photos and text by Michele D’Amour McDanel
Maybe we should have guessed that Fezzik was going to be big by the fact that the shelter staff had named him Fezzik, after the giant in the movie The Princess Bride. We could have gotten concerned at the fact that, at 5 months of age, he already weighed ten pounds and was in a community room with adult cats. Or, we might have given pause at the size of his paws – they were huge. Nope. We adopted Fezzik anyway, three summers ago, charmed by his sweet and mellow disposition, silky gray fury, and luminous green eyes. He settled into my husband’s arms in the visitation room as if he’d always been there, and we fell in love. (By the way, we think Fezzik is at least part Russian Blue, by his build and the color of his fur.)
We’re not a bit sorry that we chose him (or he chose us, depending on how you look at it). He’s still a wonderful cat. He has, however, grown in to the behemoth that his name would suggest. Today, Fezzik weighs thirty pounds. He is three feet long from the end of his nose to the tip of his back paw. People see him in our house and either say, “Is that a CAT?” or, “He looks like a small panther.”
As you might imagine, having a cat of such size poses some interesting challenges. First, the practical matters: of course he eats more food than his more petite brothers and sister. A regular litter box – even the so-called XL size at the pet store – doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t give him enough room to turn around. And not to get graphic, but with a regular litter box, he sometimes misses. My husband found the perfect solution at our neighborhood pet store. It’s a little longer than Fezzik is, and very deep, and looks like a small bathtub, but it works. His backup litter box, in another room, is actually a Rubbermaid storage box. For those of you dealing with super-sized cats of your own, the Rubbermaid option is a good one. You can also try looking online for jumbo litter boxes.
Regular scratching posts don’t give Fezzik enough height to stretch. Due to his weight, a regular cat tree doesn’t work, either, because most don’t accommodate more than 50 pounds. He could be on the tree by himself, but not with siblings. Also, the base of many cat trees doesn’t provide enough counter balance to take a thirty pound cat hitting it from a full run. (Hey, Fezzik may be big, but he’s pretty darned agile.) It took a bit of research online, but I finally found a couple of cat trees that work. We have several of them throughout the house, and Fezzik seems to instinctively know which ones can stand up to him. Or maybe he’s tried the others when we weren’t looking.
Fezzik isn’t all brawn. He’s also incredibly intelligent. We learned this last summer when he figured out how to open a window that had been left open about an inch for ventilation, then pushed out the screen and jumped out. We didn’t discover he was gone until hours later, and it took more than a week and a Pet Amber Alert to get him back. According to the neighbor whose tip led to us finding him, he had been hanging around with “some redhead” (an orange tabby cat), but that’s another story.
Integrating Fezzik with the rest of the animals in the house has been a learning experience, too. Surprisingly, one of the animals he gets along with best is one of the smallest: a five pound rabbit named Hopper. The two of them like to play tag, and sometimes Fezzik will just go to sit on the window sill and soak up the sun in the room where Hopper hangs around. Our dog, Lily, who actually weighs a few pounds less than Fezzik, is his favorite napping buddy.
Our other cats have had more trouble with Fezzik. We can only imagine that they look at him as some sort of strange mutant cat: he weighs 2 – 3 times what any of the others do. For more than a year, we had to keep him in a separate part of the house, behind a gate, so the other cats would feel somewhat safe while they got used to him. Oh, and the gate?
The first gate we tried was two feet tall, and Fezzik vaulted it like it was a suggestion. The second gate was forty-two inches tall, and he could still jump over it if he got a running start. We solved that problem by installing a curtain rod over the gate, with a semi-sheer curtain. It provided a visual barrier that (we think) made Fezzik believe it was solid. That worked for a while, until he started figuring out how to take the gate apart. (I told you he was smart!)
So, the gate came down a few months ago.
The other cats (except for his buddies Fergus and Delios) sometimes react with hisses and growls when he’s around, but things are slowly getting better. Fezzik sleeps in a separate room at night to give the others a break.
Despite all the special accommodations, Fezzik is a joy to have around. He loves to be brushed and to have his belly rubbed. He is a champion napper with an unflappable personality and isn’t a bit finicky. He is our gentle giant.
Do you have a behemoth size cat? Please tell us about your cat monster!