Max, The Smoking Kitten

I used to have this cat named Max.

Well, actually, I used to have a cat named Max, and then I had another cat named Max later. Both were solid grey, both were cute as hell, and both were the most evil pets I have ever encountered. Imagine that cute little kitty pictured down below, only also imagine that once you pick him up he will decide that your eyes are tasty, tasty human sushi.

Grey foster kitten
photo credit: AlanH20

So, I had this little kitten Max, the first kitten in this line of two evil Maxes, and he was, as I said, evil, but he was tiny, so the evil was easy to pass off as kittenish tomfoolery most of the time. When he dropped from the tops of doors onto your head to swing his claws into your eyes, you could knock the quarter-pounder onto the bed. When he crawled under the covers repeatedly at night to tear at your nipples, you could duct tape him into an upside down laundry basket prison until morning. There were ways and means to deal with his itty bitty ferocity at first.

The problem with evil kittens, though, is that they eat, and then they grow, and their once goofy ferocity starts to become hie-thee-to-an-exorcist ferocity.

He took to launching himself at guests' crotches, especially if they were men, to rip at their tender balls. He leapt and then clung to women's hair to steady himself for blows to the ladies' faces. If you didn't share your food with him, he hurled himself repeatedly at your hands and arms like an enraged African killer bee. He was a fuzzy wuzzy widdle kewtie pie with the brain of a tasmanian devil.

So, here's where the story takes an uncomfortable turn.

I smoked at the time. I was unemployed, more than a little aimless, and didn't have cable, so I entertained myself by watching crappy fishing shows in the afternoons on one of our three available tv channels and smoking cigarettes.

As kittens are wont to do, Max was curious about the cigarettes and wanted to sniff the one I was smoking, so when he marched up onto my shoulder one day, I let him sniff it. I figured that he would hate it and back off. You know, like he'd learn a lesson about not sniffing cigarettes.

I was wrong.

Max leaned into the filter, pressed his nose firmly against it, and inhaled as deeply as he could. It was kind of horrifying to watch, but it was fascinating, too, because he did it like he'd always done it. He looked like a smoker having his first delicious cigarette after an involuntary stretch without, and, when he was done, he bounced away, as though this was the most normal thing in the world. I foolishly thought that that would be that, though, because surely this kind of strange performance could not be repeated. He couldn't have actually liked it, could he?

I was wrong again.

I lit a cigarette the next day and sat down to watch some fisherman net this huge trout or catfish or whatever, and Max trotted up onto my shoulder and tried to reach out for my cigarette when I took a drag. I batted his paw away. He reached out for my cigarette again. I batted his paw away again.

Max, not one to back down, launched himself into my cheek with his teeth, gripping me around my nose and the back of my head with his claws. He snarled and thrashed, but I couldn't just tear him off without both dropping the cigarette and further tearing my face with his claws, so I held the cigarette up to my shoulder to appease him. This was time for self-preservation, not ethics. Max let go, leaned up against my neck in a display of momentary affection, pressed his nose into the filter, and inhaled. When he was done, he bounced off my shoulder like he wasn't some kind of demon, and I just sat there in shock.

My kitten was a smoker, and I was going to hell.

Max showed no signs of becoming any more tame, and his violent behaviour only got worse and more pointedly abusive. The situation got to the point where, if only one person was home, Max had to be locked up in a room by himself, because he would stalk mercilessly with the intent to kill. I came home one night after having coffee with friends to find my roommate crying on her bed. She had two layers of thick blankets tucked in underneath her and the rest pulled up around her head. I could only see her eyes. They were streaked with wet mascara. She was shaking.

"What the hell is happening?" I asked.

"It's Max," she said, jerking her head toward the end of her bed.

There he was, vibrating with madness, pupils blown out so big that his eyes looked like black marbles.

"He's been launching himself at my face for two hours," she said. "Look." She uncovered her hands to show me her bloody fingers.

It was time for Max to go.

I called my mother in the morning to come pick up the cat and me for a trip to the humane society. This cat was going to die, but as much as I wanted to kill the little beast myself as reparation the last three months of injury, paranoia, and sleeplessness, I just couldn't do it. I was actually too afraid of him to try anything.

While we waited for my mother, Max and I shared a last cigarette. It was the only thing we ever did that didn't result in tears and duct-taped laundry baskets, and it was also the only thing that seemed to turn him into a temporarily normal cat, so it was fitting as a last goodbye. We needed some cat sanity if we were going to contain him in a vehicle without the use of a taser. Also, what's the harm in smoking when you're just going to death row, anyway?

He went gentle on me and only gave me a few scratches for bogarting the smoke. It was like he knew it was our last few minutes together.

When my mother arrived, she picked Max up and said, "Why are you getting rid of this little guy? He's so cu..."

Her voice hitched in her throat as he sunk his teeth into the meat of her hand between her thumb and forefinger.

"I hope they gas him," she said.

"Me, too," I said. "Me, too."