Sugar’s Story

Whether you know us personally, have read our blog, or follow along on Instagram; you’ve probably heard about Sugar. For eight years, this princess cat ruled our life. And we happily obliged, because – not only did she give the best snuggles – she made us a family. We adored that ungraceful, whipped-cream loving, stranger-hating, cuddle monster of a cat. We were defined by our love for her, we were her people. And everyone who knows us can attest to how embedded she was in our life.

sugar rv catShe was even one of our main reasons for choosing RV life. We wanted to travel more, escape the corporate grind and not have to leave our sweet furbaby every time we wanted to visit a new place. An RV allowed us to visit anywhere we could drive to, and bring Sugar along for the ride.

We would have never guessed that, only 7 months into our RVing adventure, it would be time to say goodbye to our fluffy girl. Although, we still have many tears left to cry and will miss her every day, we wanted to take some time to share the amazing life she had and all the joy she brought us. We just want others to have the chance to know why she was so well-loved (because she only ever let us see that sweet side of her). And, well… because we don’t know how else to better express ourselves than with words and photos.

But, since this story is kind of long… Buddy also made this wonderful video that gives a pretty good idea, too.:

Sugar’s Story

by Buddy Baum

This is the story of our Sugar girl – who she was, how we got her, and how much she will always mean to us. And while this is a story about Sugar, it is really the story of all three of us – how we grew as a family, the adventures we went on together, and all the snuggling in between.

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How Sugar Came into Our Life

Way back in 2009, on a warm Florida Christmas day, we arrived at my mom’s house and I couldn’t wait to see the kittens she was fostering. My mom was “the crazy cat lady” of her neighborhood – the person everyone brought strays to because she would take them in. When she called me a few weeks before Christmas to tell me she had a new litter to take care of, I started joking with Brooke that we were bringing a kitten home as our Christmas present from my mom. I was really just mentally preparing her for what I could only hope would happen.

But I knew from past conversations, Brooke wasn’t exactly a cat person. I had always grown up with both cats and dogs. However, Brooke was a dedicated dog person. Even though she never owned one, she did not really like cats at all and thought of them as dirty animals. Me, on the other hand, I was a cat person. After having both, I always felt that cats matched me better – they were chill, didn’t cause much trouble, and were self-sufficient. I really missed having them in my life.

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When we got to my mom’s house on that fateful Christmas Day, I went straight for the kittens I had heard about – a fluffy pair that was found in the neighbor’s raccoon trap. Then I saw her – the smallest, most adorable, fluffy, blue-eyed kitten. She was timid, scared, and just a few weeks old (just got done being bottle-fed). I scooped her up and could already see it in Brooke’s eyes … she knew we were adopting this cat. Apparently, I made a pretty adorable, “Can we keep it?” face. And when Brooke got to hold the fluffy bundle of joy, then called Marshmallow, she couldn’t help but fall in love, too!

However, Brooke was still unsure of having a “dirty” cat, so my mom gave her a two-week return policy. If Brooke was unhappy, my mom would take the cat back and rehome her elsewhere. My Christmas was made … I finally had a family of my own. On the way home, we started thinking of other name options, but Brooke kept instinctively saying “It’s okay, sugar” to console the scared kitten in her arms, and it just stuck.

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Nocturnal Nights

When we got back to the apartment, we realized the irony of that name. To say the first couple of weeks were difficult would be an understatement. Sugar was 100% feral and still very set in her nocturnal lifestyle. This resulted in her being up all night – and lots of complaints from Brooke, who likes to get her eight hours!

sugar rv catPlus, if you moved in your sleep, Sugar would attack you with her tiny razer claws and pointy teeth. When not terrorizing us, she would bolt around the room all night, playing and attacking anything that moved. There were nights that she would end up being put into the bathroom (it was a big bathroom), just so we could have some good sleep.

sugar rv catThat tiny fluffball of a cat was extremely inquisitive, yet scared of everything. She even decided to rip the bottom of our box spring off, so that she could hide and sleep in it during the day and save her energy for her nightly stealth missions – making it nearly impossible to get to her.

Brooke, who was just a student at the time, took it upon herself to force Sugar off her nocturnal sleep schedule during winter break. She would spend all day playing with her, waking her up if she dozed off and doing anything to keep her from sleeping. Brooke’s persistence finally won out, and Sugar was off her nocturnal schedule and on a semi-normal schedule with us.

