Puma SUGAR cougar

Sugar and Shadow – Cougars in Love! 2006


Male Cougar

8/1/93 –  10/2/2008
Shadow came to Big Cat Rescue with his companion, Sugar. He was a product of the pet trade and came here on 8/2/98. Their owner had become ill and, when Shadow and Sugar knocked out a window of his mobile home in an attempt to escape, he decided that he could no longer care for them. Shadow is the most talkative cat at Big Cat Rescue and will enthusiastically call back to Keepers that talk to him with a raspy RWOW! Shadow has been neutered so that he can remain with his mate Sugar.

Even if you have never visited Big Cat Rescue, you probably knew Shadow, the chatty cougar who inspired our blog and video series called ” The Shadow Knows.”  He was our largest cougar and certainly the most vocal.  If you called out to him from any where on the property, you would get an immediate “Raaaaah!” back.  He never seemed to tire of talking either and as long as you would talk to him, he would cheerfully chirp back.  His cage mate, Sugar, would just watch in her gentle, bemused way.

Now she watches, and waits, with longing looks down the path where she last saw Shadow leave.  The volunteers take turns sitting with her, talking with her and trying to ease her transition.  She has had Shadow at her side for the past 12 years and even though cougars are solitary in the wild, captivity changes things.  It is extremely rare that adult cats can be introduced to each other without injury but sometimes, when they have been raised together, they seem to take pleasure in having someone to snuggle with in their den.

Most of our cats live into their teens and early twenties, and our oldest cat was just shy of 30 when he died.  Shadow was only 15 and appeared to be the picture of health when a brain tumor sent him into a massive seizure.  He was immediately rushed to the vet for diagnostics and had to be anesthetized in the process.  The anesthesia relieved his convulsions, but when he started to awaken he would regress back into paddling, screaming seizures.

When it became apparent that he would never have another peaceful moment we decided that euthanasia would be the only humane thing to do.  That is never an easy decision, but when a cat is old, wasting away and suffering, that is an easier choice to make.  When the cat looks on the outside to be vibrant and healthy it is much harder.  We had to be sure that his brain disease was beyond repair and when we were, needle in hand, we tearfully began to say our goodbyes.

One injection and he would pass from the fitful, drug induced sleep he was already experiencing, to crossing over the Rainbow Bridge.  It would be quick, painless and silent.  He would never know what happened.  Before we gave him the shot, however, he drew his own last breath and died.  For his entire life, Shadow never had a choice.  A greedy backyard breeder sold him into the pet trade.  He was kept cooped up in a trailer until we rescued him and Sugar in 1998.  He never got to choose his own path, his own home or even his own dinner.  He was forced to take the lousy hand life had dealt, but he did it with a happiness that was contagious.  Only in his very last moment was he able to make the decision to walk out of life on his own terms.


We all grieve differently I guess. For me, I sit down and scroll through all my pictures of Shadow and remember his life and the moments I was fortunate enough to share. It’s reflective and cathartic and helps get most of my tears out so I can come to BCR and remain somewhat “together.” During the process, a song usually pops in my head and the pictures just flow into a sequence that forms the story of their life for me…Senior Keeper, Julie Hanan
“I know Shadow was BigCatRescue’s great cats, I always wished I could visit him and the other big cats, I don’t have much to say about Shadow. Rest in peace Shadow.”…Ben Walden


Dear sweet Shadow,
Whenever I was feeling down and discouraged, you were always there with a friendly greeting. Very few people went by that didn’t get a greeting of some kind. It was such a treat to watch you and Sugar running and tumbling over each other while you were playing.  You will be remembered well.  Peace and love in your new found freedom…….Gale, Volunteer Keeper


Since I have been working at BCR… we have lost a lot of cats. But Shadow… he was the first one that got to me. How can I put into words how amazing he was? He was unbelievable. The way he would talk…and talk… It was like he was telling you his stories about what happened to him that day .. or the day before. I remember one day when I was walking by him, he was so focused on the field next to him because there was a wild pig roaming around. I kept real quiet, just watching him as he sat there, eyeing the fence. After another moment, I finally spoke “Shadow… what do you see?” I said. He quickly snapped his head towards me and went off in a huge talking fest which brought a huge smile to my face. He looked right at you, right into your eyes, talking to you, telling you that he knew there was a snack on the other side of that fence. Since then, I made it my daily routine to stop by every morning before operant and every chance after that to talk to him. Whether he was laying beside his love, Sugar, or poking his head out of the den, he would always talk. On my way to do operant training, I would greet the other cats, and as soon as I reached Hercules’ enclosure, I would have this huge grin on my face because no matter where Shadow was in his enclosure, he was talking up a storm long before I reached him. He made me laugh so much.

