Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Beloved Max

"Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."~Mark Twain

My cat Max died the morning of 19 September 2011. It was the week before last that he developed a blood clot that robbed him of the use of his hind legs. He had been doing fine until this weekend, when he had a stroke that cost him his life. I am only now writing of his passing as this is the earliest I could do so without breaking down into tears. Indeed, I find myself fighting them back even now.

I had gotten Max when he was a very little kitten. He was only about six weeks old. I had lost my previous cat to a heart attack only a few months before, and my postman's cat had just had kittens. She brought over a little yellow furball, who was part Maine Coon and part American long hair. My youngest niece insisted on naming him "Max." Since I had already had a cat named "Max (for Maxwell Smart)," I decided Max's full name would be "Maximilian." He would come to answer to both names.

Even as a kitten Max could be a handful. In those days I had a screensaver that consisted of the cartoon character Underdog flying across the screen. Max loved to get up on top of the monitor to try to catch Underdog. He also liked to play with my small collection of Hot Wheels toy cars, as well as the number of balls we had about the house. More than one set of Venetian blinds fell to his paws. He loved to climb trees, and even as he got older he would spend hours sitting in the big maple in our front yard. He also enjoyed lounging in our flowerbed.

Even as a kitten Max could be demanding. Like most cats he would demand food when he was hungry. Unlike most cats Max would demand water, even when there was water in his bowl. Max seemed to under the impression that water goes stale in a matter of hours. He was also a very difficult cat to give medicine. He would fight if we tried to give him a pill or even liquid medicine. Mixing medicine in with his food would not even work. If he suspected we had put any sort of medicine in his food, he would refuse to eat it. That having been said, Max was one of the easiest cats to apply flea and tick treatment there. He would just sit there as I applied it. He was also one of the few cats I had who always behaved when I took him to the veterinarian. He never once offered to scratch or bite our vet, no matter what he did to him.

For all that Max could be demanding (I think he thought of us as his pets rather than vice versa), he was one of the most loving cats I ever had. When he wanted attention he would place his paws on me and meow with that trilling meow unique only to Maine Coons. Other times he might roll on his belly and purr loudly as if to say, "Notice me." Max was also the only cat I know who liked to pet humans. He would take one paw and stroke me just as if I was a dog. He also liked to hold my hand between my paws. Like most cats he liked to touch noses and give kitty kisses. For all his size, he loved to be held and carried in my arms. I think he had the loudest purr of any cat I have ever known.

While Max enjoyed playing and exploring, I think he enjoyed the company of humans most of all. He could sit on me for hours as I watched some film or another. Not that Max was ever able to tell me, but I also thought he liked action movies the most. He would put whenever I watched V for Vendetta or The Dark Knight. He was also very sensitive to the health and emotional welfare of the humans in the household. Whenever I was sad Max would come and sit on me, in an effort to cheer me up.  He helped me through the passing of my best friend Brian in June.  When I went through an extended illness in 2008, he never left my side. He slept with me in my room and stayed with me when I was in the living room.

Max was a very large cat at 20 pounds (and none of it fat). He was also a very good hunter. He kept our garden free of rabbits. He would also drive away the bluejays who tried to chase off our songbirds each year (he also knew to leave the songbirds alone). He would chase away any cats that threatened any of the other feline members of our household, as well as stray dogs. In many ways Max was very much the lord of the manor and took his duty of defending its inhabitants seriously.

Max loved milk and anything made from milk. Unlike many cats, he was not lactose intolerant. He would gladly drink a bowl of milk dry or eat any piece of cheese offered him. That having been said, his favourite food was turkey. Indeed, somehow Max knew when Thanksgiving was approaching, as he would keep a careful eye on the kitchen.

I suppose many who have never had a cat for a friend may not understand the level of grief I am experiencing now. But I would argue with anyone who insisted that Max was "just an animal." I loved Max as much as any other member of my family and as much as any of my friends. And I know my love was returned by Max. Even on his last day he wanted nothing more than to be petted and to hold my had one more time. I miss him so terribly and I know that, wherever Max is now, he misses me.


Little Gothic Horrors said...

I'm so sorry about Max. I completely understand your grief. I love my cats, and they are not pets, but members of my family. Technically, I should say "cat" because I lost my beloved Sabrina 2 years ago. She was 15 when she died. It broke my heart. I only have lovely Phoebe now, but I still feel like Sabrina is with me, and I miss her every day.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful tribute, says so well how I feel about my border collie mix dog who passed away in July (nearly 12 years old, I got her when she was a pup) and the companionship of her cat friends that she loved and I love so much. Through your words and photos Max has touched my life tonight. Be strong, because I guarantee the little guy would want that.

Cliff Aliperti said...

Very sorry about, Max. I've always had dogs and I understand, the "just an animal," thing doesn't fly, these guys are family. RIP Maximilian.

J. Marquis said...

Really sorry for your loss. Take care.

Toby O'B said...

All the best, Merc. I refuse to believe we won't be reunited with our animal friends when the time comes, so I hope all your Maxes and the others will one day find you again (as I hope when it comes to all my feline friends who have gone on....)

Thomas Pluck said...

Sorry for your loss. I lost my childhood cat, and waited a long time before finding a rescued Siamese. He's my buddy, and I know how you feel.