Shado was my second cat, three years after Arun. What I wanted was a silver Bengal, but back in 2003 they were still pretty new and very hard to get one without being either a breeder or having loads of money. So after a few months of futile search and no success, small wonder that I 'settled' for an F3 Bengal kitten whose mother was a lovely charcoal color. (And he was affordable because males with that much wild blood are nearly always sterile.)
Alas for my taste, Shado did not stay grey, but he certainly always remained stunning. I loved his rosettes, his long, long tail, his heels that look like he walked in ink. I also thought he would get bigger, because he had oversized front paws he never quite grew into.
His arrival was in nearly every way unlike that of Arun. Yes, they both arrived via the plane in a carrier, and yes I had the hardest time finding which cargo area to pick them up at near the airport. But Arun was full of nervous purring and skittishness, while Shado just wanted some serious playtime after being cramped in that tiny carrier for so long.
Being an F3 (third filial generation) Bengal, I'd learned that he might readily bond to just one person, or a few, or no one. So when he arrived I worked short days for a while in hopes he would bond to me. But once I went back to my paid job full-time, he switched his bond to Arun until Arun's mind failed.
Arun would sit out in the enclosure and get mosquito bitten horribly, but I never found a single bite on Shado--he was attentive to everything. Perhaps he ate them, hah!
1 year and 3 months old
Shado had an amazing memory for his first 11 years, and a low opinion of humanity (if not as low as mine). He remembered which species of spider had bitten him in the mouth, and came up with a strategy to chew-and-spit-out repeatedly until he was sure they were dead and safe to eat. He remembered as well everything he ate, while every new treat was minutely inspected first to check for edibility (freeze-dried guppies failed to count as food). So I could give him leftover Easter ham three years apart and he recognized it at once by the smell. My mom gave him tuna once on her visit, I knew after that I could never open a can of tuna again unless he was going to get some. I accidentally nicked the second claw on his left forefoot while clipping his nails when he was around two years old, and he remembered exactly which toe for the next 8+ years. Every nail clipping session was Doomsday for him, especially as I approached the toe I had abused previously. Arun was always happy with nail clipping because he knew he got treats afterward; Shado was too intelligent to fall for that. The moment I grabbed either the nail clippers or the wastebasket or turned on the light to see by, he knew what was up. (I started singing the chorus to 'It's the End of the World as We Know It' while I hunted him down because it was so fitting.)
In his younger years I enjoyed taking him in my car for short errands, and he would sprawl in the back window and watch the world. Unfortunately, he must have been harassed or frightened by some people while I was in Taco Bell one day, and thanks to his perfect memory, he never forgot. Car rides were traumatic ever after.
Being a cat with a lot of ALC genes/blood, he had some traits that were not domestic cat traits. One was how many years it took him to learn how to flee 'danger.' The ALC trait, since they're native to jungle, must be to 'freeze' into the underbrush almost like a rabbit. This made catching him easy at first, though after a year or two he learned to run 5-15 feet and then freeze, with the ensuing drama of my trying to not accidentally trample him. Eventually he learned to run circles or hide in tough spots, or run out in the enclosure, particularly if he saw me take out the vacuum cleaner.
I still had my Sheltie Holly during Shado's first few years, but he was not that comfortable around dogs, though I didn't realize that until after Holly died. Then he either decided he was finally 'safe' or else was gripped by fear that I would die next. Either way, he loosened up a bit after that.
Shado loved bug hunting and spider hunting, but he had no interest in mice. When stray/neighborhood cats visited the outdoor enclosure, while Arun might throw a fit, Shado apparently didn't consider himself a cat and wasn't interested, though he would sometimes watch.
Shado's heart murmur showed up at a routine yearly checkup when he was two years old. That had a big impact--his energy levels went way down, and his desire for warmth grew even higher than a regular cat. Before then, he would sometimes join me in the shower or wade in the bathtub, but not afterward. To be honest, I was fine with him having less energy, because that meant he didn't come up with so many diabolical plans to enact destruction around my home. The fact he had twice the intelligence of Arun meant he could play him like a fiddle for entertainment, and he could even do the same with me, except that he generally knew just how far he could go before he got in deep trouble.
They'd be out in their enclosure at evening, past time to close up for the night. I'd step outside and brandish a squirt-bottle. Shado would zip right in, but Arun would not even if I squirted him. Not until I came back out with a bucket of water some nights, and sometimes even that wouldn't budge him. Shado fully understood (in most cases) that actions = consequences. I bought a motion detector that would ring if he jumped on my kitchen counter. He only needed to set that off once or twice to get the hint. He also knew when it was time to stop when roughhousing with me, which we didn't do often because he bit very hard, and he had a knack for aiming at nerves. But the moment I made a hissing sound he would fly right off the bed because he wanted it quite clear he wasn't challenging me, I guess.
I rarely had to shut him in his cat carrier for punishment, but if I did he would throw a royal fit to rival any two-year-old (yes, screaming and banging on the walls/door). That was one I wish I had recorded, but I had no reason to do it in his latter years. (He knew the difference between punishment and vet trip--he did not melt down when being shut in the carrier for a trip, not that he was happy either.) If I needed him out of the way for safety, shutting him in his room was kinder...he'd stay quiet until he decided I'd forgotten about him, which was generally the truth!
