Full Article

The Story of Mad Max the Marmalade cat

This is the story of our cat, Mad Max which we have had for a little over two years now. I have always had cats and wanted one after moving this last time as I love them, and feel an emptiness when they are not around. For me they fill the space with their spirits and personalities, and are great companions. I especially wanted one since my husband worked, and I spent time in the apartment alone. They can be very comforting. After looking for some time with no luck, my husband’s niece contacted him to say that they could no longer keep their kitten Simba. She asked if we would like to take her. Max was a small marmalade tabby kitten with striking blue eyes and huge ears. Her ears took over most of her head giving her the appearance of a bat. At the time we got her, she was pretty young, maybe not even eight weeks old yet. One day she had arrived at my husband’s niece’s house outside, crying after wandering off from her mother in the school where she had been born. So, they decided to take her in and they named her Simba. She was very cute as most kittens are. I was curious about marmalade kitties, as I had not had one before, so I researched them and discovered that most of them are male, not female. So Max was a rare case. When Max arrived she had another name which we decided to change. Originally her name was going to be Dorothy after the cat I had in the states. During her first few weeks with us, that became her name. I think it's true that cats may have more than one life as I witnessed this first hand when a heavy wrought iron chair fell on her one day not long after she arrived. I will never forget the sounds of her screaming from the pain. I was afraid that she wasn’t going to make it, but cats have amazing healing powers. Max went off by herself and managed to get to a very soft pink blanket she first laid on when she came, and fell into a deep sleep for more than one day. She was so still I wondered if she was alive. Then with no warning, Max got up and started walking around. She came into the bedroom and sat on the rug staring up at us. For a short time after that, she limped when she walked, but then miraculously Max was healed as if nothing had happened. I was relieved beyond measure and amazed at her healing powers. I had decided that Max needed to get her shots to be protected so we worked with a friend to get her to a vet. But before that we still had questions about her sex. Whether she was a girl or boy kitty. Before taking her to the vet, my husband and I had looked at photos to compare after which I still thought she was a girl. But my husband who grew up on a farm around animals insisted Max was a boy. He said “I know” I was raised around animals and can tell. Max is a boy.” He said the marks did not look consistent with a girl but were closer to a male kitten. He even called his niece who gave us Max to tell her. In fact this became a topic with the family— what was Max? Boy or girl? And he called his stepson to ask how to best tell the sex of a kitten. So if this was indeed the case Max needed a new name. Dorothy would not work for a boy kitty. After some discussion, we decided on Max— which was based on my prior last name which was Maxwell. We then added Mad like Mad Max in the movie because at times she seemed a little crazy. Within the first few weeks I made arrangements to take Max to the vet for shots and an exam. During the exam the vet asked what sex Max was. We said male. The vet turned around and said, no! Max was a girl! He then asked if her name would change— I said no. I was shocked as I thought my husband was right. But he wasn’t— Mad Max was really a female. I ended up laughing about it especially because of her name! When I got home I could not wait to tell my husband who was as surprised as I had been. He laughed. He could not believe it at first, as he was so sure. When members of the family found out, they also laughed and the story of Max has become a family joke. But as time will tell, and Max got older, it became apparent that she really was a girl! We have had Max over two years now and our time with her has not been lacking in adventures. Unlike cats in the states that are very domesticated, Max came from the street and was taken early from her mother. Because Max left her mother at an early age she lacked some of the schooling kittens get from their mothers and siblings. She never learned to lick people as a sign of affection and had little tolerance for petting or touching at first. Max has a wildness to her at times. After she got a little bigger during the first year, she had this unquenchable thirst to see what else was out there and started venturing outside our terrace into other terraces on this level. No matter what we did to try and keep her around the apartment, she would fight and find other ways to escape. She even dug through a fabric wall to jump to the other side. Nothing could placate or stop her from these explorations. At times she seemed to be unsatisfied having a home with people and wanted something else. At one point, she not only escaped, but managed to get down onto the street and was gone for over eight days. I was heartbroken and frankly frantic about it. My husband contacted the concierge and would search the streets by us for her. Then, one day the concierge came to the apartment and told me he had found her. I went downstairs with him and got Mad Max who had been put into a cabinet to keep her. She was fighting so hard to get free, though she recognized me, the concierge had to put her in a big shopping bag to take her back upstairs. While we had gotten her back, it didn’t take long until she plotted her next escape. There was another time after the after the eight day disappearance, when Max escaped again, and this time it really looked like she would not come back. I was heartbroken once again. We didn’t know what to do, so we made up our minds if Max was truly gone, we would get another cat, probably from the shelter. My husband had also heard that they were kittens nearby, and I asked him to talk to the concierge about it. This