I have a theory about cats. They come into your life for a reason and more often than not they choose you.
This is certainly true of the amazing Max. (AKA Maxibon. AKA The Bon)
I was flat hunting in Queenstown when I first had the pleasure of meeting him. For it appeared that he ‘came with the flat’. In fact, he lived with the upstairs tenants but chose to spend most of his time in the downstairs flat.
I didn’t particularity like the flat. I preferred others I had viewed that day. But the other flats didn’t have a Max, and so I found myself signing the lease before anyone else could.
To say that Max was a character is a huge understatement. I simply couldn’t achieve anything at home without Max being involved.
I could be making a cup of tea and he would ‘knock’ at the window to be let in. The cup of tea must be for him, surely? He would then begin to meow in a circle whilst staring up at the mug until I could show him that it wasn’t something he actually wanted.
The meowing in a circle routine would happen every single time I had something in my hand that might be food. If the thing in my hand was discovered to be ACTUAL food the meowing would reach louder and more desperate tones.
Going to the toilet without Max was not an option. Showering without Max’s whiskers pressed up against the screen was not an option. Sleeping without my face being head-butted in the night was also, not an option.
Not falling in love with this crazy animal was very much NOT an option.
When the day came that I had to move out of the flat I tried to rationalize leaving Max behind. I briefly thought about stealing him but he was not my cat, and surely his humans adored him? How could they not? Instead I cried myself to sleep in my new cosy abode and hoped and prayed that he was OK.
He wasn’t. A week after I moved out I received a phone call from the rental property agent informing me that the upstairs tenants had moved out and left Max behind, ‘kindly’ offering to pay for his euthanasia if they didn’t know anyone that wanted him. He was 15yrs old after all and surely too old to be rehomed?
My heart sank. I dropped everything and drove back to my old flat. And there was Max lying on the carpet inside a cold, echoing empty living room. Waiting in vain for his humans to return.
His big green eyes looked up at me and I scooped him into my arms and took him home and we began our new life routine together.
Over the following years he moved house multiple times with me (he hated moving), moved cities with me, went through a relationship breakup with me and accompanied me through hundreds of showers. Every night he would purr himself to sleep in my arms and every morning he would head-butt me awake, ready to start the day at some ungodly hour.
If anything his food obsession got worse over time. He developed a thing for hot chips and I was simply not allowed to eat them in peace. He would literally distract me while flicking chips off my plate and onto the floor where he could devour them. The ‘distract and flick’ technique also worked well for other foods, such as toast and even peas (another favourite).
One time he went missing for two whole nights. After multiple posters had been put up around the area lots of door knocking I was informed of a possible sighting of Max at the local holiday park. Apparently he had been living in a skip and eating the all the food scraps in there. I collected a fatter, smellier Max from the holiday park that afternoon.
Then one day, during a particularly busy and stressful time in my life I noticed something unusual. He didn’t meow in a circle when I was preparing his food. Instead he remained sleeping on the sofa. I tried a different flavour of cat food but his nose didn’t even twitch.
I knew something was terribly wrong. The vet concluded that his kidneys were no longer functioning and that there was nothing that could be done. I was overcome with guilt for not noticing sooner that he had become so unwell. Had I really been so busy and caught up in my own problems that I had not noticed my crazy food obsessed cat become skinny and weak?
Max fell asleep in my arms for the last time as the vet depressed the syringe into his tired old vein. I cried like a baby for two days straight. I actually thought I’d never get over it.
And in a way I never have. I still kiss his photo every night before bed. I still find myself talking about him, (working him into conversations that probably aren’t even about cats) almost every day, even 6 years after his passing.
The four years we had together were so special. I still can’t believe he was almost put to sleep 4 years before his time. That’s about 30 human years!
So what have I learned from my time with the amazing Maxibon?
Never take your furry friends for granted.
If a cat appears in your life, it’s probably for a reason. And remember, adopt your animals, don’t buy them from a breeder.
Laura Gentle, National Volunteer Coordinator
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