By: Casey Shea

My not so little ball of fur came into our lives about seven years ago. My wife and I were still living in New Jersey, when we found a small white cat on our porch. We took care of the cat briefly until its owners were located. That brief experience sparked a conversation about getting a cat of our own and we set out to find a furry companion.

We went to several area shelters before we came upon the one where our little guy was waiting to pull the biggest con job of his life.

While scanning the kitten cages, we saw one black, tiger cat with big eyes cowering in the back of his cage. The reason? His upstairs neighbor was literally bouncing off the walls.

We decided to give the little guy a brief reprieve from the hyperactive neighbor. One of the shelter volunteers pulled him out of the cage and handed him to me. He looked up at me with his big eyes and let out a tiny meow as if to say, “Oh, thank you so much!”

The volunteer led us into a sitting room so we could get to know this kitten a little more. I look back on this day quite frequently because I’m pretty sure the cat knew exactly what was going on.

Like a used-car salesman, he poured it on thick.

He was so small that I could hold him in the palm of my hand. I held him against my chest and he took the opportunity to plop his little head down and fall asleep, while faintly purring. Well, we were sold at that moment.

Really, how could you not be?

So, we completed the paperwork, brought him home and that’s where the sales pitch ended and his true colors began to shine.

Being that I’m a big Penguins fan, I wanted to name him Mario or Sidney. However, the wife wasn’t having any of that. So, I let her rattle off names until she hit one of a player on the roster. She said, “What about Max?” and I immediately agreed. For those unfamiliar with the team, Max Talbot was a fresh face on the Penguins’ roster. However, I remained silent about why I agreed to the name for about six months. By then, the cat knew his name and there was no going back.

A couple of years ago, when Talbot departed for Philadelphia, I fought to change Max’s name. Again, the wife wasn’t having any of it. I even called him Mario for a week, which was just met with a blank stare and a yawn as his shifted positions during one of his 14 daily naps.

Anyway, we soon found out that Max was smarter than he let on in the shelter and instead of us owning him, it was (and still is) very much the other way around.

He wakes us up in the middle of the night if his food bowl is below 50 percent full. His method? He crawls up on your chest and rubs his face against your chin – rather forcefully. When that doesn’t work, he’ll lick your chin raw. When that doesn’t work, he’ll go over to the nightstand and bat things to the floor that aren’t nailed down. I’m telling you, he’s relentless.

Every night, he gets a little treat of wet food. Apparently it’s all he lives for. Why? Every night, as the sun becomes a faint glow on the horizon, he’ll wake up from a nap (naturally), come and sit by one of us on the floor, stare at us and meow incessantly until one of us gives in.

He knows the word “food” too. Seriously. Without getting up you can look at him and say, “Max, do you want some food?” Instantly, his eyes get all big and he starts purring and rubbing up against your leg. He’ll even respond with a noise that actually sounds like he’s saying “yeah.” I have video proof of this.

Clearly, he’s spoiled rotten, but there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think for a second that he knew exactly what he was doing when he fell asleep in my arms that day in the shelter. He knew it was his ticket to the good life and took full advantage.

Well played Max. Well played indeed, but we’re both glad you did.

You can follow Casey Shea on Twitter: @SheaVedIce. If you’d like to check out more features by Casey, check out his Shea-ved Ice hockey blog and his Backstage Pass concert features!

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