laugh and pet her when she was mad and was always able to calm her down.
She was smart and curious. She always had to have a view of what was going on. She was always on alert, hearing and seeing phantom greeblings. Investigating new packages to the house. And supervising Mough. Her tail would puff up at the slightest provocation. Sometimes Scott and I would play fighting cats on the couch, and a couple of times Chutney tried to rush in to the fray. Once, when she was very young, Scott made screetching eagle noises and flapped his arms. She rushed at him like she was going to take the giant bird down.
When we first got the cats, we told my baby sister we were going to fatten them up for Thanksgiving dinner. That year, we got an extra turkey roasting pan to take a photo with a cat in it. One night, Scott called out “Amy, get the camera”. I entered the living room to see him lowering Chutney, claws splayed, into the pan. A second later there was an explosion of cat. Chutney was gone, tufts of fur were floating in the air, and Scott was bloody. I would have chosen Mough for the photo-op.
Chutney wasn’t so much a lap cat as a leg cat. Her favorite place to hang out was across legs suspended between couch and coffee table. So many times my feet fell asleep while she was on my legs, but you can’t move a comfortable cat. If I was sitting on the couch and my legs weren’t in the proper position, she’d firmly headbutt my knees or thighs until I moved to satisfy her.
We started clipping their claws when they were kittens, and Chutney never quite learned to deal with hers properly when they were long. She was always getting stuck on something. Usually letting out another banshee wail when she just couldn’t get free. We would clip her claws about once a month, and while it was a necessary evil, it was quite a production. Scott would put on his leather motorcycle jacket and hold her out at arms length. I’d grab her paws and clip as fast as I could. We had to be completely silent — if we tried to make soothing sounds, she only fought harder.
When we moved into our house last year, we had a fireplace for the first time. And when we had it going, she’d spend the whole evening curled up in front of it.
A couple of years ago, Chutney was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure. It was managed with diet and sub-cutaneous fluids several times a week. I got really good at sticking her with a needle. I only stuck myself once.
She was always perkier the day after she got her fluid. It helped her a lot. But CRF is a degenerative condition. She’d seemed a little slower, and so I took her to the vet on Friday. She was dehydrated and anemic. I spent the day at home with her, giving her fluids, vitamins, and all the tuna water she could drink. She had a warm bed on a heating pad, under a blanket, and I spent a lot of time giving her love.
I got up in the middle of the night and checked on her. She was alert and even gave Mough a suspicious look. I thought she’d be more herself in the morning. After I turned off the light, I heard a funny noise. And turned the light back on to find her having a seizure. I pet her to the end.
They say you can tell how loved someone is by how many nicknames they have. Chut, Chugger, Chugger Nugger, Fuzzy Slugger, Chutney Buttney, Gutney, Nutney, Kitten Girl, Girly Butt, and a hundred variations on those themes. Chutney was incredibly loved. We miss her.