More Shadow memories
The day we brought Shadow and Tasha home, before Shadow had his name, Tasha immediately hid behind the loveseat and didn’t want to come out, but Shadow was braver. The 6-week-old grey kitten just settled down on my lap and went to sleep, and would’ve been content to stay there all day, it seemed. That was a great way to start things off. However, after his car accident, he became more reserved and didn’t sit on my lap anymore. He didn’t like to be paid attention to except on his terms, where and when he wanted it. He’d run away from my attempts to pet him unless they were in his preferred places, generally either the dining room window or the top of the cat tree.
Someone in a tree, and Tasha
I think maybe it’s because when he was healing from his broken leg, his cage was on the living room floor (in the house we lived in before the one in the above photo), and from time to time we’d take him out of the cage and put him in the front windowsill and pay attention to him up there. So maybe he came to associate high-up places with affection and the floor with being confined and lonely. Then again, maybe he just wanted to be bossy and control when and where he interacted with people.
And he wasn’t shy about demanding attention. My father liked to quote Willy Loman in reference to Shadow’s insistence: “Attention must be paid!” It was paradoxical, the way he’d meow sharply at you (or quack — seriously, over the years his meow evolved into a definite quack, though according to my father, in his last years it had become “Mkngaow”) for attention and then run away when you offered it — at least until he led you to one of his places. And then he’d let you pet him for a little while, and at an arbitrary time of his choosing, would start to claw and bite. Not with genuine aggression, more or less playfully, but he played rough. (Oh, so many of my memories of Shadow involve impromptu acupuncture….)
Later in life, starting a few years ago, he began taking less care of his claws, giving up on using his scratching posts/pads and letting his claws grow out to the point that they dug into the pads of his feet. I was living on my own by that point, and there was no way my father could manage to trim the recalcitrant Shadow’s claws by himself. We tried to remember to take him into the vet for trimming when his walk started to sound like he was wearing tap shoes, but sometimes we let it go too long and by the time we took him in, his feet were pretty sore. Once we took him and Tasha to a local vet — not the usual cat-specialty clinic we took them to across town — to get their claws trimmed. Tasha’s were easy, but Shadow’s were really ingrown and painful and it was very hard for him, even though the vets tried to be as gentle as they could. But it was a striking experience. The vets wrapped him in a heavy towel to try to calm him down, and the sounds that came out of that bundle, these unearthly caterwauls and snarls and growls, were unlike anything I’ve heard before and really rather unnerving. Beautiful in a way, but scary.
And when the vets tried to shift the towel around to get to another paw, suddenly there was this savage hiss and this set of claws bursting out and slashing at them with lightning speed, and everyone jumped back in fear. Seriously, it was like the chestburster scene in Alien. Shadow was really, really scary that day. Of course I feel sorry for him that he was in such discomfort, and guilty that we didn’t get his claws trimmed much sooner, but I look back with great fondness on what a genuinely fearsome and awe-inspiring beastie Shadow could be.
It wasn’t so charming an experience for my father, though. After we let Shadow go back in the carrier with Tasha, I suggested that, given how agitated and angry Shadow was, it would probably be safer for Tasha to go home in a separate carrier. So my father made the mistake of reaching in to retrieve Shadow again, and got his hand bitten for his trouble. Luckily Shadow had been an indoors cat for a long time, so there was no risk of rabies.
But of course my father and I didn’t hold it against Shadow. He was certainly justifiably provoked. And it was just his nature. Cats choose to live with us for mutual benefit, but they are by no means tame. That’s why it means so much when they choose to offer us affection and companionship.