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Cat Got Your Heart?

November 12, 2000|PATRICIA HOUSEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

We weren't in the market for a pedigreed cat 10 years ago when we first saw Ferris. We planned to be more responsible and adopt a pet from the animal shelter. But with his soft folded ears, dime-sized eyes and oversized paws, we found this Scottish Fold impossible to resist. And so we bought him and brought him home.

A week later, we discovered the small scabs under his silver down. It turned out Ferris had a particularly nasty case of ringworm, a highly contagious fungal infection of the skin. The veterinarian recommended shaving the fur from his neck down and giving him weekly sulfur baths. A few days later, after Ferris scratched his eye, the vet sent him home sporting a plastic Elizabethan-style collar.

He'd been with us less than a month and our beautiful Scottish Fold kitten now had the head of a lion and body of a Chihuahua. He was bristly to the touch, smelled of sulfur, and we could always hear him coming, bumping and scraping his way through the house.

Ferris' co-parent, Times photographer Genaro Molina, began documenting the cat's life. As the black-and-white photos accumulated, we embarked on an anthropomorphic interpretation of his experience and produced a slim, self-published book, "Ferris in Exile."

The first part of the book deals with Ferris' brush with ringworm. The second chronicles how, as his fur grew back and beauty returned, Ferris faced other challenges. As a pedigreed cat constrained to living indoors, he became a kind of prisoner, exiled from the freedoms outdoor cats enjoy. At least that's how we saw it.

As our book editor Robert Carney put it, though, Ferris has it pretty good, lolling "in the catbird seat, feasting on the catnip of guilt" felt by those who keep him inside.

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"Ferris in Exile" ($7.95) is available at http://www.ferrisinexile.com. Photos from the book will be on display at the Perfect Exposure Gallery, 3513 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, until Dec. 1.

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