I do not know about Max’s life before we adopted him, but I’m guessing it was probably unsettled at best and perilous at worst. I do not know if his beginnings were humble or lavish, but somehow he ended up at a high-kill shelter in Hamilton, Ontario and that began a chain of events which brought him into our lives and into our hearts. I think Max was on his way somewhere, which is how I have come to look at what happened. I think Max was on a journey, and before he left this life he had to learn what love was and that is why he came to us. He had to know what a safe and relaxed home was and what it was like to live in the heart of a family who adored him. He had to experience plenty of food and a soft warm bed, he had to sleep curled up with his brother and he had to feel the kindness of human hands and the cuddles of true affection. He had to watch TV on a cozy lap and he had to play until exhaustion with all the toys he could ever want. Max was not long for this world, and before he left he had to know all these things. I like to think that we gave him what he sought and that he relished every moment. To look at it like this is the only way I can make sense of what happened. I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss Max: our little cat with the huge personality who went to the bridge before his first birthday.
Almost an hour passed before our turn came to see the doctor and the entire time Max sat quietly accepting our comforting strokes and watching the comings and goings of the bustling animal hospital. Once inside, Max’s check-up began. The vet listened to his chest and it sounded clear and took his temperature, which indicated a slight fever. He also peered into Max’s ears which looked a bit gunky and could be a sign of mites. A swab was taken and examined under the microscope. No mites, but white blood cells indicated a probable infection so an oily ointment was prescribed to be administered twice a day. He checked Max’s teeth which placed his age closer to nine months and not five months as the TCR told us. Then as if on cue, Max sneezed a blob of yellow kitty snot right onto the exam table. Yes, definitely a URI and the vet administered a shot of broad spectrum antibiotics. He also had blood taken for a “Snap” test; this would tell us if Max had Feline Leukemia or Feline Aids both contagious and deadly diseases. Thankfully both tests were negative. So after a thorough going over and a hefty bill, we were on our way home with our tired little trooper for a well deserved rest in our comfy guest bedroom. It would be necessary to sequester Max until his cold cleared up and oh, did I neglect to mention he had not yet been neutered?! Although I was proud of Max for being so well-behaved, I was a little concerned we had adopted a cat that was sick AND un-neutered. The vet had filled my head with stories of aggressive behaviour and smelly territory spraying from cats that were still “intact” and I was becoming apprehensive about what was in store and how this would affect Casper. Nevertheless, he was now part of our family and we would do right by him.
We made a quick stop on the way home for supplies, we had seen and rejected so many cats that we didn’t even have the room ready. Max and I waited in the car while Robert ran into the local pet store and bought a new litter box, a snuggly cat bed with high sides, the same kitten food he had been eating at his foster home, and some toys, just the basics to get Max settled. I was very excited to get Max home, he had had a rough start in life but it was going to be smooth sailing from here on in. My sister said he had “hit the kitty jackpot landing with us” and indeed he would be loved and looked after in the lap of luxury for the rest of his life. Who knew it would be such a short life.
Finally we arrived home and went upstairs to the guest bedroom with our newest family member and his load of goodies. In the room there is a chest of drawers and a large freestanding wardrobe, a wicker laundry hamper (handy for scratching), a bedside table with lamp and a double bed which is pushed up against a large window that overlooks our back garden. For some reason it is the warmest room in the house, so even though there is another spare bedroom (Casper’s spy zone where he watches Molly through a decorative air vent in the wall), we thought this one would be ideal to make a new kitty feel cozy and safe. I set up Max’s litter box in the far corner of the room and beside the bed I put out his dishes with water and food. We scattered some toys on the bed, then released Max from his carrier and watched him survey his new surroundings. He went first to his box first and had a pee (what a good boy), then we thought he might head under the bed and cower there for a while given what an eventful day it had been. Instead, Max went to straight to the door and sniffed underneath, Casper was of course on the other side, he knew something was afoot the minute we came home and had followed us upstairs. I stepped outside into the hall and closed the door. I thought Casper may need some reassuring strokes while he investigated this new smelling thing holed up in the bedroom. We live in an old house and the floors and walls are not exactly straight. There was a considerable space under the door at the handle side which tapered to almost nothing at the hinge side. Max placed a tentative paw under the door to feel around and I could see his nose sniffing under the crack too. I got a hand towel and stuffed it into the crack beneath the door to stop any further interaction. Casper gave me a “you can’t be serious” look and dug it out with his front paws. Meanwhile on the other side of the door, Robert had picked Max up and put him on the bed. He lay down and Max settled into the crook of his arm for a long overdue rest, it was adorable. Max was asleep in seconds, purring and content in his forever home. Max was good as gold from the minute we got him. We were afraid that he would be lonely, coming from a house where he slept with his foster brother and two young boys. It would be such a drastic change to bring him to a strange new home and then leave him by himself at night, so Robert gallantly offered to sleep in the spare room with Max. When it was lights out, Max snuggled in with Robert and went to sleep without any fuss or fanfare.
