Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A 20th Birthday Party to Remember for Wolfie the Cat

Back in June, Fancy Feast sent me to Los Angeles to attend the 20th birthday party of an extraordinary cat named Wolfie. Today, I am proud and excited to share my story and pictures with you!

Wolfie strikes a pose before the guests arrive.

"You wouldn't think it would take a lot to put a cat party together, but it did," Elena tells me, as she races around her apartment making last minute preparations for her cat Wolfie's 20th birthday celebration. I offer to help, as I have arrived "fashionably" early in hopes of capturing some candid shots of the kitty, before she is overwhelmed by the influx of guests.

The night before the party, Elena had a talk with Wolfie, pleading with her to be more sociable. It seems to have worked, because the feline, who is 97 in human years, is working it for the camera ("You're going to be famous on the internet!" I tell her excitedly). As Elena astutely points out, Wolfie is older than Betty White, and just like the comic legend, is getting more attention as she ages.

Elena's friend Olivia arrives a few minutes later, and also marvels at the shift in Wolfie's attitude. "She hid for her 10th birthday party," she admits, as I'm crouched down on the floor snapping pictures of the birthday cat. Olivia has known Elena for 15 years, and says that Wolfie was much shyer in her youth.

Wolfie as a kitten.

Wolfie aka Wolfina Espina was found in a cardboard box on Main Street in El Segundo, California, in 1992. Elena, who had never had a cat before, remembers, "She stuck to me like glue, and I couldn't give her away." The grey tabby adopted her manly "Wolfman" moniker due to her uncanny resemblance to Lon Chaney, and some initial confusion as to whether "she" was a "he". Elena takes great pleasure in recounting the tale of the fateful vet visit, where the doctor proclaimed, "That's no Wolfman, it's a Wolfwoman!" This is the same vet who also told the new kitten owner that the typical life expectancy of a cat was 12 years, max. "Once that birthday came, I expected her to fall over," she says with a laugh.

Elena proudly gives Wolfie a squeeze.

The guests begin to trickle in, and they are a combination of longtime friends and neighbors, many of whom are meeting for the first time. They also include Elena's two cousins, who made an impressive eight hour drive from San Francisco to be part of Wolfie's special day. Elena tells me that she had fun telling everyone about the party, and it's clear that she is thrilled to see the group coming together to celebrate the life of her extraordinary cat.

Wolfie's neighbor Matthew shares a special moment with the birthday girl.

During the course of lunch, which consists of a generous spread of sandwiches, salads, and Elena's famous punch, I sit with some of the guests and ask them to describe Wolfie and Elena's relationship. Scott, a neighbor and one of Wolfie's longtime cat-sitters, tells me that they have a tight bond that is like that of a mother and child. Adam, also a neighbor and cat-sitter, describes it as "undying love," while Elena's cousin, Margaret, sums it up best by crossing her fingers together tightly.

When asked the same question, Elena responds, "She is my furry child." And indeed, she has done just as much for Wolfie as any human would do for their own flesh and blood.

Everyone was excited to wear the colorful hats Fancy Feast provided for the celebration.

In one amazing example, Elena recounts the time she relocated to Las Vegas for work. The pair traded in their sleepy El Segundo apartment for a high rise in Sin City.

"She hated it!" Elena remembers. "She missed the ocean breeze, and told me every day that she wanted to go back home." So they did. By a simple twist of fate, the same apartment they had left behind had become vacant. However, there was still the matter of Elena's job to consider. For three years, Wolfie would be cared for by cat-sitters during the week in El Segundo, while Elena would commute back and forth to Las Vegas by plane. "I'd leave at 4:30 a.m. on Monday and be back by 3 p.m. on Friday to spend the weekend with her," she says. "She finally got her dream of having her own place by the ocean!"

Sandra and Elena getting ready to serve some of the delicious desserts, including Wolfie's cat-shaped birthday cake.

After lunch, Wolfie indulges in some Fancy Feast before the human desserts start coming out. The centerpiece of the party is Elena's delicious cat-shaped birthday cake, covered in vanilla frosting and decorated with Twizzlers. Another highlight is the kitty cake balls, made by her neighbor Adam's girlfriend, Jena. The creatively decorated treats have been artfully arranged in large, pink balls of yarn, and elicit an excited response from the crowd.

