Earlier this year, I got an Instagram message from Max, a tabby feline who calls himself a spokescat for a bunch of rescues he lives with and the 15 porch cats his human feeds. Thanks to his role in advocating for the “adopt, don’t shop” movement, Max has managed to clock up nearly 100,000 followers — and his account has become a welcome hub of the cats of Instagram community which often bands together to help out kitties in need.
Here Max’s human talks about his origin story, the issues with helping injured outdoor cats who just want to run free, and the curious case of his pal Larry El Chapo.
How did Max come into your life?
It was the holidays and my daughter really wanted an orange tabby. She pleaded that a kitten would be her only Christmas gift. On Dec. 6, 2013, I was out of town and my husband let our daughter adopt Max from an adoption event hosted by H.A.R.P (Homeless Animal Response Program). He said she held Max and it was love at first sight. They adopted him without asking me — but I forgave them after just five minutes alone with Max.
Have you been surprised at the amount of interest in his Instagram account?
Yes! Max is a typical orange tabby cat with an incredibly special heart and personality, and I am overjoyed that his followers feel the same. When I started Max’s account it was really about sharing his unique personality and telling stories. With my growing fur family, I continued to tell stories through images and videos: I wanted each cat to be defined by their unique qualities in each post. Now I truly feel that after a year on Instagram, people do know all my cats’ personalities, which is so rewarding.
I think what also helped gain interest in our account was the fun contests we’ve hosted, like the MaxMax Summer & Winter Olympics. It was a fun way to showcase various cats’ athletic talents and try to win prizes donated by amazing sponsors. In addition to the contests, I believe it’s about the support and love that we all share with each other in this community.
As a spokescat, what would Max like to tell the world?
All of my cats are either adopted from a shelter or found on my porch, hence the hashtag #maxmaxporchcats. Max wants to spread the message that there are so many cats waiting in rescues and shelters for forever homes, so adopt, don’t shop, and give a cat in a shelter a chance at forever happiness.
Bob used to be one of those porch cats. How did he make the move inside?
Bob is a street cat. He has an edge about him and is very jumpy. However, he is a mama’s boy and has a sweet side. When he lived outside, he would come up to the window and meow for food, like he was at a pickup window. It was hilarious and created for great storytelling.
I grew attached to him, and when the weather started to turn last winter I grew worried. With the wonderful Cats of Instagram community, everyone came together to donate money for us to build a fort for Bob that has now become a cat shelter for our porch cats.
Ironically, when Fort Bob was complete, Bob moved inside.
Where did you find Larry El Chapo? What sort of condition was he in?
Larry the stray cat (aka Larry El Chapo) was Bob’s partner in crime when he lived outside. Last Spring, they found their way to our porch and we began feeding them. Bob was always friendly — I was thinking he was abandoned — and Larry would not let anyone near him.
Then in February, Larry showed up hopping around on one foot and we knew immediately we had to help him. I was able to catch him, but somehow he escaped then eluded me for days — that’s why he’s called El Chapo — but I finally caught him again and took him to the emergency pet hospital.
We were told he had a fever of 104 and may have died. He was treated and given an antibiotic shot and also was neutered.
What happened to Larry after that?
We brought Larry El Chapo home the next day and we hoped he would stay with us. He thought otherwise and escaped two days later — he ripped our bathroom screen and jumped out the window. When this happened I was so worried that he wasn’t healed enough, but I saw him a few days later and he was walking great.
Sadly, the last time we saw him was the end of April. … My heart is heavy and we pray that he is okay.
You told me over Instagram that another cat, Gandalf, was found with a life-threatening injury.
Yes, Gandalf was one of our porch cats that started to come around to eat last summer. He came at least once a day, but always left so I thought he had a home. He wasn’t as skittish as the other porch cats, but he would not let us touch him.
Then in early March, Gandalf came to eat with a terrible injury. The left side of his face almost looked like it was blown off — there was hanging flesh and areas where you could see tissue. We needed to get him help immediately. After a few days of trying, I was able to catch him and got him antibiotics. It was hard to give them to him in his food, so finally we took him to the vet to get an antibiotic shot and a check-up.
He was treated for a bad case of ear mites, which was causing him to not hear well. After the vet gave him meds, he was able to hear. Gandalf also escaped from our home while he was healing — but we caught him again and got him neutered.
We could tell right away that Gandalf was not happy indoors, so after a few days we let him go free. Each day he returned for food, and a one day he came to the door and wanted in, stayed an hour and left. The next day he sauntered right in and has never left.
What’s the trickiest part about caring for 15 outside porch cats?
The emotional attachment. Seeing them outside makes me sad, but I can’t take them all into my home. I do what I can by providing food, fresh water, and shelter if needed.
Have you given all of the porch cats names?
We sometimes name the cats, but it makes us more attached to them when we do. We are full to capacity at our home, so we won’t be taking any more cats inside. If there comes a time a cat needs a home, we’d try to find them a home. As for now, they all seem happy. There is always food, water, and a place to rest whenever they want. As our Instagram account grows with the mission being to adopt, don’t shop, we hope that if needed we can use this community to find them homes.
Head over to Max’s Instagram account to check out more about him and his porch pals.