The Cork Board

The Irreplaceable Max

...Max, checking where Lucy is...


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.

...tasting snow ...

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.

... laughing his head off having just pounced on Lucy again...

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.

... his favourite hobby, sunbathing ...



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” .

...Maxey - a perfect cat and friend - ( April 2000 - 25th April 2012 )


30 thoughts on “The Irreplaceable Max”

  1. I understand. My Tommy is special to me the way your Maxey is spcial to you. I lost my Tommy a little over 6 years ago to cancer, and my heart broke when th mass on his head burst and I had to put him down. He was a gentleman cat, walking me to my car every morning and waiting for me at my spot everyday I came home from work. So loving, so gentle, so patient. He was a stray I took in when he was 5 or 6 years old, and I enjoyed the 7 years I had with him. My heart goes out to you. *hugs*

    1. Thank you Chaos5150. I’m glad you understand. No-one knew what was happening to Max until afterwards. None of us were given a chance to care for him or even try to make him better. Thank you for your *hugs*.

  2. Oh Alan, my heart is going out to you — that’s almost literal as reading your post made me feel all kinds of physical sensations reminiscent of the time after our Tisha passed. Thank you for recording this so we could know Max too. He looks and sounds like a fabulous fellow. I’d write more, but I’m sobbing. Cats, man!! Here’s to our special friends.

      1. Aw, no, I know you didn’t. And truthfully I was fine until I started writing my comment, and then the tears poured out. Anyway, I think it’s good to bawl sometimes — it’s a reminder of how rich it is to love and remember.

  3. Al, I know you through a box, though I feel i know your heart — and today my own goes out to you, friend.
    Animals, to my approximation, are reflections of their owners, and you, good buddy, had yourself an angel.
    I had a dog growing up that many people also refereed to as an angel. I swear; she could read your mind, and I’m convinced that she was this way because I had always treated her as an equal. I accepted her animalistic nature, and she, in turn, returned the favor. Somehow in there we’d developed a mutual understanding of love with one another which overlooked our ancestry — the purest kind.
    Simone, was her name, and she was loyal, loving and quite maddeningly brilliant. Same coloration as Max, and (if i see it properly in your pictures) the same little tuft of white/grey hair at the crown of her chest.
    When she passed, needless to say, I was devastated.
    I had never been so close to another living thing as I was with her. Never in my life had I had a love so pure. So when I lost her, I was afraid that it had left my heart forever…
    Then someone shared this poem, “Rainbow Bridge” with me (, perhaps you’ve heard of it? I cried — oh yea, (like a blubbering fool, truth be told) — but soon, once my heart settled, I felt her again. She was there with me, and, even today, She still is.
    Somehow the purging of that pent up emotion had helped me take in the lesson that Simone had been attempting to impart upon me me all along our journey together: unwavering love and acceptance is the secret to a happy, tail wagging, life. This is the lesson that all pets attempt to teach us, I beleive, though we humans are sometimes too stubborn to take in their wizened advice.
    Somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re smarter, ha!
    Anyway, I hope that you know Max has not left you: I’m sure you do. Matter of fact, he’s closer than ever. And he’ll be waiting for you on the other side of Rainbow bridge.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jared, and the poem. It’s lovely. We knew it was going to be hard whenever Maxey went, we just weren’t prepared for this. We’re a bit wrecked, truth be told, and we couldn’t care less what people think – he was incredibly special to us.We intend to keep him “living” on with us just like Simone does with you. I guess we were lucky to find that unquestioning love and trust. Now we must come out of this trough and celebrate him. We’ll try.

  4. So sorry to hear about Max. It’s the saddest thing when your house loses a purr. Please give love and cuddles to Fi for me, and please have some for yourself too. If it all just gets too sad come for a visit, some baby snuggs from the boy might help. Hugs for your heart xxx

      1. Very true…Moo has been a little more vocal of late…next door have two cats and Moo is afraidy Puss, so he comes in and tells me all about it. I’m so glad I got to meet Max, he was a treasure xx

  5. Max was one cool cat, and good company. I am sorry for the loss of your kitty. You’ll always be able to smile to yourself when you think of him. ~ Lily

  6. Oh my.. I really don’t have any words right now.. I got my first dog ( while an adult) the year I divorced. Jack-Black is my little furry boy in a dogs body.. I shall miss him dreadfully when he passes..
    I am so very, very sorry for the loss of your beloved fellow.. I really am
    (this is a wonderful tribute you and your Fi can read at a later date and the smiles will return)

    1. Thank you Lynne. I wanted to write it whilst it still hurt because it’s all still fresh and I didn’t want to lose any of it. We regret not being camcorder people. Oh, how we wish we had film. Take care of Jack-Black. Give him a hug from us and relish every second you spend with him.

  7. shit Al, i so feel the sorrow. he looks like my sweet little black who also left me. i think animals are the real angels…and nothing makes me sadder than an animal dying. nothing. i’m sorry for your loss of such a dear friend and companion. continue…

  8. A fitting tribute for such a remarkable friend. You and your family are blessed

    I know your loss, for me there was too much space in the house.

    All the very best,


  9. Well, this made me laugh and then cry. How come I had never ‘met’ Max before? Perhaps it has been an oversight on my part. Anyways, he sounds like he was a real personality and looks like a less fuzzier version of the Fuzzball. Loved the pictures…and the captions. And I’m glad you and Fi had his delightful company for 12 years…
    Can’t (and don’t even want to) imagine how it would be to lose a catty presence in the house. I feel a bit sorry for people who never experience the depth of feeling towards an animal by not ever having pets. They really miss out on something very special.
    Thank you for writing such a lovely, moving piece about Max, and I’m sorry he’s gone. Off to read the Rainbow Bridge now.

    1. Thank you, Munira. I always thought Max was a jazz cat. The sort of cat who was out in the alley at 3.00 am blowing his sax. He always had a cool air about him. We’ll miss him badly.

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