I’m sure it must have seemed strange to this little cat all of a sudden being away from his foster brother and all the noise and frenetic activity that goes along with a young family. He was now in our quiet house and isolated in this small space, I wonder if he thought he had done something wrong. I went in and out of the room frequently that next day while Robert was at work. Every time I entered Max would be at the window looking out. He seemed to love the view, so I put a pillow down between the wall and the bed to bridge the gap so he could lie comfortably while watching the activity outside. Whenever I lay on the bed he would run over to me and jump on my chest and try to lick my nose, all the while purring loudly. He would lie down and snuggle his head under my chin, it was a wonderful feeling to be trusted and loved so immediately. Something else that Max did which no other cat of mine had done before was give hugs. When I picked him up in my arms he would put a paw on each side of my neck and lay his head on me, it was unbelievable and melted my heart over and over again.
It was still four days away from Max’s neutering. The vet had wanted to wait a week for his URI to clear up before performing the surgery. However, Casper and Max were clamoring constantly at their respective sides of the door and I knew it was going to be hard to keep them apart for so long. That night when Robert returned from work, we decided to start letting them see each other. So Robert would hold Max and I would hold Casper and we would open the bedroom door and let them look at each other. I insisted on heavily monitored encounters until Max was neutered because I didn’t want any spraying or other testosterone-fueled behaviour. All of the encounters were positive and the boys took to each other immediately. The days passed and Max played in his room and patiently waited to become a full access member of the family. We continued with the face to face meetings and let them sniff at each other as things progressed without incident. Finally Friday rolled around and we prepared to take Max to the vet. I put his fleecy red blanket in the carry case and marked his name on masking tape and attached it to the front and back to make sure we got the right cat returned to us. Robert took him in on the way to work, and was told that pick-ups were around 4:00pm. Like an over-protective mother I phoned to check on him in the early afternoon and was told that his surgery went well and he was resting comfortably in his cage. It is a relatively minor operation they said, but he may still feel effects from the anesthetic and need to sleep and stay quiet for the rest of the day. He was also getting his shots, and I remembered that Casper experienced extreme fatigue after his vaccinations so I was prepared to receive home a very groggy kitty. Robert arrived with Max and he looked like nothing had happened to him! He was his usual alert and inquisitive self and not the least bit lethargic. If it had not been for the fact that his fur was shaved on the back end I never would have guessed he had any sort of surgery at all. However we still felt we should follow the vet’s advice and keep things low key, so we took him back upstairs to his room for what was the last night he ever spent by himself. In the morning the quarantine would be over, Max was healthy and neutered and all was well in our world. First thing the next day, we opened the door of Max’s safe room and let the chips fall where they may. Casper was of course waiting outside the door and Max walked straight up to him for a nose to nose greeting. They sniffed and looked at each other, Casper licked Max’s face, and I just about died of happiness. We thought it best to take Max down to the living room so things could unfold in a larger space than our upstairs hall. I carried him in my arms, and Casper galloped down in front of me then turned at the bottom of the stairs and looked up expectantly. I set Max down on the carpet and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship…
|Hey let's play!|
|Max's last day|
|My favourite picture of Max and Casper|