What Can We Learn from the Death of Max the Kitten?

By Tom Demerly.


Max the kitten has died.

He was only 5 weeks old.

Max’s introduction into this world was bad. Someone abused him when he was only 2 weeks old. He suffered a broken back and hind legs, likely thrown out of a car or building. His injuries went untreated for another 2 weeks. Eventually a Good Samaritan named Jman found Max and wrote about the kitten’s difficult life on Facebook. People reached out and helped.

But it was too late.

What can we take from the short, tragic life of Max the Kitten?

We have choices of how to shape the world. We can build a world of empathy and kindness, or be indifferent and callous.

There are many things we can’t change about life and the world, but within our sphere of influence- the small spectrum of things we can influence- we have an individual choice. We can build our own little world. The man who found and helped Max built that world for him, a world of safety and love. So despite Max’s injuries and suffering he left this earth from a good place after entering it from a bad one. Mankind initially failed him, but tried to redeem itself.

As small individual worlds of healing and kindness are created, they slowly begin to connect to a collective goodness. The world we build, built one person, one small sphere of influence, begins to slowly connect into a greater goodness.

There is a belief that how a person and culture treats animals is reflective of their overall character: if they are kind or cruel. There is science that shows empathy is taught and grows from empathy, and cruelty and indifference does the same. Humans are not wired a particular way. They reflect what they are shown.

So while there is tragic sadness to the cruelty heaped upon poor little Max and his death, there is also hope in the care and love he received in his final week.

The problem is the race between these two extremes is a tight one.


With humanity comes the responsibility of massive intellect. In general mankind has done a bad job of administering this responsibility. Mankind isn’t very kind. Our collective conduct is rife with cruelty and indifference. But within our own individual worlds we can build something better. A place where empathy and compassion are our greatest virtues, the first things we do, and in that we become wiser, stronger, smarter and more fulfilled in our own brief, ephemeral lives.

Nobel Science Prize winner, author and inventor of the communications satellite, Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “We each create our own reality”. Clarke’s observation is true. And while our collective reality is rife with disparity and conflict, our individual realities can be abundant with kindness and empathy, a haven from the friction that exists between these extremes.

Eventually similar realities begin to connect into something called a “functioning core”. These connected realities become a group of people who expand the values of empathy and kindness across cultures and humanity. The virtue of kindness and empathy rises to trump selfishness and solitude.

I didn’t want Max’s short feline life to go unnoticed, nor did I want to leave Jman’s act of empathy unrecognized. Because these things are our moral compass. Our collective guidebook to something better. Our hope. One kitten at a time.


If you want to help create a greater functioning core and build an individual reality of kindness and empathy, you can. Volunteer at your local animal shelter. Spend a day at a local food bank. Make a donation, however small, to a cause that helps those who cannot help themselves. Here are two of my favorite:

The Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter in Tucson, Arizona:



The Dearborn Animal Shelter in Dearborn, Michigan:



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