Today I am going to tell the story of Maximillian a gorgeous ginger cat who kept us on our toes in his younger days.
Maximillian Ginger Cat Thief And Ever Hopeful Bat Hunter
Finding My Maximillian
The Logic behind the Search
Our cat HG was getting older and we wanted to get a kitten to keep him company. We also knew HG wouldn’t live forever and we wanted to have another cat for continuity. You can read HG’s story here.
Having made the decision to get another cat, I decided I wanted a boy kitten and I had the name already decided (like you do). I knew I was looking for a little boy called Maximillian. Don’t ask me why, it would involve delving into my brain which is not a good move.
How It All Happened
Anyway, I phoned the (then) Cat Protection League to see if they had any kittens for adoption. The person on the end of the telephone was very disorganised and all I could hear was dogs barking. ‘You have dialed the wrong number’, said the harassed voice. ‘This is a farm’. ‘Oh,’ I said, laughing, ‘so you won’t have any kittens looking for a home’. ‘As a matter of fact we have four we are trying to get rid of’, was the response. To me this was fate stepping in and I arranged that we would go and see the kittens that evening and choose one.
Arriving at the farm, the mother cat was feeding the four little kittens (which looked smaller than the eight weeks the person said on the telephone). I was taken by a little pale ginger one and picked him up to look at him. He immediately sank his teeth in my thumb. ‘I want this one’, I said, ‘he has got character’. And we took him home.
A One Sided Love Affair
Unfortunately, as recounted in HG’s story, while Maxi adored his big brother, HG hated him. Maxi also turned out to be only about six weeks old, too young to leave his Mum and we had weaning problems with him. He also had a wildness about him that meant he could bite and scratch without warning – that never left him!
How Maxi Nearly Died
When HG died we had huge problems with Maxi. He literally stopped eating and drinking and became lethargic. After a few days of this we took him to the vet who announced that Maxi was literally pining for his big brother and would die if this carried on. The vet advised we get another cat and hopefully that would solve the problem. He recommended a female cat same age as Maxi, around 18 months.
Searching For A Female Companion for Maxi
I phoned the Cat Protection League (right number this time) and asked if they had a suitable cat. This was literally a few days before Christmas but was urgent because Maxi was fading before our eyes. They said they had two sisters and we were welcome to come and pick one and take it home the next day when checks were completed.
There Was Never Such Devoted Sisters
Once we saw the two sisters it was obvious they were devoted to each other and there was no way I could bring myself to split them. (Shades of what happened with our two puppies Ringo and Spud by the way). We picked the two girls up on Christmas Eve. They were Maximillian’s Christmas present. I called the small short haired tabby Juju and the larger long haired tabby Kimberly (I tell their story here). The two girls were traumatized and ate ravenously from the same bowl and then vanished from sight. Maxi didn’t even show any interest in them. We sighed and went to bed.
Happy Christmas Day
Christmas day and look what we found the next morning. Maxi and the two girls sleeping together on the spare bed. From that moment Maxi started eating and we were able to get on with our lives, albeit with rather more cat fur around the place than we had anticipated.
Maximillian The Thief
Calling Maxi a thief might be a bit strong as this was more a persona he tried on for a few days but luckily then decided it didn’t suit him.
The episode with the frozen cod fillet
One night I was cooking in the kitchen when Maxi clambered over our six foot garden fence with something large and white in his mouth. I was not prepared to find that it was a frozen cod fillet! The little tinker had obviously decided to try his luck and steal someone’s supper. Needless to say it was taken off him and thrown away. The next day we asked our immediate neighbours if they were missing a cod fillet. They laughed but no, it had not come from them. We thought it was a one off. But it was not to be.
Adventures with a poppy seed bread roll
The next night, there was the sound of a cat climbing over the fence and there sat Maxi, sitting by the conservatory looking very pleased with himself. At his feet was a fresh bread roll covered in poppy seeds. I stood perplexed for a moment or two but then took the roll, broke it into pieces and put it on our bird feeder tray. At least his thievery would mean a treat for the birds. My partner and I went to the pub that night and started to look around at our fellow drinkers. Which one had been visited by the cat thief?
Oh come on, what next?
At least Maxi was focusing on food – or so we thought. The very next day, mid afternoon, there was a lot of noise as a cat clambered over the face, obviously with some difficulty. This time he stood there with a child’s skipping rope with wooden handles. We were just stunned! He was so proud of it too. We had a little chat about the sorts of things that cats are supposed to hunt and catch. I pointed out that frozen cod fillets, poppy seed bread rolls and skipping ropes did not appear on the list. Anywhere. Not even at the bottom. We put the skipping rope on a bit of communal fencing in the village so hopefully it would be returned to it’s rightful owner.