was a huge mistake. Cats here are not like in the states. They are wild for the most part, and can become dangerous if they feel threatened. When we went to look at the kittens, several people came and surrounded the area, and the mother cat, which I ended up naming Godzilla cat arrived, freaked out to defend her children. At one point, she felt so threatened, she ended up attacking me. The strange thing was she only went after me, not the men who were around. I tried to hold her off, and managed to get away, but in those five minutes or less, Godzilla cat hurt me quite a bit to the point, I had to get a rabies shot(s). Luckily, it was not the series of 13 injections as it used to be, but still managed to be several shots over an allotted time period which were painful. I was totally blown away by this and never really thought that a cat could be a dangerous threat while in the states. They always seemed like gentle creatures to me. That is not necessarily the case here. I learned a painful lesson. Since that time, we have been through the scenario of Max leaving and then coming back many times until she has finally seemed to have decided on some level that this is her home, and while she may leave for several hours, she eventually comes back. She seems to be more comfortable now with her surroundings and prefers to remain close to home more often than not. She even has special places that she will sleep in the apartment and outside on the terrace. There has only been one time when she returned where she was hurt and it was obvious she must have gotten in a fight with another cat during her adventures, but after that she has calmed down some more. Part of our adventures have also involved other cats who have discovered our apartment and that we have a cat, and from time to time will arrive to either see Max, or see if they can find food or comfort. This always causes a loud stir with Max screaming, hissing and meowing. For the sake of identification, we have called one of them Fluffy because he has a big tail and the other one Big Head because he has a large head and eyes. Because of this we have ended up chasing cats sometimes to try and get them to leave which Max seems to appreciate in her own way. Max is all grown up now, her ears have filled in with the rest of her head and she has become a truly beautiful cat. She knows several words in English and has decided that I am “her person” and that I belong to her. In the morning, she will come to get her food and expects to be spoken to. Before she will eat, she wants to be told it is OK to do so and wants a body rub. When she was little, I used to hold her and also carry her sometimes like a baby. It is only recently that she will let me do this again sometimes, if she is in the mood. She even has her own schedule of when she wants to go out, explore, come back, and then go to sleep. Same for her nap times. Max has a distinct personality with moods. Sometimes she wants to play and likes to play hide and seek. When she finds me she hits me with her paw before running off, waiting for me to run and hide again. She also can act like a small child sometimes when told no or if she is corrected. Max gets angry and throws a fit just like a small child. When Max was younger she would flatten her ears and stretch out her head and bush up her tail. She looked pretty frightening actually. We came up with a name for it and called her demon kitty when she does it. What was so striking about it was when she does this, Max doesn’t even look like the same cat. During her first year, Max discovered what there was in the apartment including climbing up on top of the drapery rods. At one point, she got stuck and did not know how to get down. My husband held up a pillow for her to jump onto and after talking to her and calling to her, she jumped onto the pillow to get down. It was a pretty amazing example of trust between a person and an animal. During Max’s time with us, she and my husband have had a dance with each other in terms of acceptance and trust. But, over time, they have come to a meeting of the minds for the most part, and get along as friends. There were times when she was younger that she tried his patience with her running around and climbing onto things, but over time, she has learned what is Ok and not OK and things have calmed down. During her early time with us, my husband experience a special moment with Max when he put some yogurt on his finger and she licked it off. He told me after that, she had hooked him. He said he had never experienced something like that before. Now, when he finishes his yogurt, Max always sits waiting to get the leftovers from him. It’s funny, but she really loves it, especially Activia. Max’s acceptance goes beyond myself and my husband these days. She has become part of the landscape here, and members of the family accept her, and will even ask about her. When we traveled for several weeks during the summer, we had family members staying in the apartment for us along with Max. Because of that experience, Max has relaxed even more and opened up more to the point she loves to see people now and be around them. Since the weather has turned to winter, Max usually comes in during the early evening and will end up sleeping in the bed with us till early morning. She has discovered that the cold is harsh on her feet and not very pleasant to sleep in. There are stories about cats, that they defend against evil and will ward off negative energy. At times I have found Max sitting just staring at me, and perhaps that is what she is doing. I know that if we are ill or upset, she will come and sit with us to offer some type of comfort. One thing that I will never forget was during my first year here, I got a terrible round of food poisoning and was up all night very ill. Max kept coming and going into the bedroom to see me. After I was finally able to fall asleep, I found her lying right next to me. While knowing Max has been a different experience for me than what I was accustomed to, I would not trade knowing her for anything in the world. She has brought a new dimension into my life and our lives.