Happy April! Some of you may know that April is also the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. This is going to be a long post.
A while ago, in a post about a feral cat named Heather who didn't survive the cold Boston winter, I mentioned I might chat about my cat Max's past. I thought given the theme of the month, now might be a good time.
If you've followed this page for a little bit you probably know that I've been feeding and fostering for Boston's Forgotten Felines for a few years now. They're an incredible organization who feed, trap/neuter/return, provide medical care, and find foster/forever homes for the homeless cats in Boston and surrounding areas. I've fostered a fair number of Boston's Forgotten Felines cats in the past: Ted (now Hank), Albert, Trouble/Otto, Lenny, and Ruby (now Molly) and Willow. You might also know Coconut (Coconut's Journey), one of the cats I used to feed who is now living happily indoors.
Max (Maximus if you're fancy) came to me as a BFF foster cat, who I picked up as I was driving home from delivering Lenny to his wonderful forever home. I'd heard about him from Joni, who said "He doesn't know how to act around people—he gets all excited to be petted, he reaches out and grabs your arm not realizing his claws are so long. He's not a mean cat he's just so unsure. He's lived on the street for about 3 or 4 years. He's older and he needs some manners but he loves to be brushed, he loves the attention, he loves to play, he just doesn't know what to do. I can't just place them in a house with anybody because he worries me, I don't know how he is going to react." I'll admit I was a little worried, since I'd had some behavioral fosters before who were very challenging to work with.
Max had to endure a ~30 minute drive back to my apartment, during which he got horrendously carsick—Victoria Ruff was my copilot and I think she thought he was dying given the pathetic sounds he was making. Fortunately he survived the trip (minus his breakfast) and I let him out in my bathroom. Unfortunately he was pretty messy after that ordeal, so I went to the nearby pet store to get some cat wipes to clean him up. Joni had warned me to go slow with him, to go at his own speed, and not to touch him. When I returned and went into the bathroom, he was purring so hard he practically shook the floor, and as much as I tried to keep my distance he was rubbing up against me and headbutting me. I gave in and took a couple of wipes to the messiest parts of him and then tried to leave him in the bathroom to settle in... except he was having none of it. All he wanted was to follow me into the living room and hang out with me on the couch. I eventually just decided to let him do his thing and sure enough, he was immediately the sweetest cat on the planet. I knew on the first day he was with me that I was in serious danger of "foster failing" with him (adopting a cat I had planned to foster). By day two or three I knew for sure he was here to stay.
Max's story from when BFF brought him in is a very sweet one. He is a sweet, sweet cat who loves nothing more than to snuggle, play with his wand or spring toys, and sleep as close to me as he can. When I get home he's usually waiting at the door or I immediately hear him jump off his (or my) bed and come sprinting to me. All the time I'm home he follows me around the apartment. When I need to clip his nails I put him on my lap belly-up and he graciously allows me to clip every one of them (front and back), usually purring the whole time.
Sadly his time before BFF is not so sweet. Max was not born an outdoors cat—if he was, he'd be feral and he would not appreciate human interaction and would hate being indoors. Max is a cat who once lived inside. The best case scenario for Max is he somehow escaped his owner's home and they weren't able to find him. More likely, he was dumped outside, and sadly that happens for so many reasons—maybe his owners adopted him as a kitten without thinking through the fact that kittens eventually turn into full-grown cats. Maybe they didn't realize that male cats are hard to live with without neutering. Either way, Max ended up outdoors.
Max lived outdoors for several years. Thankfully, someone eventually got in touch with BFF, who trapped him, cleaned him up, got him neutered and vaccinated, and gave him a safe place indoors to stay before sending him to me to foster (and eventually foster fail).
BFF had taken great care of him, had a vet check him out, neuter him, and update him on his shots. But like any good new owner I wanted to get my own vet to check him out so they knew what he's like when he's healthy in case I have to bring him in if he gets sick. My only concern was his itchy ears (one of which is crumpled, as you can see in photos of him—this is common among street cats who develop hematomas in their ears for a variety of reasons), and what felt like little cysts: two on his tail, and one on one of his toes. At the time I already knew he had a multitude of scars—mostly on the back of his neck and scruff area, but all throughout his body. The scars aren't typically visible (sometimes you can see a few when he leans over to eat, but he's so fluffy that they're mostly hidden unless he's soaking wet). I assumed the scars were from fighting other cats.
When I got to the vet, there were a few things I learned: Max suffers from ceruminous cysts (waxy cysts in his ears) which itch like hell, and the vet thinks the crumpled ear is from a resultant ear infection that was so bad that it destroyed the cartilage in his ear. I can't imagine how painful that must have been.
I also asked the vet about the cysts I'd felt. The little lumps in his tail and toe are possibly BB pellets, but are more likely buckshot. They are perfectly round, and they move around freely. Max was shot at some point, likely with a shotgun.
It blows my mind that people could be that cruel to animals. It blows my mind even more to know that Max was once a housecat, endured several years on the street and being shot, and he's still the cat who spends most of his waking hours purring and snuggling. When he plays, he's so careful to not hurt me with his claws. I wish the humans he knew before BFF would have given him the same treatment.
We don't deserve cats.