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Growing on Us

Two weeks had come and gone, and although still not the perfectly sweet kitten we were hoping for, WE WERE KEEPING HER! Sugar had grown so much in those first few weeks and we had really fallen for her – despite her quirks.

We found out early on that she loved to play. We would often play fetch. Yes, she would retrieve the toy, bring it back and drop it for it to be thrown again. And she would drag the feather toy stick my mom gave her around all day, even though the stick was twice as big as she was. Even after the feather portion fell off the stick, she still loved it, possibly more.

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We tried to replace this with a very similar version years later, but eventually she went back to her original. Even with all of our downsizing, we still kept her “feathers,” as well as the original stick – even though it looks nothing like it did when she first got it.

She has also always had a “purple mousy.” For some reason, purple was her favorite color (just like Brooke)! When we brought her home, we got her a pack of cloth mice. She immediately fell in love with the purple one. She would carry this everywhere, including bed. And as she walked around with it in her mouth, she would do very loud muffled meows. When she got older (and went to bed with us), that’s how we knew she was ready for bedtime. Every single night, we’d hear that noise and know she was coming to snuggle us.

sugar rv catShe would always play with her other mice, but this is the one that got placed in the food bowl, shoes, clothes and sometimes plopped on our heads while we slept – as a love offering, of course. We went through a few versions of that one – since it easily got lost, but we always made sure we found a replacement.

As a kitten, sugar also loved to help me play video games. There were many nights she would sit in front of the computer with me playing World of Warcraft and help me by attacking anything that moved. It was the most adorable thing ever!

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And, as the weeks went on, she started to play much more, became very photogenic, and even started snuggling with us. At first it was more of a forced love session, but eventually she’d crawl into our laps and demand to be pet. She even started sleeping with us in bed after a month or so – cuddled up real close. Before she got too big, she’d even sleep in the “crevice” (as we called it) next to Brooke’s neck. She was just too dang cute!

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And while she learned to love us, she did not trust other people at all. We are unsure what the root cause of her fear was – perhaps something bad happened before she was found. But, we didn’t really mind that much, because she loved us and that is all that mattered. Time went on, and she continued to grow and make us feel more like a family. We would see more of her personality daily, and find more and more things that she liked, or perhaps disliked.

Our Big Bully

Almost a year after getting Sugar, we had my sister move in with us. She had two cats of her own, so we weren’t sure how it would work, but it had to happen. We almost immediately saw that Sugar was the dominant cat in the house. She had taken over the other cats’ castle, and claimed it as her own. They were not allowed to be on it, or she would chase them away.

She would also often guard the sliding door, to prevent the other cats from going in or out on the porch. And those cats would never think of touching any of her favorite toys (feathers & purple mousey). Yes, she was a jerk, but she never was too aggressive, just dominant. So, we often just laughed at her antics and were thankful the apartment was big enough for separate spaces.

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My sister Shannon lived with us for two full years, and during that time, she was never able to touch Sugar. If she, or anyone else, ever approached Sugar to pet her, they would be met with hissing. We always hoped this would go away with age, but after having so much time to get used to Shannon and still hating her, we had to sadly admit it was just part of her personality. So, we just got used to telling people to leave her alone.

The only time she ever really hurt anyone was on accident. At the time it happened, Brooke had just come home for her short summer break (she was staying in Gainesville a few nights a week while she went to school at the University of Florida, and I stayed in Jacksonville for work). We had decided to get married earlier in the year, and were finishing up our to-do list for the upcoming wedding. One thing we really wanted was a family photo with the cat to put on the guest book table. After a few shots using the tripod and remote shutter, Shannon came in to offer some assistance to get the cat to look at the camera – since we were struggling.

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She grabbed a toy and shook it, which instantly scared Sugar. She spring-boarded off Brooke’s chest leaving three very deep and bloody cuts. Brooke didn’t care about the cuts, WE GOT THE PHOTO! Brooke’s wedding dress would easily reveal the cuts, which would not heal by the wedding a few days away, so we got some coverup for them and laughed it off. However, if you look carefully at our wedding photos, you can see the cuts and Brooke still has some light scars across her chest.

