Have you seen this cat?: The tale of Frank Furko’s furry friend Pudgie Wudgie, the Wondercat

By on August 30, 2018

Frank & the Wondercat (2015) is a lovely little love story about the relationship between an eccentric Pennsylvanian divorcee named Frank Furko and his furry friend, an orange tabby cat named Pudgie Wudgie, with whom he shared his life and home for some fourteen years, until Pudgie’s passing in 2001.

You can watch this heartfelt, personal documentary about a man and his cat over on Night Flight Plus.

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This feature-length documentary from co-directors Tony Massil & Pablo Alvarez-Mesa — both British Columbia-based alumni of Simon Fraser University’s film program — is a fascinating slice o’ Americana about a man and his furry friend during the final decades of the last century and the first years of this one.

The Canadian filmmakers were granted access to Furko’s vast library of VHS tapes, some twenty years worth, which collected all of Pudgie Wudgie’s public appearances, including the times he (Pudgie, not Furko) wore funny little costumes and performed tricks on “The Maury Povich Show” and the “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment on “Late Night with David Letterman,” jumping through hoops, crawling through boxes, and answering a small phone.

He even later learned how to golf, bowl, and kick a football!

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We’ve read that Pudgie, all total, had two hundred separate outfits, including nurse and doctor uniforms, and wedding dresses.

He also had a few pro football team jerseys, including those for the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, his favorite football team (according to Furko, Pudgie never missed a game, often attending wearing full Steelers fan regalia).

Pudgie also had fifty hats and thirty pair of silly sunglasses.

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In addition to offering up eccentric anecdotes, intercut with Furko’s wonderfully weird videotape footage, Frank and the Wondercat provides us with with Furko’s personal musings on his life, memory, loss, friendship and mortality.

Furko details his undying love for his mother and how he’d fought with a domineering father, and how he worked for forty years on his family’s farm, and how the end of his twenty-year marriage left him bitter and alone.

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It was during his lonely life as an elderly bachelor that Furko began his unique relationship with a 23-lb tabby cat.

Much of the documentary chronicles how Furko continues his struggle to reconcile with his past, now that Pudgie is gone, some (not all) of his ashes stored in an engraved metal urn which rests on a bed in Furko’s home in the East Oakmont neighborhood in Plum, Pennsylvania, a suburb northeast of Pittsburgh.

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Several rooms — including Pudgie’s former bedroom, which had a full-length mirror for Pudgie to check out his own reflection — now contain museum-like displays.

Furko and his cat Pudgie became minor celebrities during the ’90s, frequently showing up at local schools, football games and other local events, often appearing in the local newspapers and eventually in nationally-distributed publications, including a two-page spread in President Donald J. Trump’s personal favorite, The National Enquirer.

Read more about Frank Furko and Pudgie-Wudgie below.

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It all began with a case of love at first sight when Furko saw Pudgie-Wudgie in 1986, at the Animal Rescue on Hamilton Avenue in Pittsburgh’s East End.

He’d originally considered adopting a dog, but while he was looking at the kittens, a volunteer at the shelter said, “They are only seven weeks old but will be put to sleep in the morning if they are not adopted today.”

He says he looked at the pudgy little kitten and something just clicked, knowing that if he didn’t adopt the tiny orange tabby — so tiny he fit comfortably in Furko’s palm — that little Pudgie most likely would have been euthanized.

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Pudgie-Wudgie’s legend actually really begins to take shape on his first birthday, October 16, 1987, after Furko placed a hat on his cat and Pudgie made no attempt to remove it.

Not too much later, Furko built a little platform for his car’s front seat so that Pudgie could sit and look out the window while he was running errands around town.

Local townsfolk took note of this eccentric old man and his cat and began to smile and wave at them both as they drove by. Furko also pushed Pudgie around in a little baby stroller.

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Soon, Pudgie was invited to come to a local preschool, where he performed his first tricks for the kids.

The teachers invited Furko and his furry friend back to class again, and this time there was a reporter there from the local Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who wrote a feature on Pudgie.

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Westbound drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike can see this mural at mile marker 49

More local TV appearances followed, as well as newspaper stories, and Pudgie even did radio interviews, the first being an appearance of Dave Crawley’s “KD Country” show on Pittsburgh’s KDKA station, where he was called “Pudgie Wudgie the Wondercat” for the very first time.

Soon Pudgie was helping to raise money at local Pittsburgh-area fundraising events, and appearing at amusement parks and doing of photo ops, especially on the holidays.

Each Christmas, he’d wear a little red Santa suit, and on St. Patrick’s Day, he wore a green leprechaun outfit.

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At his peak popularity, Pudgie and Frank Furko were traveling all over the country, visiting places like Niagara Falls, New York City, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

He eventually made his acting debut in a nationally-televised commercial for Dad’s Cat Food (we thought Dad’s only made root beer!).

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Frank & the Wondercat premiered at Vancouver International Film Festival in 2015.

Watch Frank & the Wondercat on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.