We never had pets when I was kid so I’d never counted myself an animal person, really. Animals always inflamed my Dad’s debilitating asthma so we just didn’t keep them. A few years after Fi and I got together we took in two six month old black kittens. Fi had always been a cat woman.
Born in a barn somewhere in Derbyshire, Max and Maple, as we called them, were 2 of 8, and they were coming to live with us in the country. Unfortunately Maple was killed when hit by a car a couple of years later – on a country lane that saw, maybe, half a dozen cars a day. Max was chasing her having fun together as they always did.
Then there was just me, Fi and Max for several years. Lucy would come later.
He grew up running in the fields behind our house, chasing everything smaller, avoiding everything bigger. Sometimes we’d take him for a walk along the brook or down the lane. Always sniffing the new scents and keeping one eye on how far he was from home. No lead – just the three of us walking, and Maxey always walking with his tail high in the air, as he always did, TC in the ‘Hood.
Once we were plagued by a mole who was intent on ruining our lawn and all technological solutions had failed. We don’t know how he did it but Max caught him and brought the mole into the kitchen to prove it, where it ran free and set about scratching behind the radiator pipes while Maxey went back out to look for more. The country mice didn’t stand a chance.
I’m an early morning man. Up at 6.30 or before mostly so that there’s an energy dip around about 2.00 pm when my sometimes guilty pleasure is a half hour nap in the sun. Maxey would come and find me and lay across the back of the sofa, napping too. Then just when I was about to drop off he’d walk along my chest and head butt me so hard it felt like I was in a bar fight. And then we’d start our head butt games which would be resumed again later as he sat between us on the sofa watching tv or purring as we stroked his soft furry belly.
In recent years one of his greatest sources of fun was to practice his stalking technique on Lucy. He’d creep up behind her in the garden, pounce on her back, and then scamper away as she growled at him. You could almost see the grin on his face.
Everybody who met Maxey loved him. A chosen few got a head butt, too.
Cattery owners loved him. Whenever we returned from holiday our holiday rap was uninteresting – Mrs. Cattery had met Max. That’s all they wanted to talk about.
Fi had several cats as pets when she was growing up and she would tell, perhaps even warn me, that Maxey was “special” , somehow different, as I held him high above my head and then flipped him over to fall upside down into my arms to be cradled like a baby. Never a struggle – never a scratch.
In fact, I don’t think he ever scratched anyone.
He was always a healthy cat preferring his vitamin biscuits to nibble on all day rather than a proper meal. He never sat and ate a meal all the way through. No Fat Cat status for Max. Life was for living not sitting on your backside and eating.
So when he became lethargic about 5 weeks ago and started losing weight we began to worry. However, blood tests pointed to an infection and a course of antibiotics seemed to do the trick. He perked up and put some weight back on.
Then just as we thought we had it sorted he seemed to be losing weight again, though he was out in the sun and strolling the garden as usual. Then he started losing his appetite. In response, he began to enjoy his freshly cooked chicken and pieces of medium rare steak. But the weight wasn’t coming back.
As we stirred on Saturday morning, Maxey leapt with one bound from the chair where he’d been sleeping, straight onto our bed. We were awake – time for head butts. He checked in – yep, we were awake – and he lay down at the end of the bed with his head across my legs. We thought this was a good sign of recovering.
But on Sunday, the beast inside grabbed him. He barely moved. Blood tests on Monday showed the virus was back and that he’d become anaemic as his body charged all it’s energies into fighting this invasion. Tuesday was spent at the Vet Surgery. Fluids and antibiotics were employed but the Vets didn’t know what they were fighting. They suspected a bone marrow problem but needed to keep looking. On Tuesday night he summoned up all his strength to get down from his chair and climb onto the bed beside Fi. I didn’t have the heart to move him so that’s where he stayed all night. I went to the spare room.
Wednesday was back to the Vets for more fluids and antis. At about 1.20 pm, as a nurse was trying to tempt him with some lunch, the time bomb in Maxey’s chest exploded and he died 5 minutes later.
I know life and death are facts of our existence and that in harsher environments and situations people live with it every day. But we don’t. We have a cushioned life. That’s just how it is. I don’t want to bring anybody else down with us. I’m recording this for our sake as much as anything. I don’t feel like writing humorous or erudite stuff right now.
We weren’t ready, Maxey, and neither were you. Rest in Peace, “little man” .