Difficult Decisions

Beautiful Miss Maxi had been a bit of a challenge from the beginning. She arrived poorly socialised to both humans and cats, and only really warmed to Pip, who had arrived two days before her. With each successive kitten’s arrival, she was hostile towards them – swatting and hissing at them if they came close. When they got bigger, she would play in a distant sort of way, always on the outskirts, never in the thick of things.

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I joked that she was a pedigree princess who was horrified that she was expected to live in a house full of street cats, but this is in fact how she behaved. And of course the little kittens that she was mean to when they were small grew up to be big cats. Especially Kai.

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Toward the end of our time in Manila, Maxi became increasingly reluctant to go into the cats room at night. I set up a GoPro camera and watched what happened, and there was no bullying or harassment that I could see. At first I didn’t want to allow her to stay out of the room as I feared it would cause a bigger disconnect in her relationships with them, but I also don’t like to force a cat to do something she clearly doesn’t want to. So Maxi started having occasional overnight reprieves from the cat’s room.

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When we arrived in Cebu, the relationship between Maxi and the other cats worsened. I’m not sure if it was Tully and Shay getting bigger and exerting their presence in the social order, or having to establish new territories in the house, or being able to see but not access birds and wildlife, or my changed schedule. In Manila I was at home almost 24/7, first recovering my health after corporate burn-out, and then planning what to do next. Since arriving in Cebu, I was fitting out an office, hiring staff, establishing a business – all taking me out of the home an increasing amount of time.

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I was keen to get the cat fence built so the kitties could get outside. Firstly it would be new and exciting and might distract them from any tensions, and secondly in case they were frustrated that they could see the birdies but not chase them, being able to go outside would fix that problem too.

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Unfortunately the great outdoors didn’t relieve the stress in the house, and relationships deteriorated further with a spate of peeing. I was fairly certain the culprits were both Kai and Maxi, and it got worse and worse. The pee was in volume on both soft and hard surfaces, both horizontal and vertical. This means it was most likely territorial peeing, not caused by a medical problem but I had Maxi checked out anyway, and switched her to a bladder control diet. The fighting got worse, with Kai consistently chasing Maxi and cornering her, and Maxi become increasingly frightened being around any of the black cats. She was still hostile to the babies and Asha and Lulu, and was regularly chased by Kai and Chico.

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To provide context on the kitties’ environment, there were ten litter trays for eight cats, in four different locations. The trays were of three different types and sizes, including a self-cleaning model and with three different types of litter. All the kitties had their own bowls with ample food available. There were two water fountains and a bubbler, and the filtered water was spiked with Pet Rescue Remedy. There was a Feliway diffuser in their room. There were plenty of beds in good locations, different sizes – the baskets in the condo were the favourites and there were eight of them. There are four window hammocks and two wall hammocks, multiple scratchers and scratching furniture.

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Once the problems started with peeing, I also tried Spirit Essences and Calming Collars.

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On the day that I was half-packed ready for a trip and Kai peed on my pillow and Maxi peed in the suitcase, it was the last straw for me. For the next two weeks Maxi was segregated in a separate room from the other kitties. When they went outside in the mornings, she had the run of the house. When they had the run of the house, she was outside. At night, they were in separate rooms. After two weeks, I reintroduced Maxi to the kitties she was friendliest with – Pip and Lulu, and all went well. I slowly reintroduced her to each kitty, given them treats as a reward for good behaviour, and bringing out the favourite toys whenever all the kitties were near each other in a friendly manner.  When amongst all the kitties, Maxi reverted to the meek and submissive behaviour which seemed to incite Kai to bully her. Kai isn’t a mean cat – he would chase Maxi and rough-house with her the same as he does the other cats, but the other cats give back as good as they get. Maxi just surrendered.

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And worse than the peeing, the fighting, the ongoing struggle to find harmony in the house, was the sad reality that Maxi, such a beautiful and loving girl, was desperately unhappy. With a heavy heart I realised that the one resource I couldn’t provide enough of, was me. The ratio of cats to people was just too high in my home for Maxi’s needs – she needed a lot of attention and care and love, and she was only getting one eighth of what I had to give. I decided I needed to find another home for Maxi where she would be an only cat, with lots of people to love her forever.

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I put an ad on an expat site in Manila. I wanted to meet anyone interested in taking Maxi to be sure they had considered the complications of taking her with them when their assignment ended, and to ensure her next home would be her forever home. I had quite a few enquiries, but most homes had a dog or several children. As Maxi hadn’t been exposed to children, I wasn’t sure how she would go. We had a late burst of hope when one of the expats recommended a cat behavioural therapist in Manila – hoorah! I had already researched extensively for a therapist who might be in the region – I was prepared to fly someone in to fix our problems, so I was delighted to find this guy! Unfortunately even though I extended the same offer to him, he was too busy to even reply to my emails and texts with a proposal, so we were back to square one.

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In the middle of all this angst, I was contacted by Agnes, an Instagram friend also located in Cebu. We had become connected a year earlier as her cat Max (I believe the most famous cat in the Philippines) and Maxi were about the same age, and we shared some concerns and ideas as they were growing up. Agnes was also the IG buddy that connected me to Jonna when she found Chico, Lulu and their siblings on the side of the road. Agnes lived in a house with many humans and just one very well-adjusted Persian boy, Max. Agnes offered to take Maxi for a little trial to see if she would settle with Max and in her house.

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On the day Agnes collected Maxi, I packed up her favourite food bowls, her blanky and some special treats and off she went. I follow Max and Maxi on Instagram and Maxi has settled in beautifully to her new home. I have visited her once and it was wonderful to see her settled, but sad too that I couldn’t give her a happy life.

 

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7 thoughts on “Difficult Decisions

  1. My heart breaks this is the saddest thing I have ever read. Miss Maxi you are so special. My boy Oliver has the same type of temperament and I have realised that he needs my attention full time. I do thinks it’s anything we do “wrong” , cats like humans have diverse personalities and some can live together and some can’t . Much respect to you for your decision.

  2. I’d call this a bittersweet but happy ending for the very beautiful Maxi. Michelle, you are the best cat mom I have ever had the pleasure to know; in the Internet sort of way we know each other.

  3. Thank you for sharing her story. It was good to get additional details like their environment. You literally did everything you could and tried really hard to try and make it work for her. She really is a princess and she looks great in her new home.

  4. Your last line: “I have visited her once and it was wonderful to see her settled, but sad too that I couldn’t give her a happy life.”
    Ahhhhh, but don’t you see that is exactly what you did? You loved her enough to do what was best for her, despite the pain it caused you. If that isn’t the very definition of giving someone a happy life, then I don’t know what is. May God and the universe continue to bless you, Michelle. You are truly a special person and an inspiration to all. Much love from Massachusetts to you, Miss Maxi and the Kitty Central Seven ❤️

  5. I too check in on her every once in a while in her new home. She looks very well taken care of and seems to have a lover in her life now :). I love your writing, your descriptions, emotions. I know how much you love your babies and they are SO very lucky to have YOU

  6. I love your writing, feelings and descriptions. I know how much you love your babies – but they are SO very lucky to have YOU

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