As the days turned to months, our conversations got longer, and I started to fall in love with him even more. Boy.. was he a lazy boy. Some days he would just lay there, not lift his head.. and just purr and talk. I would reply with “You’re so lazy, Shadow.. so lazy..” And I would just laugh. I remember this one morning, I heard him talking in his den, I went around to the far end to see if I could see him. Hearing his squeak, I went back to the other side, seeing him standing outside his den. He actually got up. My jaw dropped before I started to laugh. I told him he was such an old man because he was always laying down. Strolling over one paw at a time, it was like I could feel his purr – it was that loud. He rubbed his cheeks against the enclosure and it was amazing. The last memory I have of him is of him laying in his den, head laying outside. It was Sunday, Sept 28, and it was the end of the cleaning day. I walked up, said my hello’s and got my hello back. He seemed to be very tired that day, so I didn’t want to bother him. I remember the last thing I told him before I left… ” I love you Shadow.. and I will see you next week..” But I didn’t.

When I found out Thursday night what had happened, it literally took my breath away. I thought, ‘This can’t be right.. I just saw him a few days ago’.  It all happened so fast, and it was such a shock. I miss him dearly.. and it hurts so much to walk by now and not hear his voice. To the Staff, and Senior Keepers, I can’t even begin to imagine your heartache.. I’ve only known him for a year and a half.. and he had meant so very much to me. I miss you Shadow .. I miss our conversations.. I miss your ‘smile’ .. Rest peacefully.. and don’t worry about Sugar.. We’ll take amazing care of her. I love you. …Shiloh, Volunteer Keeper


As I think about Shadow – I realize how special I feel being a tour guide at BCR – and how much I loved coming to his enclosure and telling our visitors of his story – and how he always talked to us as if he knew how much I loved him and how much our visitors admired him. I will miss him so very much – but  know he is frolicking with Scratch and Squeaker = finally free….Sherry, Volunteer Partner


He was truly the most vocal rep for cougars today.. I think any visitor that came on the tour had a smile on their face and some passion in their hearts after he spoke to them – what a cat…Brian, Former Senior Keeper/Director


I loved Shadow. I loved his Mountain Lion size, his good looks and his talky personality, as I am fond of that trait in my own house cats. Most every morning going out to do operant training, we would walk by and chat with him for a bit. I could see that, with most every other volunteer, Shadow was purry, sweet, and friendly. But with me, he would “lock on”, stalk, and then hiss in frustration when he could not get me. Marie would gently chastise him saying, “be nice, this is my friend,” and he would oblige, talking, rubbing and purring for as long as she was there to be my advocate. But all would be forgotten by the next visit, or anytime I happened to walk by alone. Being the smallest adult on the property seems to provide a different experience with many of our cats. One can’t help but respect the nature of “wild” for what it is, honest and simple. It does not diminish and only adds to the love I have for them all. Now a big part of my day “on property” is missing. I will always remember Shadow…..Beth, Volunteer Keeper


“WROW WROW” is what we heard many days at BCR. What does it mean? “Hey, I’m sleeping here, come back at noon?” “Good morning Regina, how are you?” Who knows what Shadow was saying to us? All I know was that he didn’t hesitate to communicate with us. Always ready for enrichment and food, Shadow was one of the most animated cats I’ve ever had the pleasure of caring for. He’s made me laugh many a morning.