ALC thing again, I guess. He did not land on his feet; he fell like a dog. That was horrifying. Also, I never heard him hiss in his entire life, but he would growl like a dog at times. Usually in the vet's office once the examination was over; after he was safely back in his crate, he'd play 'tough guy' and let everyone know how displeased he was.
He could purr pretty loudly, which I loved, and in his younger years would make all sorts of entertaining noises during his happy grooming sessions (which is why I registered him under the name Trendar Singer Amid Shadows). I'm glad I got a recording of those sounds, since he did more normal cat meows in his latter years (in his younger years he often made a closed-mouth meow with overtones of insolent teenager that got on my nerves). Another odd trait was his 'head-bonking' which entailed wapping his skull against something hard, usually while he was happily celebrating my return home from work, vacation, or somewhere else. That one really disconcerted my wonderful cat-sitter!
He loved stairs. In my old place he only got to climb them if I left my door open while doing laundry. My current place I often think I rented just for him, with its six levels and five short flights of stairs.
6 years old
Despite being a huge lover of heat who considered 90 and humid to be paradise, Shado was not a lap cat. Leaving aside the last months of his life, I could easily count on one hand the number of times he got onto my lap. But strangely, he was a licker. Arun would never lick me, but Shado was happy to extend his grooming to include my hand if it got close. Fortunately, he didn't demand it, since I can only bear a few seconds of that sort of contact after the hell year of 2007.
In the winters Shado spent most of his time glued to his heated bed, probably the best gift I ever bought for him. In the summers we were very separate, especially at my current place, since he would hang out in the cat room highest up with the west-facing window and cat hammock, if he wasn't in the enclosure out on the deck, while I was camped out in the basement where it was coolest. We'd see each other at his mealtimes and bedtime, it seemed! We certainly have certain similarities in temperament, but when it came to preferred temperatures, we were polar opposites. I got happier and happier as winter approached and I could get the temperature down to 65 and under, with 58 being a very sweet spot at night, but he did not appreciate that at all (so I restrained myself from ever diving below 55.)
Sometimes I felt that Shado had been hired to work for my mother. Reason being, how well he knew my workweek schedule. I'd get told off by him if I didn't wrap up breakfast and start getting ready for the bus at the appropriate time, and I'd also get told off if 8 pm passed and I was still on my computer editing/writing/browsing with no sign I was planning to move soon. I'd also get glared at if I was in bed but didn't put the light out by 9:30 (because I couldn't stop whatever I was reading). At least he didn't go around turning on the lights to make sure I had adequate reading light--then I'd know he was working for my mom!
One really unique trait Shado possessed was his sense of gratitude. If I got him some special gift for his birthday or Christmas that he really appreciated, after enjoying it for a bit, he would leave it and walk over and rub all around me, purring and happy (he rarely rubbed on me, just anything in my immediate vicinity). This didn't happen just once, and sometimes his idea of 'gift' did not match mine. The last time I remember him giving an outpouring of gratitude was after I got the garden trellis for my deck, because whatever was in that packaging from the far side of the world, he really, really liked. So to him, that box and the packaging around the trellis was an extravagant gift. Of course meals and a full water bowl were entitlements in his mind, but I remain amazed that any cat, any pet, would display such an aware sense of thankfulness.
May 2016, happy in his hammock
My last six months with Shado, after he developed congestive heart failure, nearly died, and I had to cut my Thanksgiving vacation short, were very special. He'd already gotten much closer to me after Arun died three years prior, but it got even stronger during those months. We had our battles, mostly over finding ways to get him to take his medicine, but he was crazy happy to see me whenever I came home. Even if celebrating my return from checking the mailbox, or waiting on the steps instead of on his heated bed might class as being a little too doglike. And yes, he started getting on my lap a couple times, because he couldn't be on his heated bed and in the room with me at the same time, so that was his compromise--sitting on the arm of my chair or getting on my lap. Or camping out on my chair in my absence and wadding up the blanket I kept on it to make a nice bed for himself. I was afraid to exert him too much because of his heart, but one semi-regular game was throwing treats around for him to grab, or leaving them scattered in various corners of my home while he was eating his breakfast so he'd have something to find while I was gone. But that could backfire--he started curtailing breakfast to find treats, or expecting them, or finding property to destroy in his treat-hunting that he'd otherwise overlook. (That was the doom of my favorite Christmas wreath.) But those final months, aside from my stressing over his meds, health, and getting his breathing rate most every morning, are precious in my memory, and I'm so very glad I had them.
I could never have imagined a day like this would come--living without a pet for the first time since early 1991, and having no plans to immediately get another. An empty house, no one waiting at the door, no one sleeping on or beside my bed. But I also could never have imagined the hell year of 2007 or the tremendous damage it would wreak within me. Because of that, as well as lifestyle changes and a current need to be more flexible, I expect no more pets for the foreseeable future. Besides, I would need years before any cat would not suffer an unjust comparison to Shado's bond with me during our last years together, just as I could never get another Sheltie when none could possibly measure up to Holly. I've been so blessed with all of them.