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The wonderful, wonderful cat

Big-boned Felix has become a celebrity thanks to his owner's children's book.

August 19, 2011|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
  • Frans Vischer owns this 9-year-old, 27 lb.. cat, at his home in Glendale on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Vischer, an illustrator for Disney, wrote and illustrated a children's book about the adventures of a cat named "Fuddles" based on his cat. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Frans Vischer owns this 9-year-old, 27 lb.. cat, at his…

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.

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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.

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