If there is ever a human bond half as strong as the bond between Sugar and Shadow, I want it.
Shadow my boy, you’ve left us on your terms…..run free with Catrina, Sylvester, Scratch, Squeak. Tell them we miss them terribly….you’re in our hearts forever Shadow…Regina, Volunteer Senior Keeper


I led the 9:30 tour the Saturday before Shadow’s passing. We spent a long time with him because he was even more talkative than usual. I would like to think he was saying “Goodbye” as only he knew how. The Rescue will be sadly a much quieter place with him gone. I will truly miss our big handsome boy….Deborah, Volunteer Keeper


Shadow was a very outspoken cat.  When I would give a tour, I could always count on beautiful Shadow to let the visitors know the many sounds a cougar can make.  He never hid, always talked, and was a wonderful representative of that incredible family of cats.  For me, I will miss his friendly welcome when I’m giving my tour….Pat, Volunteer Senior Partner


We’re all so lucky at BCR to be able to go home to a safe comfortable place to lay our heads at night. I believe Shadow felt that way. He seemed so content with his life with Sugar. Why else would he greet everyone with his “chirps?”……Rosie, Volunteer Keeper


His time came and I am sure he prepared Sugar for this moment… He was our “big boy!” He left us so fast… even Sugar doesn’t realize yet that he is not coming back… Whenever I look at her, talk to her, I can feel him, still next to her, like a “Shadow”… I still can hear his perfect sound that said: “WHAT?” Just don’t take your beautiful girl away from us yet Shadow…..You know that we will take very good care of her, just like we did with you and all of you!…..Marie, Volunteer Senior Keeper


Oh how I will miss this sweet, talkative, and curious boy! I am glad he is no longer cage bound and can be free, as his kind should be. I am still saddened by the fact that Sugar looks so lost without him. He was such an attentive and caring companion for sweet, shy Sugar. That said, Shadow was a joy or at least you could always find humor in cleaning him, especially the grim yet laughable thought of having to clean his cesspool in his former enclosure after a heavy rainstorm. When it was a pretty day he would chat with his keepers, or was it supervising? Not only that, he usually had a few things to say when any tour would pass his way. One of the funniest memories of him, and the rest of the cats on his path, was all their expressions while we moved two enormous trees in what was to be the “Babies’ Cage.” That fascination turned to dismay and disgust once the “Babies” moved in and suddenly Shadow and Sylvester (as well as the rest) were no longer the cutest Cougars on earth! I know many of us spent lots and lots of time trying to convince them that the “Babies” would never take their place. Not sure if he and the rest ever believed us. Anyway, I am sure he is looking down on us just to see what weird things we silly humans are up to….Lisa, Volunteer Keeper


“Beauty is as beauty does” is an old saying I grew up with. Shadow’s beauty extended beyond his magnificent physical body. He inspired my heart to write, “The Shadow Knows” as a regular blog article detailing how he saw his environment and what it meant to him. He had a very gentle, soothing tone of voice and was never impatient. He often found humor in how humans responded to life. The other cats at the sanctuary loved and respected Shadow and often consulted him in search of answers. How blessed I am to have known this incredible cougar…..Laura, Volunteer Keeper


As I cry and cry and cry, all the cats are grieving. Shadow was one of a kind, as they all are. He was a favorite with all the female cats in the sanctuary. He always talked. What a different world we have because Shadow shared his life with us. Sugar has truly lost a soul mate. Light and love Shadow…..Laura, Volunteer Keeper


Shadow, our talkative and beautiful boy left us on his own terms for a better place. Now the younger generation of rescued cougars who have learned to talk will share their conversations with Sugar in her new solitude. RIP big boy……Merrill, Volunteer Partner



SUGAR Female Cougar

3/7/96 – 11/2/08 (one month, to the day, after her love Shadow passed away)
Sugar originally came from Oneida. She and her companion, Shadow, were sold to a gentleman in South Florida. The two of them came to Big Cat Rescue on 8/2/98, because their owner became seriously ill and could no longer care for them. He said they had knocked the windows out of his trailer. Sugar and Shadow are two of the sweetest Cougars living at Big Cat Rescue. They have become the favorites of many of our volunteers as well. Sugar is very calm and quiet and spends her days lounging on top of her large dirt mountain. Sugar and Shadow are also favorites of guests that take the Feeding Tour, these two normally sweet-natured felines flip like a switch and become very vocal and protective over their dinner.

Sugar never recovered from losing Shadow and died a month to the day after him on Nov. 2, 2008



We all wanted to keep our sweet girl forever with us… but it was also heart breaking to see Sugar without Shadow…

For a month after Shadow’s departure, EVERY DAY I was at BCR, I would stop and talk to Sugar and bring her treats with “extras” so she could share them with Shadow…

Her eyes would look into mine so deeply that I could see Shadow in her mind and heart!

