Daddy used to have a T-Shirt that said "Real Men Admit They Love Cats".
Well we Cats love humans too, but we just sometimes have a peculiar way of showing it. :-D
I am not the 1st Cat in his life, and no-doubt won't be the last, if I go to the Rainbow Bridge before he does.
This post is about 1 particular Cat, a poor struggling thing who, despite our well-intentioned best efforts, was unable to adapt to a life of ease, and comfort.
It is the story that inspired me to contemplate writing a fictional adventure tale in his honor: I, MAXIMUS: A Cat Tale
***UPDATE - 9/3/2010***
At the time I first posted this, last January, I wrote - "Sadly, I have no pictures to share, but he WAS truly a Mini-Me, though just different enough so Daddy could tell us apart. ;-D " -- Tonite, while cleaning out boxes in the garage, Daddy found an envelope...with 19 photos of Maximus, a few with 3 year old me in them, from his first 2 weeks in our home...photos we thought we did not have anymore.
Tonite, I am finally, gratefully, honored to let you see the Cat who was my first attempt at mentoring.
The story I am about to share will bring on strong emotions, so bring a box of tissue:
MAXIMUS came from the streets, in July 2001, fighting and scratching like the Cinema Roman Gladiator he is named after.
On July 2nd of that year a tiny, curious , hungry, 2 month old look alike to me showed up on our porch and stared through the screen door at us, meowing softly.
He darted a few feet away as Daddy came out on to the porch, then ran off when he made a move toward him.
He came back 3 times that evening, and several times the next morning.
That afternoon Daddy put a bowl of water out on the porch, and he came and went a few more times.
As darkness came Daddy propped open the screen door and moved the water back close to it.
He sat just inside the house and let me climb all over him, but not out the door.
The kitten came cautiously to the water but as soon as Daddy made an attempt to touch him he darted off.
This went on until midnite when Daddy and I both surrendered, and went to bed.
In the morning we found him sleeping on the porch, but he ran off again.
Daddy got out the butterfly on a string and sitting on the porch with the water near, but not close to him, began an on and off again game with the kitten.
When he got tired he would sleep, but would dart off into the bushes if Daddy tried to pick him up.
We had 3 days of this to decide that this night would be the last.
Daddy looked at me and said "If the little one wants to stick around so badly then he was gonna come into the house come hell or high water, darn it!"
This night was cooler, and Daddy locked me in the bedroom because, for his plan to work, the screen had to be wide open.
Daddy played with him some more, and at midnite he dashed off again.
Daddy fell asleep on the floor just indoors from the porch, in his shorts and a t-shirt. Not a pretty sight, I imagine, but hey, this was WAR!!!
5 am, JULY 5TH ( Based on how Daddy told it to me immediately afterward, and on what I could hear thru the closed door):
Daddy awakened to find the kitten asleep on the porch shivering in a lite drizzle.
He kept still and watched...
After a half hour he awakens, looks at Daddy, and walks, calm as you please, to the water bowl, now sitting next to Daddy just outside the door.
He turns his back on Daddy, tail in the air, to have his fill of water.
Suddenly Daddy POUNCES!!!
He grabs his tail, and stands up!
The kitten let's loose a Bloodcurdling SCREECH and, claws and teeth unleashed, latches onto Daddy's hand and arm in anger and terror!
From my perspective, unable to see anything from within the room I was locked in, it sounded positively horrible in there!
Meanwhile Daddy turned, and, with a loud and hearty Ouch! Shit! That hurt you little F***!! (I heard that, and uttered my own "What the ?" under my breath as the ruckus continued.), threw the little one into the living room behind him, and shut the doors and windows!!
The next 15 minutes were utter chaos.
Daddy dashed to the bathroom looking to see how badly he was mauled, thereby letting ME out of the bedroom!
I walked into the room, curious to see what all the noise was about and was confronted with a furious ball of fur running around the living room in circles, at times literally climbing the walls in a futile bid to escape.
I took one look around at this madness, and calmly went and sat in the kitchen window to leisurely enjoy the spectacle.
Once Daddy determined that the numerous bites and scratches weren't immediately life threatening he checked on the little beastie.
He had tired himself out and was cowering in a corner.
When Daddy stepped toward him he dashed into the bedroom, which is what Daddy wanted him to do.
Closing the door behind him, Daddy sat on the living room floor, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed, until he was crying his eyes out.
I named the feisty little kitten, who looked like me, on the spot, after hearing from Daddy what happened while I was locked in the other room, and Daddy wholeheartedly agreed.
The Battle was over, but the War had just begun...
Maximus, was maybe a month older than I was when I came into Daddy's life, but he had none of the breaks.
The humans have a saying that begins with "There but for the grace of..."
I was born in March 1998 and not long afterwards my Mom, and her litter, found themselves in a cage at the Humane Society.
One day, a month later, the human who became my Best Bud wandered in and when I saw him I just KNEW we were destined for each other.
Maximus was not so lucky.
2 months in the wild had marked his consciousness, and the startling way he was brought in from the cold didn't make for a good beginning to his new life.
Over the next year and 7 months Daddy and I did our best to help him adapt to his new life.
