It is almost winter again. My beloved cat Cashmere died about this time last year. I have lived with a cat for more than 50 years. A few months ago, I started to look for another cat. I went to the places I usually go to find a cat that needs a home. At one of these Rescue Shelters a woman about my own age interviewed me. She began by asking me about the sort of cat companion I was looking for. “Just an ordinary cat,” I said. She smiled. “There are no ordinary cats,” she told me. She began to ask about my former cats, which led to a lot of stories. Finally she smiled at me. “This is probably your last cat,” she told me, “so you might not want to be too hasty.”
I was shaken by the thought but after a moment I saw the truth in it. And then she asked me a wonderful question: Is there a special cat that you have seen or met somewhere, some time that you still remember?
And in my secret heart there was a cat that I remembered. When I was young, a friend took me to a big National Cat Show in San Francisco. It was the first and only time I have gone to a cat show. We had gotten there towards the end, just in time to see the final event, a competition for BEST IN SHOW. Over a thousand people, cat lovers all, were in the audience watching cats being presented to the Chief Judge one at a time. They were all so beautiful that I could not imagine how he would be able to choose among them. But that was before we saw the last cat.
The judge had his back turned towards the audience and appeared to be having some difficulty getting the last cat out of his holding cage. Then he turned towards us. In his arms was the largest and most astonishingly beautiful cat I had ever seen. We all fell silent in awe. The last cat must have weighed close to 30 pounds. He had stripes, thin light grey and pure white stripes and huge paws and elegant ears and a face like a lion. He looked at us with great dignity and calm and gentleness. His eyes were golden and slanted slightly upward. The contest was over. No one had ever seen anything like him.
After the judge awarded the last cat the BEST IN SHOW ribbon, a man in the audience rose and went forward to gather him up. When the last cat saw him coming he made a sound I had never before heard a cat make. With a trill of pure joy he leaped from the judging table into the man’s arms, wrapped his huge soft paws around his neck and rubbed his face against his cheek. “My god, what kind of a cat is that,” I had asked my friend, a great connoisseur of cats. “That’s a Maine Coon cat,” he told me. ”They call them the Gentle Giants of Catdom.”
That was 25 years ago and I have never forgotten it. So I googled the Maine Coon cat breeders in my area and called them on the phone. Most of them began the conversation by quoting their prices for a kitten. These conversations did not last long. I had saved the Bounding Maines Cattery for last, possibly because the ocean has been a place of deep peace and mystery for me ever since I was small. And this phone call was different. Holly, the breeder, did not talk to me about money. She asked me about myself and my home, and about my first cat and my favorite cat. She asked about my hopes for a relationship with a new cat. She told me that all her male kittens were bespoke but she had a female kitten available. All of my cats have been tomcats and I had not wanted a female cat so she invited me to come and meet her and her cats and talk about her next litter.
But when I arrived, there were two kittens running free in her living room. Someone who had reserved a 5 month old male kitten had called the day before to say that she would not be able take him. He was smaller than his sister, a mottled grey color with muddy yellow eyes and, well, he was just homely. He paid no attention to me at all. I took him home with me.
My last cat’s name is MAXX. Maxximus le Prince Argent, which I suppose makes me Maxxiemom. At 10 months he weighs 21 pounds. Someday he will be as large if not even larger than the cat I saw years ago. MAXX has become a most beautiful cat with a coat like a timber wolf and the longest most elegant tail imaginable. He has the face of a lion and his eyes have turned coppery gold. And Holly and her 80-year-old mother, Glenna, have become a dear part of my extended family. I am including a picture and a brief note of introduction from Maxx himself………
dis is me!…MAXX!….. mom rite to u en luvs u en is glad dat u is dere. i glad dat u is dere too……. maybe i cud rite to u sumtimes…. do u hav eny cats?…i cud rite to dem too…….
i liddle when i cum here but I not liddle now….i BIG now…..BIGBIGBIG …I grow en grow en grow….. i a GUD grower! ….en I not homely now…dis because of de Mom kisses…..all de udder peeple dat cum here dey dere fer de playing en fer de tickles but de Mom is dere fer de kisses…..en de Mom kisses dey stick to me…i cud still feel dem when dere is nowun here wid me….how she do dat?…i cuvvered wid Mom kisses alla time…dat whut make me gro so BIG en so handsum. Mom even put two kisses in my name…maXX… i hope u got cats….den i cud rite to dem too.
In the past 50 years each of my cats have taught me much about the power of love. From Cashmere I’ve learned that even love cannot protect us from old age and death. From Maxx I have learned that love enables us to grow to our true size and realize our deepest beauty.