I would always whisper to her: “I know you are missing him, and we all do Sugar…”

I knew that Sugar wasn’t going to stay away from her protector for too long!

She waited patiently for Shadow to get their new “paradise” ready…

And one month later, to the day, he called her…and she went to the other side… not the other side of her habitat… she went to this other side where Shadow was waiting for her…

We all know that they are together again now!

And even though we are still crying and missing them terribly, we all are so happy that they are together again and forever happy!……Marie, Volunteer Senior Keeper


Sometimes a bond is so strong, a love is so deep, that it can transcend anything. After sharing our time with Sugar and Shadow, we’ll never be able to deny that fact again. Nothing would keep them apart. Not the love and adoration of so many humans around them, not the physical world holding onto them when the spiritual world called to them. I knew it would be selfish to want to hold onto Sugar here with us when it was so clear that she wanted nothing but to be with her love – Shadow. Sugar, deep down, I’m happy for you that you were able to reunite with Shadow so quickly. I knew he’d be lonely without you. He needed you as much as you needed him. I’ll always picture you two cuddled up, here and now there….to your eternal happiness together my love….Julie, Volunteer Senior Keeper


I always thought Sugar to be the most beautiful cougar ever. One can’t bring up Sugar without talking about her companion, Shadow. Volunteers loved Shadow due to his constant chirping. It was a rare moment when he would allow Sugar to get in a word or two. She was always soft spoken and took her chicken quarter like a proper lady when eating. Next to her would be the growling sounds of her wild man. I would always come over and ask Shadow, “Where’s Sug’s?” They made me laugh when, in their old den, she would be fast asleep blocking the entry and you would hear Shadow talking and wishing to get out but knowing better than to disturb her. She usually slept in later than him, but when she finally came out, her soft beautiful face would brighten up anyone’s mood. She was a cougar of few words, but her beauty spoke a million times over just how regal these big cats are. After hearing about Shadow’s passing, I knew it wouldn’t be long till Sugar would leave us to be with him. I miss you both. Happy snuggling you two…….Brian, former Staff and Board Member


Sugar & Shadow are the reason that I fell in love with BCR and our mission. The first tour that my husband & I took, the Intern guiding it was special friends with Shadow and they had a great rapport. We probably spent 10 minutes at their enclosure while their story was told, along with the BCR story. While Shadow would chime in with a “word” or two, Sugar sat quietly by, looking at all of us in a way that told me even if we had not been part of the problem, we needed to help. I knew at that moment I would find a way to help her and all the other residents at BCR. What started as my sharing the BCR tours with friends & family turned into 2 years of spending my Sundays working the small cat areas but always stopping by on my way to my cleaning area to say hi to Sugar & Shadow; my recruiters….Kim, Volunteer Keeper Trainee


Sugar was what I called “the perfect lady.” Many a night, at feeding time, I would walk past Sugar and Shadow’s lockouts and see Shadow in an absolute frenzy because food was coming, but not Sugar. She would be lying down in lockout, paws crossed, like a perfect lady patiently waiting her turn for food. She didn’t mind Shadow’s frenzy, she just waited her turn. They were the perfect pair…so opposite…so…perfect.

I only heard Sugar a few times, she was very quiet….the polar opposite of Shadow. Somehow, I knew this is what was going to happen…she would follow her soul mate. I said it in Shadow’s tribute and I’ll say it again….if there is a bond in the human world HALF as strong as the one between Sugar and Shadow, I want it.

Well Shug, you left us and for that I weep, but your will was strong enough to bring you eternally with your protector, partner, and one true love, right where you always belonged. It’s not that you didn’t love us Sugar Bear, it’s that you loved HIM so much more. I miss you always pretty girl…you’ll always be my perfect lady…..Regina, Volunteer Senior Keeper


Sugar was a very beautiful cougar. She had big, dark liquid eyes and would stare at you very intensely. I never heard her talk, unlike Shadow, who talked all the time. They made such a gorgeous pair. Those eyes seemed to get so much sadder after Shadow’s death. I knew she was grieving. I tried to stop by when I could and talk to her, but I knew nothing could take her pain away except being reunited with Shadow. It was hard to watch her like that. I hope they are together now. Rest in peace, sweet girl…Willow, Volunteer Keeper


As love stories are told from the heart, their messages penetrate the depths of our souls. They are spoken in Soul Language, something our heads don’t understand. Ancient wisdom explains this more fully by the saying “two becoming as one.” We can be so deeply in love and connected with another that when that spirit leaves the physical world, something within us also leaves. To some, this is their idea of a soul mate. Although soul mates are a reality, very seldom do we find them. Most people don’t believe the concept of a “soul mate.” Sugar would like those people to know she had found hers and when he left his physical body, her heart was broken, and she fell into deep grieving.

