Saturday, April 10, 2010

Meet The Cats: Shadow

NAME: Shadow
DATE OF BIRTH: 15 August, 2009 (approx)
SEX: Male (neutered)
ANCESTRY: Domestic Shorthair (Mixed)


Shadow is one of a litter of three feral kittens adopted by me and Matt in October, 2009. He was not trapped at the same time as siblings Coraline and Brodie, and very nearly was not trapped at all -- the night we finally caught him, we'd already had an instance of the trap accidentally being sprung by a gust of ill-timed wind, and a "miss" where I activated the trap a split second too late (in that case he was very startled and ran off for a while). But in any case, he got to re-join his siblings in their new home by the time he was 10 weeks of age, and settled right in (albeit with a less-than-warm welcome from Coraline!).


Shadow is a medium-large (bigger than Cora and Nikki, slightly smaller than Brodie) muscular, evenly-proportioned cat. His fur looks solid black in most circumstances, but when you catch him in just the right lighting you can see rust-brown highlights and faint tabby patterning (which I think technically makes him a melanistic tabby). He has one very small patch of white hairs on the bottom of his belly, and one white whisker (the rest are solid black).

Nose and paw pads are black, and his eyes seem to be somewhere midway between Brodie's and Cora's in color -- they're sort of yellow-orange with a greenish band that shows up when viewed from a certain angle. His whiskers are all black except one, which is pure white!


Running around the house, wrestling with siblings, bird-watching, fish-watching, squeaking at the bedroom door in the morning when the alarm goes off (and jumping onto the bed when I open the door and let him in!), chewing cardboard boxes, finding secret hiding places (behind boxes and in closets, etc.), ambush games, hunting insects and spiders.


The humans' bed, sunbeams, windows, naps in cupboards, snuggles with siblings (he's a bit of a "den mother" type and can often be found washing someone's ears!).


The cat carrier (may be related to the whole "vet" thing, but he seems to dislike being confined in the carrier more than he dislikes actually being at the office). He is very smart...when he so much as SEES the carrier, he runs and hides somewhere in the house, and he is extremely talented at evading attempts to get him inside it!


Very occasionally he goes for it with vigor, but usually (as of late) he just seems like he'd prefer to be doing something else. He definitely isn't a fiend for it to the degree his sister is!


I have never seen this cat refuse to eat anything (well, except the pill he needed when he had a tapeworm, but that's another post!). Wet food, dry food, chicken, turkey fish, oatgrass...he likes it all. He knows the word "treat" and will climb my legs trying to get one if I'm holding the bag.

UPDATE: As of August 2010 Shadow (along with Cora and Brodie) is on a mostly-raw diet. Which he LOVES, especially when there are crunchy bones (chicken or quail) involved! He is also developing something of a more refined palate as he grows up; he doesn't eat like a garbage disposal anymore, and has actually turned his nose up at mice and smelt. But he enjoys plenty of other diverse raw protein sources so I am sure he is getting a good balance of nutrients.


Like his siblings, Shadow's favorite toys are of the interactive variety (dangling from a string or attached to a fishing-rod-type device). He is also a fan of the laser pointer dot and will sometimes go into the hallway and shriek at the wall (where I normally project the dot) as if to say "hey, where is that thing I like to chase?"

But...I have to say that his favorite things to play with aren't exactly toys at all...rather, his greatest delight seems to be stalking any spiders, moths, or flies that get into the house (we have an attached garage that leads directly outside so there's plenty of opportunity for things to crawl in). He doesn't usually catch them but he loves to chase them, and will make what I have come to call his "battle cry". It really is a thing to hear, hopefully I can catch it in a recording sometime because it is both mighty and adorable. It's like a high-pitched discordant wail-squeak-chirp.

Oh and another thing he likes to play with is...kitty litter. Definite incentive to keep the boxes clean there, because he sometimes seems to get so excited watching the litter particles move while he's digging that he starts making the Battle Cry. And then proceeds to throw litter around everywhere, whooping with joy. I've read this is a "kitten thing" and cats usually outgrow it...meanwhile, I am keeping the hand-held vaccuum handy!


The main words that comes to mind to describe how Shadow is with other cats are "nurturing" and "solid". Nurturing because he seems to have taken it on himself to keep the family's ears (and everything attached to them!) clean and well-groomed. Solid because he is a kitty who stands his ground.

It was quite hilarious to watch him and Cora together when Shadow first arrived...apparently three weeks of separation is a LONG TIME when one is a tiny kitten, and Cora initially did not appreciate the presence of yet another boy in her house! So whenever Shadow would do something like, say, jump onto the bed, Cora would put her ears back and fluff her tail and growl and hiss in her best THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS manner. While Shadow just...sort of sat there, blinking quizically now and then or pausing to wash a paw (or his butt). Which just irked Cora even more.

