In 1994 Liz and I adopted two kittens from the Tippecanoe County Humane Society. They were from two different litters and I really don't remember why we picked them out -- just that they were bouncing around being kittens. We named the brown female one Latte because of her color and our fascination with coffee. The black-and-white male one had a dab of black on his chin that I thought looked like a goatee and so I named him Mustapha after the faux-Balkan band 3 Mustaphas 3.
I had never had pets before (aside from a fish that lasted for a few weeks when I was 10), and indeed was somewhat reluctant to get two cats, but they quickly became beloved companions. Mustapha was an incredibly affectionate cat and loved to sleep on laps or curled up in my arms at night. He was always quick to greet visitors and was rarely shy during parties or around strangers.
Mustapha had two breaks from living with me. In 2002 Kate O'Leary took him in for nine months. Kate has painted several portraits of Mustapha. In 2004, during the great freeze-out disaster, my friend Beth fostered both cats for several months -- initially so they wouldn't freeze to death in my heat-less apartment and then as I was in transition to a new place.
In 2005 Mustapha gained another adopted sister, Parker, when Erica and I moved in together. Parker was always somewhat wary of her new siblings, but she and Mustapha enjoyed sitting in the sunroom and napping in close proximity.
Mustapha didn't like to eat cat food directly out of a bowl -- he'd try and lift pieces out with his foot. This was only moderately successful, and so the kitchen was usually littered with dropped cat food. He also loved to bat at water bowls with his paws, leading to puddles everywhere, which he would then complain about. He also enjoyed cheese, peppers, and fruit. His favorite food was the milk left over from sugared cereal, so much so that I had to eat cereal standing up because he would try to claw his way into the bowl.
He was a good leaper and climber and would happily sit on top of doors and shower doors, given the chance. He never seemed to be very interested in cat toys, especially when people were watching.
When I carried Mustapha, I'd usually hold him upside down, like a baby. He seemed to like this just fine.
Mustapha had been gradually losing weight over the last year and began a rapid decline during the last three weeks. I made an appointment with a vet for this morning, but last night it was obvious that he was in very bad shape. He was not eating or drinking and could barely move. This morning the vet found a large tumor in his abdomen and, given his condition, recommended euthanasia. After careful (and tearful) discussion, Erica and I agreed.
He was my buddy, my Buddy-stapha. If he was a cow, he would have been Moo-stapha; if a chicken, BokBok-stapha. I will miss him very much.
Update: Kate has posted some lovely memories of Mustapha.