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To my cat, before you die.

Dear Max,

You might not know this, but you weren’t the cat I was supposed to receive for my 16th birthday. My Mom had put a deposit on the orange tabby I had my heart set on, but the store sold it to someone else anyway. My Mom was really upset, and desperately had to find me a replacement cat for my birthday .

That replacement, was you.

She got you at a veterinary clinic. Your litter had been found abandoned on the side of the road in a cardboard box, and the vet was determined to find you all homes. You were the deepest smokey grey, with white belly and paws – but we couldn’t see your beauty up front. You were wild and mangy looking at first, with a nasty flea infestation and a slightly feral attitude. I had to give you a flea bath on your first day home, and you bit down hard on my nose. You weren’t cuddly. You were feisty and determined to do things your way. Us humans were your own personal climbing gyms, and you would claw and climb your way up to our shoulders, ignoring the wincing shrieks of pain your claws caused us. We were your means for food, and not much more.

But I loved you anyway. You weren’t the orange tabby I dreamed of, but you were mine – attitude problem and all.

But it was your attitude problem that almost killed you about 7 years ago. You see, when most cats fall sick, they become nasty and get a “don’t touch me” type of demeanor about them. This was normal for you though, so we didn’t notice you were sick until it was almost too late. We called you for dinner one night, and you didn’t come. That was our warning sign – you loved your dinner, and since you weren’t there in 2.5 seconds flat we knew something was wrong.

We found you in the basement, nearly unresponsive. The crystals that had formed in your bladder had taken over, and it was starting to affect your heart. You weren’t wanting to move and were in an incredible amount of pain. We rushed you to the emergency clinic and they had to catheterize you without anaesthesia – your heart was too weak to handle it. I could hear you scream in pain. You were in an incubator for oxygen, and you looked like you lost your fight. The vet told us that there was a high chance you would not make it through the night. I went outside, sat on the curb and cried.

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But I underestimated you. You ripped out your catheter 2-3 different times and had to have it put back in. You were in the veterinary hospital for nearly a week and were on what seemed to be a million different medications. And you fought.

That’s when we noticed a change in you…

Every day we came to visit you in the cat hospital, you perked up. Somehow you knew at that point we weren’t just your mealtime tickets. We were your people. You actually seemed happy to see us – you purred at our touch. You cuddled. You gave kisses. You were a changed cat.

It was as if your near death experience helped you realize that we wouldn’t abandon you in a cardboard box on the side of the road as had happened to you once before. You knew that you were loved, and we would do anything to look after you.

You made it through your illness, and when you came home it was as if we had a new start with you. You now loved to crawl onto my Dad’s lap for naps, slept in my Mom’s bed with her, and craved attention from whoever would provide it. Instead of secluding yourself, you were social and would lounge in the living room with the rest of the family. You made friends with the dogs, and loved to play “cat soccer” with my Dad.

It took you nearly dying for you to realize we loved you.

You don’t know it yet Max, but Wednesday will be your last day on this earth. You’re almost 15 years old now. You have lost a drastic amount of weight, and when we pet you we feel your bones now instead of the manly tubby tummy you once had. You are lethargic all the time, and you’ve lost control of your bladder. The vet thinks it is your kidneys, and that at your age it isn’t fair to have you suffering. We love you enough to ease that pain for you. We love you enough to say goodbye, even though we will likely cry.

You weren’t the cat I was supposed to receive on my 16th birthday, but you were the one who needed us. You needed us to teach you that trusting people was ok. That the right people would love you and do anything to ease your pain.

And it turns out that you were the cat we needed, too. We needed you to teach us patience. To teach us to look past initial mangy feral appearances to see the gorgeous boy that you are. To teach us that even the fiercest of creatures are deserving of love, and can change if they receive it unconditionally. To show us that a rescue found on the side of the road in a cardboard box could end up being the sweet natured boy who nestles in our laps for a cuddle.

You weren’t the cat I was supposed to receive on my 16th birthday, and now at nearly 31 years old, I don’t want to say goodbye.

Wednesday is coming too quickly, my fiesty friend.