Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Shadow Knows, Because I Sure as Hell Don't

K somehow ended up with a cat back before we got married. I actually think that the thing ended up reaching K's apartment from my hometown, meaning the the cat has a lot of feral blood coursing through its veins. K was living alone for the first year after she graduated college and wanted some company. It would be another year before I graduated college, finished a stint working in Atlanta, and moved back into the northwest Georgia foothills after our wedding.

Being alone a lot during that time, K welcomed her feline companion. She even spent one night locked away in the downstairs bathroom with Shadow (the cat) when a tornado ripped through her town. Shadow is still around, too. She's an average sized cat and mostly a true black. Only her feet and throat are white with the exception of an off-center little patch of white under her nose that makes her look a little like a photo negative of Adolph Hitler after he accidentally shaved off the left side of his mustache.

Shadow lived inside for her first few years. During the time we lived in K's apartment, Shadow had to be an indoor cat out of necessity. Six months after we got married, we bought a house in a semi-rural subdivision and Shadow remained a house cat for another year until she developed a habit of playing with the blinds in the bedroom. This wouldn't have been a problem except that I worked the 4 p.m. until midnight shift at work and slept until noon most days. A cat playing with the blinds feet from your head at 9 a.m. can be an very annoying thing in that case. After one too many mornings of window shade tennis, I threw the cat out and she never came inside again.

During this time, her feral blood kicked in. She took care of herself very well. She hung close to the house, but you wouldn't normally see her until feeding time. This carried on for another couple of years until K and I moved south. K drove the car down and I was in charge of the moving truck. It was me at the wheel and the cat in a pet carrier on the passenger seat in the cab of a large Penske truck for four hours, Shadow yowling the entire trip the way only a cat in a moving vehicle can.

It was about this time that Shadow, as female cats seem to be wont to do, completely went off the deep end. She had become a much more nervous animal after her banishment, but she was always there and not difficult to catch. Truthfully, she'd always been a bit nervous. She disappeared when we had company. After we moved, she disappeared for a couple of months to the point that I stopped even bothering to put out food for her. She finally showed up and didn't seem to have been lacking for food. She may have actually been fatter after her time in the wild. Only this time I was the only one who could touch her, and even I had to be exceptionally calm and careful in my approach to keep her from bolting. The random disappearances haven't stopped, either. She'll occasionally just take off and not be seen for weeks at a time only to return perfectly healthy. The healthy part is good. I really don't know if I could manage to hold her and stuff her into a cat carrier to take her to the vet and I think she would likely freak out once there and prevent any actually medical care.

What she does during those periods when she goes native is beyond me. We live in a heavily wooded area and there are some abandoned buildings that would make for good shelter (and rodent hunting) for a resourceful cat. Perhaps she's taking up with another family, but I doubt it. She's terrified of everyone but me and K and even K has trouble getting very close. Shadow's personal life is quite the mystery.

She reminds me a lot of Socks, a cat with a very similar appearance that my sister had when we were kids. This cat went beyond the paranoia and wanderlust of Shadow and ventured into full blown schizophrenia. She was the type who would welcome your petting one second and then suddenly just go off into a hissing ball of claws and teeth attempting to kill you through sheer force of will. Seriously, we once had to wrap her in a sheet and carry her out of the house in a thrashing bundle because she scared us with her unexpected freak out and we couldn't get her to stop.

The good news is that we got Shadow spayed very early on, long before she was banished from the house so she's not bringing in any unwanted lives into the world.

The moral of this story really is to go for male cats when you're choosing a feline companion. After you get a male cat neutered they turn into excellent pets. From my experience, neutered male cats are extremely affectionate (by cat standards) and don't seem to suffer from the mental illness common in female cats. Get a male cat and you basically have a slightly aloof and low-energy small dog. Get a female cat and you may end up being murdered and consumed by your own pet.


Courtney said...

You're feline sexist.

Jacob said...

Julie: You make several good points. You should have gone into psychology.

Courtney: Maybe, but male cats who aren't neutered make HORRIBLE pets. They like to spray urine on the walls.