Jena, pictured with Adam, Wolfie, and Elena, created cat-inspired cake pops for the party.

Being a Los Angeles native, it should come as no surprise that Wolfie has brushed whiskers with fame. Several years ago when Elena went to pick her up from having her teeth cleaned, she ran into screen legend Elizabeth Taylor, who was waiting outside in her car to pick up her own pets. Elena took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to introduce her beloved cat to the Hollywood icon, and after hearing Wolfie's story about being found in a cardboard box, the "Cleopatra" star famously responded, "That's a true rags to riches story!"

Eating Fancy Feast is a daily ritual for the 20-year-old cat.

Elena credits Wolfie's longevity to the consistent diet she has maintained over the past twenty years. She eats three cans of Fancy Feast a day (her favorite flavors are Cod, Sole and Shrimp, and Chunky Chicken), along with dry food, and a serving of 2% milk (while most cats are believed to be lactose intolerant, this hasn't been a problem for Wolfie). She is not allowed to have any table scraps.

She also finds it important to keep the senior cat both mentally and physically stimulated. In recent years, Wolfie started meowing incessantly, so Elena took her to a cat psychologist to find out what was bothering her. After a battery of tests, the doctor diagnosed her with a classic case of "cat boredom." To cure the malady, the pair changed their daily routine to include a game of hide and seek, a round of throw the toy and come back ("Not fetch, because she doesn't bring the toy back," Elena quips), and 10 minutes a day of looking out the window and pointing to birds. The meowing stopped.

I finally get my moment to cuddle with the guest of honor!

A twenty year relationship with anyone, human or feline, is bound to be filled with memorable moments, but I asked Elena if she could pick one fondest memory from their two decades together. She paused for a moment to think, before recalling the time they went to visit her parents. Elena had not grown up with cats, and her mother, who recently passed away, wasn't exactly a cat lover. However, by the end of the visit, the two could be found napping together, with Wolfie snuggled up in her lap. "She has a way of winning your heart," Elena beams. "She took the harshest cat critic, and made her a fan."

From L to R: Olivia, Sandra, Elena, Margaret, and Melissa show off their goodie bags.

As the goodie bags are handed out and the party begins to wind down, birthday wishes abound. Guests tell me that they hope the cat will enjoy "20 more years," "unlimited Fancy Feast," and the chance to live out at least one more of her nine lives. Wolfie, who has been such a good sport throughout the whole affair, is now off napping peacefully in a corner. As Elena finally takes a moment to sit down and relax, I ask her what she thinks Wolfie's secret to a long life is.

After an eventful afternoon, Wolfie settles in for a nap.

"She finds me funny, and gets a big laugh out of me every day," Elena says. "We have a lot of laughter, love, and she gets plenty of attention. She really doesn't have any stress. She lives a carefree life by the beach, with neighbors who are ready to come take care of her at the drop of a hat -- and who know what flavor of Fancy Feast she likes!"

I ask Elena if she has ever had another cat, but she emphasizes that Wolfie is her "first and only."

"You won't get another cat after she is gone?" I ask.

"There will never be another Wolfie."



MistressCatgirl said...

Wow what a great story. Here is an guardian who is willing to do whatever it takes to make her cat happy. I wish Wolfie another 20 years also and lots of happiness.

KC and the Giggleman Kitties said...

What a great post!
Wolfie looks great, too, and tha party wif Fancy Feast must haf been tha bestest.
That's what six of us seven cats prefer is tha Fancy Feast Classic. Missy Blue Eyes will only eat dry food, the Fancy Feast in tha big green bag. But tha rest of us love us some Fancy Feast.
Love & Purrs,

Samantha, Clementine and Maverick said...

Oh my goodness!! What a wonderful post!! Wolfie is a cutie and looks good for being 97!! Thanks for sharing with us!!
Your TX furiends,

Jenna (SewSavoirFaire) said...