He got his shots, and was fixed, and I introduced him to the pleasures of toys, catnip, and a life of leisure, doing my best to be a mentor to him just as Tom had been for me, during the short time I knew him, after I was brought home.
At times our efforts seemed to be working its magic on him.
He gradually became used to his new surroundings, and while not entirely forgetting his previous life, quit trying to escape back to it.
He often sat in the window, gazing outside with, it seemed to me, a sad look on his face, and I knew he was thinking of his parents and siblings, and life in the wild, but he never talked of those days, not once.
Though a curious Cat and more or less friendly and sometimes playful, he hated to be handled, disliked the Cat Carrier, and often was very moody and aloof as well, sometimes retreating into his own world for 2 or 3 days at a time.
We should have seen it coming, but did not, and when the end came it was traumatic all the way around...
This next part is something Daddy wrote at the time, something that stirred up comment of all sorts then, and probably will this time as well:
THE CHOICE - 2/15/03
I'm not a bad man, am I? :-(
I've been hugging my cat, Nikita, a lot tonite...
I'm feeling torn over what I did with my younger cat, Maximus, today...
I can only keep one cat when I move and that cat is going to be Nikita...
So I've been calling Adoption Agencies, and checking such sites online as well...
But they are either all full, have waiting lists, and even so cost too much for me to give them the cat...
So my vet, upon hearing that I may have to consign Max to a quick death at the hands of the Humane Society said take him down to a certain no-kill shelter and offer to donate $20 to the cause if they take Max...
Max hates to be handled and dislikes being caged for the visit to the vet...
I managed to corner the frightened dear, cage him, and cart him on my bike to the shelter....
Their first reaction was to say he looked traumatized and quiz me about my care of him. I told them I was the only person he had mostly been around, that he let me pet him and scratch his belly, and that he played with 1 other cat.
They then said he appeared not to be a socializable cat (Even my sister has said that.), and wasn't of a popular breed, anyway, and even if they took him I'd have to pay $40. I said I could only pay $20 and so they offered me a list of agencies, and I refused it because it had names I'd already called or checked into. Then I took Max and left...
I rode my bike away all the while thinking how horrible I'd feel going to the Humane Society and giving them the required $20 and essentially saying to them...here kill my cat...
I found an empty industrial complex...
I sat on the curb and upended the carrier, forcing poor Max out of it. I held him in my arms a while. He was too frightened to argue like he usually does.
Finally I walked over to a gate, and stuck him underneath. Then got on my bike and pedalled away without looking back...
I couldn't even cry....
Damnit! He deserves to live, even if only for a week or a month longer. He really deserves a chance to find a home where he can somehow learn to let others love him the way he deserves.
It wasn't his fault he was born in the wild, and has never really acclimated himself to humans...
I was the one that brought him in out of the wild at just a couple of months old.
I decided to give him back his freedom and a slim, fighting, chance, at survival.
Does that make me a bad person for tossing him back on the street? :-(
Damn Humanity for being so careless with their cats that they refuse to get them fixed, and then let so many run loose on the streets day and night instead of keeping them indoors.
There are so many strays loose in the land that Humane Societies, shelters and adoption agencies are overwhelmed with the task of keeping up with the problem of CAT OVERPOPULATION(The Feral Cat Coalition, of San Diego Ca.).
It is unrealistic to expect every apartment owner to allow multiple cats into an apartment, especially when even allowing one seems to make some owners cringe, and so folks like me are forced to choose who lives or dies amongst their loved ones.
I choose, instead, to give Maximus his freedom, and hope that, Gladiator that he is, he can survive and maybe even find a new home.
Forgive me, Maximus, for not being the Daddy you deserve...
In the days that followed we comforted each other, and hoped for the best.
Daddy received some flack for all that happened to Max, from rescue to release, but also much support and understanding.
Should he have left the cute kitten alone, kept him himself, or taken him to the Humane Society, and hoped for the best?
Should he have set him free to almost certainly die alone in the street that very day?
In my view, knowing Daddy to be the loving, caring person that he is...
He was right to rescue Max, and to keep him, too, though it's possible he might have been rescued from the Humane Society like I was, and had an easier time adapting.
Knowing Daddy, his setting Max free was also the right thing to do.
The ultimate act of love and understanding for a troubled kitty who ultimately felt more affinity for the great outdoors, than for a life of comfort.
RIP little one...
But, if by chance, you are still out there somewhere, on the street, strutting your stuff, or living a life of love and comfort, safely indoors...
Daddy and I hope that, if you think of us at all, you think of us with fondness.
One final thing: In honor of Maximus there is a section of links in the sidebar related to the issue of Feral Cats and Cat Overpopulation, in the hopes that the info will will do some good.
NOTE: When Daddy first wrote about Maximus, in February 2003, he got no comments on his old blog, but lots of support from friends.
In February 2008, when I shared the story, one response came in.
Radcliff, Allie, Luna, & Ozzie, left this comment:
oooff! Did not see that coming.
Are you a bad man? No. You tried to help Max, you tried to find him a home, first your own, then someone else's. Beyond that, we don't know enough about your situation to make suggestions.
One thing you have to accept is that you can't save them all, no matter what you do.
Feel free to add to the discussion.
***UPDATE - 3/21/10***