Pixel was a wonder among cats. He walked into our lives at the housewarming in September 2004. My post from back then told it this way:
We did have one rather unexpected guest: a little ginger tabby kitten. While Rick was saying goodbye to his mom, the ginger tabby walked up and Rick tried to shoo him out of the street. When he put his hand down, the kitten rubbed up against it. Not being shooed, Rick picked him up to move him out of the way, and the kitten instantly wrapped an arm around each side of his neck and began purring furiously. Meanwhile, I'm chatting in the kitchen and someone says, "Rick has a cat he wants you to see." I walk out, most puzzled, and am handed a little lost kitten. We got him a can of tuna out of the cupboard, and he proceeded to suck it all down, and still be hungry for more. He has a little purple and white flea collar, but he's clearly a bit lost. The flea collar is sort of old and cracked and sunbleached, and I think he may have been on his own for a while. We eventually set him down and let him head off, but he didn't go far, so we picked him back up and took him inside, fearing for a car coming too fast down the street. More tuna, and a trip to 7-11 for kitty litter, and little Pixel stayed the night.
Since then, Pixel settled in, grew up, and became perhaps the most beloved creature I've ever known. I call him my puppy-cat. He never got the "cats are aloof" memo and routinely greeted me at the door. I'd say, "Who's got a rug?" He'd fling himself down on the rug and want his belly rubbed. He loved belly rubs. Then he'd stand back up and head butt you, all the while purring like this is the best thing that's ever happened to him. And it happened every single day.
He was also unbelievably beautiful. His large regal ears had little tufts of fur on each tip. His ginger coat was a soft shade of orange, not harsh or brassy, but just beautiful. He was a long, lean lion prowling around the house. He was the least food-motivated animal I've ever met. Put down food and he didn't care, especially if he was getting snuggles at the time. Nothing was better than snuggles. Well, okay, the only thing better than snuggles from his people was getting to smell the hair of other people. My hair never held the fascination that Fred's hair or Rachel's hair or Alex's hair held. This cat loved perfumes, and whatever scent came from their shampoo and body combined to make something so intoxicating, he couldn't control himself. We routinely had to warn guests that he was "an aggressively affectionate cat." They didn't understand until he was up on their shoulders, rubbing his face into their hair. He loved people. Nothing made him happier than having folks over.
He never got over his love of the outside. He'd run out the door given half a chance. Herding him back inside was only possible with canned air spooking him into running towards an open door. In his youth, we'd indulge him by taking him out in a little carry-satchel, like a baby bjorn for pets. He loved to go for walks, and everywhere he went, people were amazed by his calm, affectionate behavior. As he grew up, he still loved a good car ride. Sometimes we'd take him out on quick shopping trips just because he loved car rides. He'd curl up in the back seat, preferably in the sun, and happily go anywhere.
In his youth he was a big jumper. He loved feather toys especially. The feather on a string toy could entertain him for hours. When he was very young, he'd jump incredibly high just to get the feather. One time he leaped for it in the kitchen and came down bonking his head on the top of the stove. We freaked out trying to figure out if he was okay and he was just like, "But the feather!!! Gotta get the feather!!!" He was fine. He hit a growth spurt when he was a bit over a year old and seemed to think better of jumping for the feather after that. I suspect his joints hurt him a bit. Given a chance to jump for it on the bed, he was still all over it. Soft landings were the key.
For Pixel, love poured directly out of the sink. Walk into the bathroom and he'd almost always follow. He expected to have the water turned on for him when he hopped up in the sink. Even when he wasn't thirsty, he just wanted to know he was still loved. Sometimes he'd hop down immediately. Most of the time he'd stand there for 10 minutes drinking. We got him a cat water fountain to try to break the habit. When left alone for days, he'd drink from the fountain, but the rest of the time, he wanted it fresh in the thinnest stream possible. When you were there and didn't make it so, he'd cry his little tiny girly mew. When you got it right, he'd look at you like you were the best human ever.
At night, Pixel was convinced he wanted to be under the covers. This usually mean making a tent for him where the covers wouldn't touch his ears, but where he could go explore for a few minutes. He'd curl up under my knees. After no more than 20 minutes, he'd come back out and sleep at the end of the bed, preferably on his favorite knit blanket (the one my grandma made for Lee that I inherited).
Years ago, I stopped buying him presents because his favorite toy wasn't any special toy, it was tissue paper, like the kind that comes in gift bags. He loved to tear it with his mouth. He'd take a corner of the paper and hold the rest under his paws and pull it away until it tore free. Eventually, he got a special box for his tissue paper collection. Few things made him more consistently happy than curling up in there and playing for a bit before taking a nap.
A couple of years ago, I got Leeloo to be his companion. Almost immediately, Leeloo realized that Pixel was the best thing ever. Most days, I came home to the two of them curled up together. She utterly worshipped him. If he was eating, it was a good time to eat. If he was drinking, she should be drinking too. If he curled up in the tissue box, that's where she'd go too. If there was a loud noise, she'd look to see if he freaked out before getting all crazy. If he was fine, she'd go back to sleep. I'm pretty worried about how she's going to do without him.
Pixel died peacefully at home. He's buried in his beloved backyard. We're donating in his name to the UC Davis Center for Companion Animal Health