Sugar’s on the Move

We couldn’t afford the European honeymoon that we wanted due to paying for two apartments, school and our own wedding, so we ended up going to Colorado where Brooke’s aunt had a condo we could use for free. It was not our top choice – or even top of the list – but it would have to do. However, once there, we fell in love. On our way home from the honeymoon is when we decided that we needed to move to Colorado. From that day, we started the planning of how to make that happen.

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Fast forward a year, and we are selling my beloved Tiburon, as well as all our other possessions. We then packed up the Jetta with what we could fit, loaded Sugar into her carrier and were on our way. We did the trip to Colorado from Florida in about two days. Sugar didn’t hate driving – she wandered around the car, sat in Brooke’s lap, sat in my lap, climbed on the dash, or just napped. But, she would not eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. So, we started on the most exhausting road trip of our lives in order to get her to a more comfortable place.

Our first home in Colorado was that same condo in Ft. Collins from our honeymoon, but Brooke’s cousin had since moved in as well. And we were ready for our own place. So, a few weeks later, we found an apartment in Thornton, about an hour away. Multiple trips later, we finally got everything up the three flights of stairs – except Sugar. We debated getting her the next day, but we wanted to bring her home to start our new lives in Colorado as soon as possible. So, we did one last two-hour drive for our girl, because we are big softies.

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After a good deal of cat-proofing (to make sure she couldn’t hide anywhere dangerous – like behind the cabinets), Sugar got used to her new apartment pretty quickly. She’d even sit in the windows to look outside. And this was the first time she saw snow! We laughed as she stared at it with a side-cocked head. Like, “Hey, you kind of look like my fur, how did you get out there?”

Settling Down (or so we thought)

After a few months into our first winter, we decided Colorado was home and started looking for a house … our first house! It took a few months, but we finally ended up buying a house that had almost everything on our list. We would have a new home for us to grow old in. This house had windows everywhere and plenty of places for napping by them, Sugar would love it – something we thought of often during our search.

After a lot more cat-proofing and days of her sniffing around, Sugar would happily flop down by one of the big windows and soak up some sun – or her favorite pastime, watch the squirrels run around or birds fly from tree to tree. She did this hilarious barking thing when she saw them that always made us crack up laughing. And she’d flail her tail around wildly, like she just couldn’t contain her excitement.

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At Christmastime, when we had our first snow at the house, we let her go out on the deck. It only took a few steps to know that wasn’t for her. But, she got to enjoy snow and feel it between her toes.

Christmas in our house was always a big thing! While Brooke and I often don’t do gifts, we would ALWAYS have something for the cat. Some years she got more than others, but every year she had at least a stocking full of goodies. Most of which she would only play with for a few days, but it was always a highlight of my Christmas to get to see her ‘open’ her stuff and play with it like any kid on Christmas morning. It made Christmas just that much more special.

sugar rv catHowever, we learned when she was a kitten to not bother with window clings or tinsel for decoration. She just ate the tinsel (only bad thing she ever ate), but she hated the window clings. We had some on the sliding door one year, and she pulled every single one off. Some were as high as 6 feet off the ground, and she would vertically jump and pull each one off the window. We aren’t sure what her objection was to those, but either way they would all end up on the floor.

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Another hilarious habit she picked up at the house was saying hi to our friends – in her own way, of course. Often times while hosting parties or get-togethers, Sugar would come out and grace everyone with her presence. I’m pretty sure she only came out to tease everyone that they were not allowed to touch her. And she was so gorgeous and amazingly fluffy, everyone always wanted to try.

So, she would just lay in the middle of the floor and stare at everyone, but if anyone moved towards her, sure enough, she was booking it back to her safe place in our room (which had a cat door, so she could always go in). She would often even give off a feisty hiss as she ran away. We even had friends try to bribe her with treats, and while she would often eat the treats (not out of their hand), she would be sure not to get too close. Once the treats were gone, so was she! Quite the character.

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But she loved being close to us. She would often greet us at the door when we came home. She even knew if the garage opened that it meant I was home from work, and she would be sitting with her face in the window waiting for me to come in. And there were many days where one of us were supposed to be doing something, and instead ended up snuggling the day away because our fluffy girl needed some love.

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While in the house, we also learned that Sugar loved dairy and bread products. If she saw me eating a sandwich, there was a good chance she would run up and try to take a bite. On one occasion, she actually took off with a whole grilled cheese. God forbid I ever come home with a milkshake or ice cream she can’t eat.

