by Cathy Craig Neil

    She came into our lives through some friends in our church.
She was small but a beautiful calico with huge green eyes.  Living in
the wild for the first year of her life, it was obvious she was not
tame. The evidence of survival was her tone and lifeline.  That would
not change for some time.
    The family that found her also took in her sister.  Along with 3
dogs, keeping both stray cats was not something they could manage. They
would keep one cat, and well, take the other to the "grim reaper."
My daughter and I love cats so we rescued her from a horrible fate and
brought her home.
    The teenage son of the family who found her for some reason named
her after Maximus Decimus Meridius, Russell Crowe's character in the
movie Gladiator.  In the beginning we could not see any connection or
similarity between her and the character.
    As time passed we noticed her hunting skills to be much like
Maximus along with her fierce capability to stand up for herself. She
also exhibited some very strong vocal chords that eventually would lead
to her getting just about whatever she wanted.  Maybe she really did
turn out to be Russell Crowe's shadow.  So Maxi became part of our family.
     Maxi was not content to stay in the house.  Her prior existence
     showed up daily in her behavior and desire to be outdoors.  It was
     her nature, her love to feel free lying in the sun, or hunting at
     dawn for the food she no longer had to catch.  She knew no other
     life but to fend for herself and at times this broke my heart.
     How I wish we spoke the same language.
    As difficult as it was to allow her out in the midst of danger,
it was harder to watch her suffer indoors.  I believe Maxi has her own
"Guardian Angel" who watches over her and protects her.
    Maxi has moved with us 4 times in the short 7 years she has lived
with us.  The third house we lived in the mountains we put a cat door
in so she could come and go as she wanted.  Finally after a few weeks,
she got the hang of it and seemed quite pleased with her independence.
    We had no idea what we were in for that summer as she proceeded to
show us her gratitude daily.  Somehow she managed to bring in the house,
mice, shrews, rats, bunnies, birds, snakes and even a live bat.  We lost
count of the gifts as they ran through the house, or hid under furniture.
    Maxi was disillusioned by our disposing of her hunt.  She couldn't
understand after all her effort day after day, carrying these creatures
in her mouth through the cat door, why we didn't enjoy these treats as
much as she did.  Once we had to move again, we found mice behind some
of the furniture that she had chased all over the house and left for dead.
    She has calmed down as far as the gifts go, although every once in a
while she appears at the back door with a shrew hanging out of her mouth.
Funny as it always is, she is just being a cat as my husband says.
    We live in a much warmer climate now and have a swing in the
backyard made out of hammock rope.  She naps in it and loves for me to
swing her!  Just like a child she rocks back and forth and even allows
me to sit beside her when she is in the mood.  It is a sight to behold.
    Maxi is a work in progress, but she has come a long way.  Often her
days of lonely survival rise up and she becomes that wild kitten found
in the mountains again.  She has become a lap cat and sleeps next to me
almost every night.
    She is my constant companion, makes me laugh and is a great

                  -- Cathy Craig Neil <cathyneil at>

Cathy lives in Sumter, SC.  She says, "We have a grown daughter in
college.  I am a Licensed Property Manager and have a degree in Social
Services.  I love writing and have many life stories to tell. Now I
finally have the time to write which has been a dream of mine."

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