He never stole anything else again. Not once, to my knowledge anyway. It was like three days of madness and as suddenly as it started it stopped. Perhaps my lecture worked, who knows?
Maxi Loved The Garden Pond
What may have taken Maxi’s attention away from his budding career as a thief was the installation of a new garden pond. We had a small one but decided to dig it out and make it much larger. From the moment it was installed Maxi spent hours and hours at the side of the pond everyday, watching the fish and the frogs. He would sleep in the tall grass that we deliberately let grow.
Resuscitating a Frog
Maxi once caught a frog and was heaving it out of the pond when I got there and grabbed the frog off him. It didn’t seem to be breathing but was otherwise undamaged. I sat there, on the grass, splashing it with water and pushing its chest in the vague hope of bringing it back. I had just about given up when there was movement. It sat in my hand for a moment then the frog leaped back into the pond. Much to Maxi’s annoyance.
A Dragonfly Hunt That Went Wrong
Another time, Maxi was chasing the dragonflies at the pond. We had damselflies which are tiny but also huge dragonflies that would hatch and fly around like small birds. I was sitting watching Maxi chasing around when he got too enthusiastic in his chase. He threw himself into the air trying to catch a big dragonfly – and then realised he had jumped right over the middle of the pond. It was amazing to watch him squirm and twist his body, trying to reach the paved edge of the pond. He almost made it too, just his back end went in the water. He sat on the side of the pond, dripping slightly and looked at me as if to say ‘I meant to do that!’.
Maxi Takes Up Bat Hunting
I am not sure when Maxi’s bat fetish started. We had a half tile hung house where we lived in Sussex and there was a colony of pipistrelle bats that lived under the tiles. It was lovely at night, they would come out and swoosh around the garden. One evening Maxi was out with us in the garden and he noticed the bats swooping around. He watched them for ages. he was quite middle aged by this point.
Watching and Waiting
A few evenings later he had moved to the top of the flat roof on the kitchen extension. He could watch the bats flying out and back under the tiles from there. From that point on he spent the whole summer sitting underneath the tiles. We used to laugh at him and say ‘Surely you don’t think one is going to drop into your mouth’.
The same thing the following summer, Maxi divided his day into sleeping, skulking around the pond and bat watching.
Success of Sorts
Then one day, a long time later, my partner shouted ‘Come quick, Maxi has caught a bat!’. Sure enough a bat had dropped out from behind a tile and straight into Maxi’s mouth. Who would have thought it! By the time we got outside, Maxi had jumped down into the garden and was sitting with this pathetic little bat sitting in between his paws. It was clear he didn’t have a clue what to do with it! My partner grabbed the bat, we checked it over for injury and we put it up on top of the bird feeder where the cats couldn’t get it. About twenty minutes later the bat flew off.
Maxi never caught another bat but I think like most of us, once you achieve a life goal you sort of have to move on to the next. Particularly if, after all the anticipation, it turns out to be a totally non-exciting event.
Ratting and Mousing was Maxi’s Forte
Maxi was an incredible rat and mouse catcher. I have never had a cat like him. I know he was brought up on a farm and I guess his Mum earnt her living by ratting and mousing. But at his young age he won’t have had any lessons from her. He was ruthless! We had a stream that run along the front of the house and rats lived in the banks. He always killed them immediately, never played with them like some cats do. I came home from work one day and he had laid six young rats out on the door step, clearly a present (lovely). Well I say six, there actually five and a half as he must have been peckish…
Maxi In Old Age
In his later years, Maxi slowed down a lot and spent a lot of time sleeping. One of his favourite places was on the fence outside the backdoor. I had a stable door (split in two, the top half was always open during the day). From his position he could watch me in the kitchen and keep an eye on the cat food bowls to see if anything got put in them.
Over a period of time we began to notice a strong smell in the cat litter boxes and realised one of the cats potentially had a problem. After some ingenious methods of trying to figure out which of our then five cats it was, it proved to be Maxi. He had developed kidney problems.
He was not an easy cat to give medication to. I used to spend hours smashing up the tablets and mixing them with fish so he would eat them. But his kidneys gradually deteriorated and the day came when we had the sad journey to the vets. I buried him in a place overlooking the pond – where else?
But That Wasn’t The End Of The Cat Family Stories
Maxi proved a good brother to Juju and Kimberly and over the years he accepted the introduction of Jimmy, Penny and Thomas (click on their names to read their stories). But he didn’t have long to be with Kimberly, who used to groom him. Not long after Juju and Kimberly came to live with us, something dreadful happened…
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!