She could smell a milkshake before I even got in the door. Luckily for her, I always opted for extra whipped cream, so that I could share some with her. If I got ice cream, I always got one with vanilla so that she could have some as well. Believe me, if I didn’t offer her some, she was going to grab it out of my hands or shove her face in it when I wasn’t looking. Brooke and I laughed so hard at her love for dairy. And she never even really wanted much, the tiniest bit of it would satisfy her.

Our little weirdo also loved bathtubs! I’m not fully sure what her fascination was with them, but she loved them. She would actually have me follow her in there sometimes, hop in the tub and stare at the faucet as to asking if I’d turn it on. She never played in the water, would generally just stare at it, until it touched her feet and then she was gone.

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Getting the Travel Bug

Although we loved our home, Brooke didn’t want to buy the house at first. She wanted to travel instead. But we ended up with a house as it was financially the right decision vs. throwing away money at apartment rent (estimated at over $60,000 at that time). She agreed under the stipulation that we would go somewhere out of the U.S. two years after getting the house. So, never one to forget, she started planning our epic Iceland adventure as soon as we hit two years. And, Brooke actually worked a 2nd job in order to pay for the trip.

Luckily, we had made many new friends in Colorado, so we had our friend Nate ‘watch’ Sugar while we were gone for two weeks. We gave Nate and another friend a credit card, like we would on anytime we left for a vacation, and told them if ANYTHING happened to put it on that card. There was no limit, just do it and we would deal with it later. Our girl was always a priority.

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While we were gone, Nate (a huge cat lover) made it his mission to befriend Sugar, but after about four days, he had given up. She would hide from him, hiss at him, and even started leaving him poop … just to let the message be clear. No one else was allowed to touch her, ever!

But, when we got back from Iceland, Sugar greeted us like she would any other time we would return from a trip – long or short, with an abundance of love. Some cats aren’t instantly happy to see their owners after being left. However, Sugar was always excited to see us return. We would sometimes need to dedicate a whole day after a trip to her love. She would follow us like a lost puppy, jump in our lap if we sat down, snuggle any chance she could, and basically just be velcroed to us.

She was a lover and snuggler. She loved us so much! Sugar knew if one of us had a bad day, or was sick. She would be by our side in any time of need. If given the chance, she would snuggle anytime and anywhere. If we made her a spot, she would flop there. At night she would jump into bed, meow in my face to wake me up, then scratch at the blankets letting me know she needs a better spot. She then wouldn’t lay down until I pet her at least one time, as if she needed the go-ahead that the spot was ready.

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We gave her kisses on her face since she was a little thing and eventually she started trying to kiss back. So, in addition to snuggles and head bonks, she would shove her mouth at ours when she was feeling extra lovey. On occasion, her teeth would scratch us – but we couldn’t help but think it was the cutest, sweetest thing ever. After Iceland, there were many cut lips.

Moving Again

Just before our Iceland trip, we also decided to sell the house. Although it was what we thought we wanted, it was just a burden on us. We spent money filling it with useless things, it was too big (Brooke had a changing room!), and we stopped hiking and doing things we loved because we were always doing house things.

When we returned from Iceland, we needed to find an apartment, and get ready to move. We knew this would be hard, but we knew it was the right decision. We loved that house, Sugar loved that house. But it wasn’t fitting into what we wanted out of life, not to mention we could pay off almost all our debt with the proceeds.

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It took two more moves and lots more cat-proofing before we finally ended up in a one-bedroom, wondering why we still felt like it was too much room. But, we made the most of it by living like college kids – we even had two bean bags instead of a traditional couch, and Sugar thought they were the best thing ever.

sugar rv catDuring this time, Brooke and I started talking about the next step in our lives. I was miserable with work, working 80-hour weeks. My only happiness came in the form of vacations, whether it was a weekend trip to the mountains, or us flying somewhere for a few days. We traveled as much as possible.

However, this led to Sugar being upset. She would start getting anxious anytime we would start packing, and it made us feel horrible. Since I worked from home, she had grown so accustomed to me being around all the time, she hated when we left. But, she still always happily greeted us upon our return.

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We were already having discussions of me starting a photography business and how to minimize our bills while still being able to travel. Then it occurred to us, we could buy an RV and travel … but the cat could come with us! She wouldn’t need to be left alone on trips, but she could experience them with us. It was kind of genius.

