Flippy’s Story

aka Flipper, the Flipster, Little Flip Flips, Flip-a-Roni, etc., etc.

Well, it’s been six months since we lost Kitty, and we are still financially and emotionally reeling from that, and I was supposed to write about Flippy while she was still alive. At this moment she is, but in few hours she will not be. I guess I was just too busy and didn’t think it was urgent. In April, she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, but was doing fine, purring right along through it all. But two days ago, something happened seemingly unrelated to her kidney disease – we don’t know what – something perhaps with the CNS – but she isn’t getting better and no one seems to think she will.

I adopted Flippy in 2002 from a place in Long Beach. My cousin had recenlty “loaned” me Kitty McKitterson, Esq. for an unspecified amount of time. Kitty seemed lonely while I was chugging away in the lab every day and night. I searched online for another snowshoe and found one, but when I called, they said that he had been adopted; however they had a seal point snowshoe and sent me a picture of a tiny cat called Flipper.

flipper copy

Photo of teeny adoptable seal point snowshoe called Flipper

When we arrived to the foster home, Flipper was in a little bed on a shelf that was full of stuffed animals. She lived with several other cats and dogs and they all got on well. We took her in the carrier and I sat in the back seat with her back to San Diego. She didn’t make any sounds or look around much. She seemed kind of scared.

When we got home, she and Kitty sniffed each other and then she went under a bed. I figured she’d come out in a few days. Months passed. The only way I ever saw the elusive critter is if I spied on her eating at night. If I was sleeping, this would wake me up because she liked to scratch the ground, move the bowl over, scratch some more, move the bowl back, then eat, the scratch some more. I guess she was “digging up” the food, then “hiding” it again. She and Kitty weren’t best friends, and he was definitely the boss, but the one time I came home and found blood on the floor after a day away at school, it turned out to be his, not hers. He had that nick in his ear for the rest of his life.

I moved up to Berkeley in 2003 where Flippy resumed her hiding. A friend dubbed her “Stealth Cat,” and it was quite special to have a sighting. Every now and again she would sit on a couch or the bed, but you couldn’t get close…she’d run for cover. This always made it easy to get her in a cat carrier, though – once she was cornered she would prefer to run in there and be sheltered.

The standard view.

The standard view. Flippy in her natural habitat.

A rare above-ground sighting.

A rare above-ground sighting.

Soon after our move I took her to the vet. I’d had her over a year and it was the first time I’d ever heard her meow. If you can call it that. It was a strange, scratchy sound. I was shocked. The vet seemed to think it was strange I’d never heard her. They told me that she had an ear polyp, that the agency I adopted her from must have known and just didn’t tell me and that all these horrible things would happen and my cheapest option was 2500$. I really wanted to do something for her…I was convinced if she felt better than she wouldn’t hide all the time. However, I was having money issues due to a bad roommate situation and I couldn’t do anything. They gave me some drops and told me to put them in her ear twice a day. I tried to explain that I couldn’t…that she lived under a bed. I’m pretty sure they thought I had abused her or something, but another vet told me that sometimes if cats aren’t handled before they are a certain age, they just never want to be. If you did touch her, she wasn’t hissy or swatty, she just kind of recoiled and made a face, not so different from what happens if you try to show me any affection.

Simon's Cat

Even when she didn’t like coming out from under the bed, she still enjoyed Simon’s Cat.

Soon after trying to administer eardrops in what closely was beginning to resemble a troglobitic cat (in behavior, not physical appearance – she had eyes, color and extremely short adorable limbs), I learned of her super power. I came home from school to find a bloody turd on my bed. That seemed bad. Awful. I panicked and off to the vet we went. The vet informed me after several expensive tests that she had nothing wrong and was probably just upset, and that some cats had the ability to produce bloody fecal material as a sign of outside annoyance. Luckily, she reserved her power for very special situations.

After year 4, I had mostly resigned myself to believing that she would always live under the bed. She would eat, use the litter box (unless she was upset) and that was that. When people asked how many cats I had, I used to say 1.5. One day, though, I was tying my shoes getting ready for school when out came a paw that swatted my lace. I played with her like that for a few minutes. I thought it would be the beginning of the end of her “cave-dwelling.” We played like this for a few weeks and once I even heard her purr, and then as abruptly as it began, it was over.

When Mark and I first started living together, I could tell he kind of thought she was a real lemon. Why would anyone want this under-the-bed-dweller? At this point though, I definitely found her quirkiness very endearing. It reminded me of living with a squirrel or skunk or some other woodland critter. I used to say she was half squirrel, half cat.

Once I moved to Australia for a year in 2008, Mark moved in with his brother Neil. It soon became apparent that Flippy had a thing for Neil (a positive thing…not a thing where she constantly shit on his floor like another roommate she had a “thing” for – disclosure: roommate + floor so dirty he didn’t notice for weeks). Sometimes we would find Flippy on Neil’s bed. Oooo, a sighting!

Can you spot the Flippy?

Can you spot the Flippy?

She liked to come out to the living room and stare at him, from a distance. Once we were all eating dinner and watching TV in the living room and we had recently picked up a new ikea rug. She came out from under the bed and began doing this weird rolling back and forth on her back thing for a long time. Neil said, “Well, they don’t call her Flippy for nothin’!” It was pretty funny and just another quirk to add to the long list. Once we all lived in different places, Neil would still come over and say hi to her under the bed. She certainly enjoyed that.

