In December 2016, I brought home a semi-feral kitty that volunteers thought I would never tame. They knew very little about him besides the fact that he was only recently dropped off at a semi-feral colony they monitored. In other words, the night before a winter freeze rolled through Georgia, Little Shadow was taken from his warm bed and thrown to the lions in a feral colony.
Needless to say, my house panther did not trust or like people. He hissed and scratched at us for the first week and hid for the second. I tried one tactic after another to tame him and finally had some progress by the third week. At this point, Shadow came out from under the bed while I was working. He looked me up and down for a while and then hopped up on my lap and took a nap. We’ve been inseparable since!
What Is a Semi-Feral Cat?
If you’ve never heard the phrase before, it means that a cat is half-wild or half-feral. This happens when a cat has some exposure to human contact before three months old but was not properly socialized. Poor socialization can happen because of abuse or neglect. I do know Shadow originally lived in a home and knew his mother because he arrived at my home already scratch-tree trained. That is not something a cat usually learns on his own. He learns this behavior from his mother, who, in turn, only learns this as a domesticated kitty.
Since being on the road, I now suspect that Shadow may have had canine companions as a kitten. That suspicion and why I have it is what I’ll share with you today.
My Cat Growls at People Like a Dog
Since settling on my tiny home lot, I’ve played host to quite a few people. They usually stay on neighboring lots, but I recently had one friend visit who parked next to the RV. Shadow treats all new people as threats and generally hides, so he can watch them from a distance. After a few hours of stalking them creepily, he may emerge from the shadows and draw closer and closer.
On the second night of my friend’s recent visit, I had just dozed off when I heard a low sound in the RV. I sleep very lightly, so it woke me. It was a deep growl, like an angry dog. Obviously, I do not have a dog―and neither does my friend―so, I bolted upright and looked around. The RV was pitch black and the sound was definitely coming from inside.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed the two cat ears in the window. It was Shadow! I got up and tip-toed to the window, but I couldn’t see what or who he was growling at. When I turned the RV’s outdoor light on, I startled my friend. She had rolled over and seen a curious sight outside and came out to see it.
It was the Milky Way. She had asked me before bed what it looked like and I had told her she would know what it was immediately when she saw it. And, now, she had. She was in awe. I went outside to stand with her for a bit and we laughed about my “watch cat” who had alerted me to her presence.
When Did My Cat Start Growling Like a Dog?
Shadow is a very particular cat. Like most rescues, he has mysterious fears and dislikes. Generally speaking, he does not like loud noises and sudden movements. Diesel engines, aluminum foil, and Texans top his list of least favorite things. Shadow grew to dislike Texans because of our loud, Tonka-Truck-Diesel-Idling-Country-Music-Blasting neighbors in Arizona. Texans are often quite obviously Texan and he seems to have held a grudge.
While camping in Colorado, two Texan RV couples pulled into our boondocking spot. They parked on the opposite side and Shadow watched them with keen interest. I was still working that afternoon when I heard a low growling that seemed to come from outside. I was furious! I had a cat! What idiot had let their dogs loose to terrorize him in his own home? The audacity!
I stood beside Shadow in the window and looked outside, but there was no dog. I saw only the Texans. So, where was the growling coming from? That’s when I looked beside me and realized…it was my cat!
I have had Shadow since he was four months old. He was just shy of five years old when this happened. I had never heard him growl before. I had heard him hiss at men whenever they got too close to my trailer, but never growl like a dog. Since then, it has become a more frequent occurrence. And, apparently, he has now graduated to watch cat levels―growling loud enough to alert me in my sleep that someone was on the prowl outside.
Do You Have a Watch Cat?
The people who know of my growling cat have shared mixed reactions of laughter, confusion, or similar stories. Apparently, my protective little watch cat is not alone. There are many cats who growl at people to defend their territories and their humans. However, I have yet to meet another one who does.
In some ways, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that a cat can learn to growl like a dog. Cats are very good at mimicking other animals, such as chirping along with birds or even mimicking the laughter of small children. Shadow, however, has lived in a dog-less household for as long as I’ve had him. And that is why I think his original, naughty humans must have had a dog in the house.
Does your cat growl at the mailman? Share your stories in the comments below!