Becoming RVers

In March 2017, after months of research and living with my sister in Texas while we looked for our new home (to save money and hassle), we picked up our new 2017 Winnebago View! Of course, this decision was based on our Sugar. Since it was a motorhome, there was no need to put Sugar in a carrier when we traveled, like we would with a 5th wheel or travel trailer. Plus, there were lots of windows and a big bed for snuggling. She took up a surprising amount of space!

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We spent a few days getting settled into the RV, as well as cat-proofing it (clearly, a theme with our homes). As with any new spot, we put her on the bed, and let her out of her carrier to look around. She instantly saw the blankets and went to try to hide. After a few minutes, she walked around the whole bed and then continued to scope out the rest of her new home. We were stationary at an RV park for the week, so it would give her time to get used to everything before we had to drive.

It took her a while longer to get used to her new home, as almost everything was brand new. But after a few days, she finally started to enjoy her new home, until it came time to drive. Unlike in the car, she had zero interest in sitting up front with us, but instead would hang out on the step under the bed near her litter box. However, this was a perfect spot for her, she could feel safe, and if we did get into an accident or anything, we felt she would be safer there than on the bed or couch.

Our RV Cat

Sugar began to love her new life as an RV cat! She got to experience new things constantly. She knew that when we stopped driving, she had new things to see outside the windows. She’d often come right out, say hi to us, and then proceed to a window to see what was around. For whatever reason, she actually liked when we stayed at Walmarts … I’m guessing it is because of all the people watching!

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It made us feel good that she felt safe in the RV. She was finally enjoying life with us, while we got to enjoy vacationing and doing and seeing new things. It felt like we were all winning.

sugar rv catsugar rv catIt was a bit of a hassle to base our travel plans off of the safety of the cat (constantly watching weather and time away from the rig), but we were happy to do it. Getting to have her there to snuggle with us every night – and morning, plus those mid-day naps – was so wonderful. And Sugar got to see more places than most cats could even dream of.

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In 2017, she saw 28 States and five Canadian Provinces. She saw many new birds and bugs, plus deer, moose, whales, icebergs, mountains, beaches, and who knows what else she saw at night – we even caught the aurora borealis briefly once. Sugar got to ride on a few ferries, crossed the longest bridge in the world that crosses over ice-covered water in PEI, and slept in some of the most epic spots we have ever seen. She has slept in more vineyards than most people have even been to.

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Recently, she had her eighth birthday. I know, because we shared a birthday! When my mom took her in for her original exam, the doctor estimated her birth date of October 14. This was great as we could always celebrate together. Every year since we’ve had her, I was always sure to tell her happy birthday, give her extra noms (she already got treats at breakfast, bedtime and after she was particularly cute – so birthdays were easily a 10 noms day), cat nip, and tell her how much I love her! We celebrated together for eight marvelous years. Next year is going to be so hard without her.

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Saying Goodbye

We didn’t know or expect to lose our girl so early in her life. It was a complete shock to us and it shattered our hearts in pieces. But, we are so thankful that we had this time with her. We gave her a life that nobody else could have, made so many sacrifices for her, and thought of her with every decision we made. And, although RV life was a struggle at times, it allowed us to have so much more quality time with her.

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In the past seven months, we have had more family snuggle sessions than we ever could have living a ‘normal’ life, working ‘normal’ jobs. As much as she disliked other people, she truly loved us and knew we loved her with everything we had. That is what made our relationship so special. She chose us. And that small fluffy, feisty ball of fur changed our entire life. She softened our edges, let us see a different side of each other, and – even though she is in kitty heaven now (with her purple mousey we made sure to send her off with) – she made us a family, and nothing will ever change that.

So, What’s Next?

For the past eight years, we have planned our entire lives around our cat, worried about her happiness and made sacrifices for her well-being. Living without her will be a huge adjustment. And saying goodbye to Sugar was the hardest thing either of us has had to do in our adult life. But our story isn’t finished yet. She may have been a main factor of choosing RV life, but we really love it and are determined to still enjoy it – despite missing our little mascot so much. And we know, that when we are out there on the road or traveling in some exotic land, she’ll be there with us. In spirit, and also because she left enough fur on everything to keep us lint rolling for four lifetimes.

sugar rv catRest in peace Sugar. May your nose always have fresh air to sniff and may you always have new, beautiful things to see. And may there always be warm arms to snuggle you in heaven.

Thank you for everything you gave us and taught us. We’ll love you always.