Oh this is the sweetest. I hope my fancy felines live that long! My youngest is 1 and a half and my "eldest" is almost 5! I cross my kitty loving fingers they live to Wolfie's age!

Anonymous said...

Hi Elena,
I admire your dedication to your cat. Every cat deserves such love :) I know the feeling of never wanting another animal when your first dies but I wanted to share this with you..

Before humans die, they write their last Will & Testament, give their home & all they have, to those they leave behind. If, with my paws, I could do the same, this is what I'd ask…

To a poor and lonely stray I'd give:
-My happy home.
-My bowl & cozy bed, soft pillows and all my toys.
-The lap, which I loved so much.
-The hand that stroked my fur & the sweet voice that spoke my name.

I'd Will to
the sad, scared shelter dog, the place I had in my
human's loving heart, of which there seemed no bounds.

So, when I die, please do not say. "I will never have a pet again,
for the loss and pain is more than I can stand."

Instead, go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope
and give MY place to HIM.

This is the only thing I can give…
The love I left behind.

-Author Unknown

Cat Chat With Caren And Cody said...

what a wonderful story!! Wolfie is an amazing cat and HAPPY BIRTHDAY WOLFIE!!

I have to say I agree with "Unknown" above. I lost my Bobo when he was 18 and he was my "first and only cat" I adored him...i KNEW there could never be another Bobo, you know what? There won't be but 2 wks later I adopted Cody. My vet had said that "you aren't replacing Bobo, no cat can" "you are creating new memories with another cat" he said that Bobo would have wanted me to love another cat that needed a home the way that I loved HIM when he needed one.
I love what "unknown" wrote and couldn't agree more

Pam said...

I pray my kitties get to be that age and look as good as Wolfie! I wish her many more happy healthy and comfortable birthdays with her very special mom! This lady is a true wonder and an angel. Wouldn't it be grand if the world had more Elenas! It's compassionate people like her that make a difference in all our lives. Big X's

Andrea and the Celestial Kitties said...

Wow, that looks like it was a fun party!

Layla ( Cat Wisdom 101) said...

Great story and happy birthday Wolfie! Our Merlin is turning 18 and has eaten his share of Fancy Feast too :-)

Jo said...

A truly cherished feline : ) Lovely story x x

John Chanellor said...

Wow, what a grand age! Happy birthday Wolfie!

dobson said...

Wow, I see that Wolfie was properly named and has had a charmed life. Happy Birthday!

meowmeowmans said...

What a great party! Wolfie and Elena have such a special bond, and it is beautiful to behold. Thank you for sharing this with us. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow ,a great story!I just lost my 14 old Bombay a month ago to heart failure. I wish he could have lived until 20. My heart is still broken. I have 7 others so I hope they live a long time. Wolfie looks great for her age!

Anonymous said...

Lovely story, it was bittersweet to me as my Kitty passed away last March,2012 . He was 22 years old! Very similar that he too was found as little kitten, on the street ,on the south shore near Cape Cod and he was a love.RIP Wolfie and Kitty.

Anonymous said...

How very wonderfthatyour cat has lived this long what a Gods Blessing he is so lucky to have a family like this he is a beautiful cat. May God bless him & you the rest of his life & yours .

Anonymous said...

I think this is so wonderful!!! I can relate to the bond because I am very very close with mine. I can only pray and be as blessed to have them for 20 years!! Happy Birthday Wolfie!!

Betty Serfazo said...