Sometimes she would succeed in pushing him off the bed, but Shadow would never gallop away in fear, and he was never discouraged by her posturing. So eventually it was like Cora just gave up, and now she's at least half as likely as Brodie to be seen receiving an ear-wash.

As for Shadow and Brodie? Best buddies, right from the start. They snuggle, play with, and groom each other every day, and have been doing so practically since Shadow got here.

As for Shadow and Nikki, Shadow's approaches have been similar to Brodie's...attempts to engage her in play, and further attempts to sniff or stealth-snuggle her from behind. So far these have been met with mixed success. I think Shadow's "solid-ness" might be wearing on Nikki's snarliness, because the other night I caught the two of them playing a sort of chase-and-hide game.

Overall, then, based on what I've seen, I would say Shadow is a "very friendly toward other felines" kitty. So far he's never met a cat he didn't like, or at least want to play or nap with!


Shadow was a huge surprise to me in this regard. When I finally managed to catch him (when he was ten weeks old) I was all prepared for a lengthy socialization process, or even a cat that wouldn't take to taming at all (and would have to be neutered and returned to his colony).

But, what ended up happening was the following. Shadow hid in a cardboard box for the first day after we brought him home (perfectly expected feral kitty behavior), and then on the second day was mildly traumatized by falling into the water dish when he attempted to climb the sides of the kitten crate we had him in.

On that day I woke up to the sound of "mew! mew! mew! MEW!" and went into the spare bedroom (serving as our cat acclimation chamber), and found a knocked-over water dish in one corner of the crate, and a very wet and terrified kitten cowering in the other corner (actually IN the litter box, as it was the only dry place left!). I figured I should dry him off so I very tentatively picked him up and blotted his soggy belly with a paper towel. I fully expected him to bolt away or struggle or scratch me, but he did none of these things...instead he just sort of cuddled up in my arms and let me finish drying him!

Then, later that day, I finally got him to eat something -- a relief, since I'd read that cats could experience serious liver problems if they went for more than a day or so without food. As it turned out, he was the opposite of his siblings when it came to early eating habits...where they initially would not eat unless Matt and I were out of sight, Shadow would only eat out of my hand. While sitting on me. It just goes to show you, all cats are individuals!

Anyway, Shadow only took a few days to get confident enough to eat on his own, and he took to the litter box straight away with no mishaps. And within four days of his moving in, he was crawling all over me and purring, and doing that "walk up to human, arch back, present backside for top-of-tail scritches" thing.

I was completely boggled by certainly was not due to any Cat Whispering talent on my part. I did not "tame" Shadow, or even "socialize" him in any systematic fashion, and yes, I'm sure he was 100% feral when we brought him in. The nearest I can figure is that his innate disposition combined with the circumstances just compelled him to figure maybe these particular humans (that is, me and Matt) were okay.

In any case, he remains a super affectionate kitty to this day -- at least with the humans he knows and trusts. Around the house, when there are no visitors, he acts, well, like a cat...a happy, relaxed, playful one. The vestiges of his feral-ness remain in that he is still very, very shy with strangers, hides when visitors come over, and will not let anyone touch him except me and Matt. However, he does seem to be getting a bit bolder...the last time my sister visited, he came out of hiding when he heard me get out the treat bag (for Cora, who was already out).

UPDATE: As of Summer 2010, Shadow has started emerging from hiding nearly to the extent that Cora does when visitors are present -- that is, as long as there are treats to be had. Apparently he's decided that hiding is good, but snacks are better!

(click below to see a video of Shadow, when he was about 4 months old, having a cat-conversation with me. :D):


  1. He's beautiful! Also, I didn't know about melanistic tabbies; apparently I have two and now I know what to call them. My elderly female has the same colouring as Shadow; my new kitten (I'm guessing) would be that colour except that he also has the dilution gene that turns black to grey. Neato.

  2. intransigentia: Thanks! I will pass the compliment along to Shadow. :)

    I went through (okay, am still going through...) an obsessive Reading About Cats thing, so that's how I learned about melanistic tabbies...might have been on Messybeast (which is seriously one of the best cat resources I've ever come across, I highly recommend it).

    And, ooh, cool, re. dilute-black/grey kitty fur. The cat who I suspect was Shadow's daddy (due to similarities in eyes/facial features) has smoky-looking grey fur. And is also a long-hair, but Shadow's (thoroughly feral) mom is a short-hair who I think lacks the recessive longhair gene because all her kittens have been short-haired, at least that I've seen.


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