Although she slept under the bed she snored. Much of it was probably the result of the ear polyp. However, it was LOUD. So loud, she would wake you up. It was funny to hear that sound come out of such a little furball. And the thing that always drove me nuts is she was just SO DAMN CUTE. I mean, yes, lots of cats are cute, but she was heart-meltingly cute.

Just look at that face, those eyes, those toes, that chin...

Just look at that face, those eyes, those toes, that chin…

And if a curmudgeon like me finds something heart-melting, it truly must be…I could be upset about anything and just look at her face. It wasn’t like, “oh this makes things ok,” but more like there was nothing good or bad but just that cute little face and those eyes and the dotty chin. If Kitty had shit on the bed ever, I would have been mad, but with Flippy, I was upset, but then I just looked at her big blue people eyes and her teeny dotty chin. And her feet! She wasn’t so much a Snowshoe as a SnowToes. Only her toes were white!

Snow Toes

Snow Toes

And she was always sticking them out in front of you and you couldn’t resist to touch them and….SWAT. Then she’d tuck them under so you couldn’t even look at them. She was also extremely soft. So you’ve got this teeny thing that is so fucking adorable and you want to pick it up and squeeze it for 10 years and, brother, you’re outta luck.

So this was how things were for 10 years.

In 2012 Mark and I went backpacking. When we came home, Flippy was on the bed. Her fur was a little matted as usual since we could never pet her or groom her. She wasn’t a long-haired cat so much as a thick-haired cat. I think she may have been waterproof….it was really hard to find skin under that fur for applying flea meds and stuff. So maybe she was 1/3 squirrel, 1/3 cat and 1/3 otter or beaver. Once when the vet was trying to take her temperature she had trouble finding the butthole because of the thick fur, which we were both amused by…Flippy not so much. So, there she was on the bed and I was like, shit, I’m gonna try to brush her. I edged closer and closer and she didn’t move. I started brushing and she started purring…I was like, “Holy shit, Mark, take a picture of this.” I figured it would be a one-time thing. But that was the beginning of her being our little buddy. After several days of this behavior I began to think maybe she was sick or had a brain tumor or something, but there were no health changes.  It ONLY worked on the bed though. If you were petting her on the bed and she was purring away, once she jumped off, that was it. Back to being terrified under the bed.

Kitty wasn’t super into her new found friendship with us and became bossier than ever, but she wasn’t deterred. She began sleeping with us at night. I was convinced she was just pulling one over on us so she could slit our throats in our sleep. We have a small bed and a giant cat and now we had a bed for 4.


As she came out more, we could annoy her more…Flippy Monster!

We began to tell some of our friends about Flippy’s “awakening.” No one really believed it. And we also thought it would just be with us since we’d been around her for so long. Nope. She loved our great catsitter Joel and pretty much anyone willing to give brushies or petties, as long as there weren’t too many people around. She was also VERY purry.

She also began what we called “barking.” Sometimes there were still the weird scratchy random rare “meows,” but most of the time when she saw you, if she wanted food or wanted petties, she would “bark” at us. I never got as good of video of that as I wanted.

She also enjoyed watching bird videos. While Kitty couldn’t have cared less, Flippy wanted to find those damn birds…how could they fly away and not behind the computer?!

After Kitty left us in April, she became even more affectionate…maybe because she finally could. He was quite bossy. Her ear also got better because he wasn’t around to lick it all the time and cause infections that polyps can sometimes cause. She definitely didn’t seem too upset about his passing – that’s definitely not to say we weren’t. But we had her, and that certainly helped. She began sleeping in between our heads or cuddled in an armpit…she really liked Mark’s armpits – headbutting and seemingly trying to burrow in.

Even if he wasn’t in the shirt… She also liked to rub her face up against your nose and she had the WORST breath…so you’d have this horrible smell stuck to your nose…but somehow it was still cute…we called her Little Stinky sometimes. At night she would wake me up sometimes by purring so loud and it would vibrate her whiskers and tickle my chest or face. I will really miss that. On some occasions, she would wake us up by pooping or peeing on us – but that was only when an outside cat had made her sick – I will not miss that so much, but I do find it funny that we just tarped the bed and slept in the living room. Ah, cats. She only did it for a few days, then stopped and all was well again. Even though she’d been “out” for nearly two years, I never took it for granted and was always amazed. I mean, everyone said it wouldn’t happen ever. And what if someone else had adopted her? Would they have given her up? It was really quite amazing and even though it occurred only these last two years I am grateful for it. There will never be another like her – and maybe that sounds trite – but she’s a true weirdy. If she were here now instead of at the hospital, she would be making a few of those weird scratchy loud “meows,” and I would go in and give her some pets and brushes and she would snooze till dinner or sit in her window perch looking out at the outside cats and soaking up the sun, a favorite past time. She will be missed.


Flippy Sunning


Perching, watching over the outside.

Flippy Burger

Flippy Burger

xmas photo

Attempted Holiday Photo

Flippy Noir - a rare sighting from the olden days

Flippy Noir – a rare sighting from the olden days


Bein’ Comfy


Who’s The Boss?

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