Congratulations Wolfie, what a great day and a big number. Wolfie is in good company, we have a handsome cat named Valentino, he will be 20 on Valentine's Day.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Unknown, and know that your Wolfie does, too, even though she can't tell you in words. I lost my Callie (beautiful, long-haired calico) in March, 2011, and felt as you do, now. She left such a hole in my life! Callie would've been 22 years old in another month (was told that's 103 human years). She was Diabetic for many years (insulin shots every day), was given liquid meds for her thyroid deficiency every day, and was arthritic. She could no longer jump into a chair or on the bed, so I got stairs for her, which she handled really well. She slept most of the time, but I knew she was there, in "her spot". After her insulin shot every night, I put a bib on her and fed her watered down diabetic canned food, in a syringe. The night she died, she refused to eat, slid down the front of my lounge chair, wobbled a little distance across the floor, and dropped. I guess her heart just couldn't take any more. She had not been sick, so I was thankful for that. I made many trips to the local Humane Society just to spend time with the shelter cats and give them some love. Two months later I walked into the community room, and there was this scared 7 year old way across the room from me. Callie always came to me when I clicked my fingers, so I tried this, and he came running to me. He needed dental work badly, so I made arrangements for the shelter, this was done, and I picked him up a few days later. He's been super! He doesn't replace my Callie, nor ever will, but he is a sweetheart that enjoys my attention and I enjoy his. If you would like to see a picture of him, go into my facebook page under the name of Marilyn Kruse. Elena, if you don't ever get another "furry friend", you will be missing so much, and he/she would be missing having your love, attention, and care. Something most shelter cats never get to experience. By the way, Elena, your Wolfie is a replica of a half-frozen cat I took in from a snow blizzard and was never able to find the owner. He was estimated to be about 17 or 18 when I lost him. Bless you for loving and caring for Wolfie so much. She is very fortunate to have you.

Anonymous said...

Hope you had a Happy Birthday Wolfie. I am a 13 year young, beautiful, black kitty. My name is Midnight. My mama got me from a friend. I had been in several homes before I found my forever home with my loving mom and day, sister Snowball, Hammy the Hamster, Maxwell the dog and 9 hermit crabs. You are a very lucky kitty. I am honored to meet you. Midnight.

Cristian said...

This was so sweet and touching, thank you so much for sharing this with your readers.

Really warmed my heart. I love this blog.

Pauline said...

Congratulations on Wolfies's wonderful birthday and party. I, too, am fortunate in having a 20 year old calico cat named Pookie. We got her from a friend of a friend of a friend - the rest is history. A year after we adopted Pookie, we adopted a shelter torti kitten, who passed away on June 8, 2011; then we rescued a 3 legged feral torti who lived with us for 14 years before passing away to cancer on July 29. 2009; in 1998 we found a pregnant abandonded cat, took her in, adopted out her kittens and kept April until she passed away on August 24, 2011. I lost two cats in two months. However, Pookie is still with us. She has been diabetic for the past 15 years and spent most of that time in remission thanks to Fancy Feast Gourmet or Classic wet food. Pookie is my life!! Everything we do revolves around this cat, her diet, her insulin injections if needed. Pookie has helped me through much joy and much sorrow in the 20 years that she has been with us. She sleeps with me, eats with me and has jumped into the shower with me (also jumped out very quickly)!! My wish is that everyone has the relationship that I do with my Pookie. I know that she will not be with me forevery and there will be a fourth hole in my heart, but I also know that there will be another little 4 legged purrson (an older cat probably) maybe one with diabetes to be managed that needs our love. I will be devasted and know that there will never be another Pookie, but I hope that the holes in my heart will be healed by my being able to give another cat or two a better life than they have. Wishing Wolfie much love and good health.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 20 years old.The oldest cat I have had was 17. His name was Tiger. He was a Maine Coon. He would hug and squeeze me as hard as a child. I know how you feel about wolfie. You can't replace them, but you are able to love another one as well. My heart still aches for the many cats I have loved and lost. But, I keep mine in the house, and they get love, great food, and vet care. I now have 3 male Tabby's I rescued in my alley where someone dropped them off. Congrats and give Wolfie a kiss from my 3 male cats.:)

Sue Charles said...

. What a beautiful, moving story. And Such a wonderful kitty and person relationship. I've had many, super-many kitties.. all but 2 were rescues. And they all were unique and wonderful in their own way. They all contributed joy and heart to our family. Life without a kitty just doesn't seem complete.
Happy Birthday wonderful Wolfie!! <3

fleas said...

Happy birthday Wolfie love and many more my chei is 8 and i love him to death hope to spend 20 plus years with him God bless you guys

My Cat Boys said...

What a gorgeous cat. You can tell she lived a wonderful, full life. :)

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