Totally Rufus

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I’ve been petless since the beginning of June. After losing two cats in under a year, I planned to take a long break. I moved the old cat dishes and toys to the attic and peeled the protective plastic from the back of my couch. I brought fresh flowers into the house. I left food and drinks unattended. I enjoyed an active life free of any guilty worries about a pet alone at home.

I decided it would be foolish to get another cat during this freewheeling time, when I’m traveling and going out a lot (and my pet-averse family agreed). So what if I was increasingly lonely at home and stared longingly at friends’ Instagrams of their cats. I remained in denial as my friend Stacy, a cat mom extraordinaire, continued to notify me of cats she knew who needed homes. I shut her down every time. It just wasn’t a good idea.

A few weeks ago, Stacy told me a couple she knew was looking for a new home for one of her cats, an orange tabby. They found this sweet, friendly cat hanging around their vacation condo in Hot Springs, without a tag or apparent owner. He kept hopping into their car, so they brought him home and called him Orange. Then the other cats in the house started ganging up on him, scratching him, and blocking him from the food bowl, and they decided he needed a new, one-cat home ASAP. The moment Stacy told me this story, I knew I was in trouble. The way I felt the first time I saw my townhouse, attended my church, met people I now love; that’s how I already felt about this cat. On top of that, I’d actually thought several times that I’d specifically like an orange male cat, but hadn’t mentioned it to anyone.

I got in touch with the owner and told her I was interested, but hesitant. She assured me the cat is in great health and would probably welcome some solitude after being pushed around. That weekend, I drove out to their country house to meet him, and he was great. Sociable, energetic in a normal young-cat way, affectionate but not in a pestery way. I was about to go on a long weekend trip, so I told her I’d come back to take him the following week. I told myself I could still change my mind. But the more I pictured having this cat around, the happier I felt. I think I’m just a person who lives better with pets than without them, and in a weird emotional sense it’s been more work for me not to have an animal friend than to have one.

So last Wednesday night (accompanied by my friend Kelsey), I brought home my orange cat, and I gave him a name I chose soon after my cat Peach died: Rufus.


My inspiration started with Rufus Thomas, Memphis bluesman and entertainer. Someone mentioned him on the news, and I made a mental note that this would be a great name for a Memphis cat. Then I thought about Rufus Wainwright, singer/songwriter beloved by hipsters old and new… though (confession) I only know him from his live cover of “Careless Whisper” with Ben Folds, which is one of my favorite covers ever.

In Never Been Kissed, one of my favorite movies, the high schoolers use rufus to mean something great or cool. If you’ve ever heard me say “It’s great. Totally rufus,” it’s from the scene when Josie reports at a staff meeting that that’s how her story is going.

But I think my ultimate reason for being drawn to this name was subconscious. When I was a little girl, I had a record of the Disney movie The Rescuers (with dialogue and songs), and I listened to it all the time. I hadn’t thought about it in years, and didn’t realize until this week that Penny’s cat in the movie is named Rufus.

My Rufus has already made himself at home at my place. He was totally relaxed on the long drive back into the city (my previous cats would have yowled the entire time), received a welcome package from godmother Stacy, and warmed up to me immediately. Having lived on a screened porch for a while, he seems thrilled to have the run of a two-story home. He’s lean, with long, skinny legs that he can’t quite control – he keeps sliding on the hardwood floor and biffing it off the bathroom sink. If he were a person, he’d be a clumsy basketball player. Which makes him the perfect cat for me!

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I still have a little irrational anxiety that something will go wrong and prevent me from keeping Rufus. But it feels really right to have him with me. I’ve realized his presence will be healing in the same way I imagine being in a good relationship would be healing. I need to relearn that having a cat doesn’t have to be high-maintenance and emotionally difficult… it can be easy and fun and joyful!


So, my resolve lasted just over three months. I’m okay with it.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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9 Responses to Totally Rufus

  1. Bethany says:

    YAY! Welcome, Rufus! He’s adorable. Definitely sounds like you were meant to be together. For what it’s worth, I completely understand your needing a pet. People thought I was crazy when we got Nala a month after Mandy died, because you remember how sad I was over her death, but I *need* a dog. I just do.

    Also, when I read your title I thought it was a Bill & Ted reference! LOL! I’ve only seen Never Been Kissed once, so I should be forgiven. ;)

  2. Amanda Ranta says:

    Love, love, love! He’s so pretty!! :)

  3. Liz W. says:

    Life is better with pets. I’m a dog and cat person and I need them both for different reasons. I get it. You needed a cat. Makes perfect sense to me!

  4. Caroline says:

    I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to meet Rufus!

  5. Wendy says:

    Yay for Rufus! So glad you found a sweet kitty and gave him a good home. Happy for you!

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  8. lily says:

    I have an orange male kitten who is about 2 months old and he is named Rufus too! No apparent connection with the rescuers, I actually heard the name and liked it. Congrats on rescuing Rufus – I have to admit, my kitten is as adorable as your’s

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