Life With Shadow

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. It’s been about six months since my last update on Shadow (,who came to live with us last August. It was an adjustment for me and for my husband. We were used to cats who loved to cuddle (Maine Coons, mostly). Shadow, apparently, was never fond of being held. It was also a big adjustment for her. She’d had a pretty rough couple of years. Not only did she lose first one and then the other of her humans, she also ended up being left alone for long stretches. Someone came in to check on her and make sure she had food and water and a clean litter box, but when your regular person is frequently in the hospital, and occasionally has to make writing-related business trips as well, it takes a toll. All in all, we knew it would take a while for her to settle in.

Slowly, she’s warming up to us. I can pick her up without sending her into a frenzy trying to bite and scratch, and even hug her (a little). She allows herself to be stroked, when she’s in the mood, and warns us when she’s had enough with a little yip before the claws come out. Twice now, she’s pushed her way under the covers on a cold night and curled up between us to sleep for a while.

Shadow obeying the order to look over there.

She still fights any attempt to clip her claws, and does not know the meaning of “no, no, bad kitty!” when it comes to scratching anything other than her scratching post, but she’s better about using “velvet paws” when she just wants to play. She has several times raced after me as I was walking away from her, whacked me on the backs of my legs, and taken off again a warp speed. I assume this is a game, but I’m still not certain of the rules.

Shadow exhibits typical feline behavior in many ways. She’s determined to get out onto the screen porch until she realizes it’s freezing out there. She has a habit of getting locked in the clothes closet because she streaked in there without anyone noticing. And she immediately jumps into any box or bag she happens to find. She particularly likes the grocery bag that lines my paper recycling bin, especially when it has just been changed and has only a few post-its inside.

She also has some distinct quirks not found in any of the many other cats who have shared our home over the years. She doesn’t drink water. Not out of her bowl. Not out of the sink. She’s not dehydrated, but I’ve been making “gravy” by adding water to her food to make sure of that. The one time I thought she was trying to lick water off the side of the sink, it turned out she was eating a blob of toothpaste I’d missed wiping up. She seemed to like it.

Shadow with her favorite toy

These last months have been a learning experience for Shadow. Because she lived upstairs with Lea and Bob (to separate her from his studio and paintings downstairs), the refrigerator, the stove, and the wood stove were entirely new to her. Because their house was on a quiet street, the constant traffic, including pulp trucks, passing by our place on U.S. Rt. 2, meant all kinds of noises spooked her. She wasn’t used to other animals, either. We don’t have any other cats at the moment, but when a neighborhood cat dared come up to the outside of the sliding glass door to our back deck and look in at her, the result was a solid fifteen minutes of hissing and howling. We didn’t know Shadow could make sounds like those.

All in all, I think we’re making good progress. Just this past week, she’s started curling up in my usual place on the loveseat in the living room (when I’m not there, of course) and one of those times she let me sit down next to her without immediately bolting. I was even allowed to pet her without damage to life or limb.

Definite progress.

With the January 2020 publication of A View to a Kilt, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty-one books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. Next up is A Fatal Fiction, in stores at the end of June. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes but there is a new, standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things, in the pipeline for October. She maintains three websites, at and and another, comprised of over 2000 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century English women, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.

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13 Responses to Life With Shadow

  1. Monica says:

    So glad there is progress!
    My husband’s cat took quite awhile to warm up to living in my house with my dog. She showed her displeasure by swiping at my legs as I tried to leave for work. Ruined more tights did that cat. By the time she was ready to depart this world, it was me who she allowed to hold her for the last trip to the vet’s and me she haunted for years later.


    • kaitlynkathy says:

      When we took in my father-in-law’s cat it took about a year for him to settle in, and that was with two other cats in the house. Eventually, he became a cuddler, too, so I have high hopes for Shadow.


  2. Beth French says:

    I enjoy reading your updates about Shadow. I have two sibling cats that were rescued from the wild when they were tiny kittens. We’ve had them ever since and they have been indoor cats for all those years. Their behavior has changed over time, too. Now they are both very cuddly and vocal. One cat did not speak until she was about three and now both greet me with good morning meows and more throughout the day.


    • kaitlynkathy says:

      When we’ve had multiple cats in the past, I’ve noticed that one seems to take the lead when it comes to vocalizing, and another takes over when the noisy cat passes. Shadow is fairly quiet most of the time, but she does “talk” to us.


  3. Awww( “” ) ( “‘”) you are doing incredibly well with Shadow
    It must be difficult on all sides.
    Doing a good thing 🙂


  4. Nancy Cantwell says:

    So glad you took Shadow after my sister’s passing – sounds like you’re making great progress. Shadow is lucky to have been adopted by such understanding parents!


    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Thanks, Nancy. I miss Lea more than I can say but she gave us a wonderful gift when she agreed to let us adopt Shadow.


  5. Judy says:

    I have the View to Kilt book ready to read. I love the adopted cat tales. Life is a work in progress. Thanks for writing books and the blog.


  6. Jeanne says:

    So glad to read about this and the progress that is (slowly) being made. I currently have an orange tabby who is very skittish. After three years, he has determined that he likes me when I am lying down or trying to put clothes in the washer. In the former position, he will sit on me and headbutt; in the latter, he grabs my but and talks. Other times he apparently considers me dangerous is careful to stay out of my way, preferably by hiding somewhere. The other five cats are much friendlier but he isn’t sure about following their example.


  7. kaitlynkathy says:

    Wonderful story, Jeanne. Thanks for sharing.


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