Life and Arts

The wonderful, wonderful cat

At 27 pounds, 9-year-old Felix might be the heaviest cat in Glendale, and he’s a rising star in his own right. Felix’s personality inspired his owner, Glendale resident Frans Vischer, to write and illustrate the children’s book “Fuddles” based on him.

Adopted as a kitten, Felix has always been a big cat, Vischer said. He could never manage to jump the family’s backyard fence. He habitually digs into his full allotment of food before the Vischer family leaves the house for vacation.

As soon as towels are washed and folded — but before they’re placed in the cupboard — Felix finds a resting place on top of them. He’s notorious for curling up on the tummy of someone napping on the couch. To open doors, Felix leans his weight on push latches in the Vischers’ 1930s home.

On a late weekday morning, Felix sat atop Vischer’s couch arm with his front and hind legs splayed over the arm’s curve as Vischer told his own story.


He was just a boy when he fell in love with television cartoons. Born in Holland, he moved to Northern California at 11 without knowing a word of English. His consuming hobby, drawing, worried his mother, but her concern didn’t deter her from mailing some of his artwork to the Walt Disney Animation Studios when he was 12.

The head of the animation department responded, asking Vischer to visit if he was ever in Southern California. The following summer, Vischer arrived for his promised tour.

“I was blown away,” he said. “I walked through the whole studio. I thought, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do.’”

After attending California Institute of the Arts, Vischer was offered an animating job by Disney. He published the children’s book “Jimmy Dabble” in 2001, and his literary agent suggested he write a picture book.


Vischer didn’t immediately think of Felix, though he had often sketched his cat for fun in his backyard studio. But before long the subject for his new book became clear. “I observed him and thought, ‘There’s a story there,’” Vischer said.

He submitted dummy sketches with text that chronicled a day in Felix’s life: his routine, his food, his walks in the yard. His agent found it nice, but boring. Vischer busied himself again, crafting a story of an indoor cat named Fuddles, who, though pampered beyond belief, sneaks outside for outdoor adventures.

Outside, his obstacles multiply. Early on, Fuddles tries to catch a bird, but to no avail because “Last night’s pork chops weighed him down,” the story reads.

Emily Lawrence served as assistant editor on the book for Simon & Schuster, which published the book in May.

“I thought it was so charming,” Lawrence said. “It was exactly what I had been charged to look for and acquire.”

Her colleagues agreed.

“It’s easy to pore over the pages over and over,” she said. “That’s what you want in a picture book — to be able to read it again and again and find something new and enjoy it.”

Fuddles’ adventures are not over yet. Vischer signed a two-book deal, and Felix, whom Vischer calls “Big Boy” most of the time, remains an inspiration.


But he always was. When Once Upon a Time Bookstore in Montrose held a signing for Vischer, the staff invited him to bring Felix, who received more attention than the book, Vischer recalled. He was used to it, though. Whenever friends and family come to visit, they are quick to ask the whereabouts of Felix, “the real star,” as Vischer puts it.