It is possible to love someone so much you don’t want to live without them. Can animals experience the same? Indeed they can. At the sanctuary, I never thought of Shadow without Sugar coming to mind and vice versa. They were so connected, you could feel the “oneness.” There was never any doubt how much love these two cougars felt for one another. You could see the tender care each of them shared. She was the quiet one. Of course, it would have been difficult if both of them talked as much as Shadow. They took turns grooming each other and when they played, there was an air of flirting. Shadow would take the lead, and Sugar looked up to Shadow for cues.

Words cannot express the amount of loss with the physical passing of these two incredible spirits. Sugar couldn’t wait to be reunited with her soul mate and left her physical body one month and one day after Shadow left. No matter what the physical ailment was that caused her body to take its last breath, the root cause was a broken heart. She had no will to live. Life wasn’t life without Shadow. I know they are both happy to be together again. As I look at their empty Cat-A-Tat, although I am not able to see their physical bodies, I feel the love they shared and know only that love is real, everything else truly is just an illusion. It has truly been an honor and privilege. Thank you Shadow. Thank you Sugar. Your love story will always be in my heart. Let the angels care for these two precious spirits as they continue their love story in the light….Laura, Volunteer Keeper


Walking past Sugar, going to clean little back or servals, was a delight for me because I would always stop to say hello to her. She and Shadow were such a delight for me. It would always brighten my day. I can’t believe she has gone and it saddens me beyond what words can say.

Even though we will all miss her terribly, I am certain she is in a much happier place with the love of her life Shadow. With great and tender thoughts….Diane, Volunteer Keeper Trainee



I can’t imagine your heartbreak, your pain, your sorrow, when your love accidentally left you behind. After he left, you were so different. Every time I went to check on you and talk to you, your face was empty. It was so obvious you missed him. It was brutal to everyone knowing that for the first week or so, you just waited for him to come back. But as time went on, you realized he wasn’t going to, and that hurt everyone just as much.

Now, you shall feel none of those feelings anymore. For you are now in paradise with your love, your world, your soul mate, Shadow – alongside all the other cats you have grown to know and love when you were at Big Cat. I’m relieved to know you are once again joined with him. We miss you both dearly. You were our ‘Beautiful Queen’. I love you.. and miss you, Sugar. Rest peacefully beside your protector. You both have nothing but eternity with each other now. Tell your ‘Lazy King’ I said ‘I miss you too.’ Goodbye.. Sugar….Shiloh, Volunteer Keeper


Salt & pepper, fish & chips, bacon & eggs, Shadow & Sugar. I could never say one of these words without saying the other. These two cats were truly inseparable – Shadow the protector and Sugar the adored one. When I heard of Shadow’s passing, I had a feeling of foreboding, knowing in my heart that Sugar would follow him soon, and I was sadly proved right. Having loved each other and lived together for so long, it was no surprise when I received the news that Sugar had passed so soon after Shadow. Over the years, I watched them play, groom and sleep together. They were such a wonderful example of what a good marriage should be about, giving each other space, yet always together and supporting each other. They were so entertaining to watch – he was so vocal and she was so gentle. Together, they were the perfect match. It will seem so strange to return and not see him vocalizing when he spots me, not be able to watch them cleaning each other or sharing the sunniest spot in the enclosure to sleep in the sun. We humans could learn so much about relationships from these two wonderful animals who shared so many years together. Sleep tight Shadow & Sugar, gone but never forgotten…. Daphne, Volunteer Keeper Trainee/Advocat



Only last Sunday, another volunteer and I remarked that Sugar seemed heartsick over the loss of Shadow and was not being herself. I loved them both. They are a happy couple together again, after a mere month’s separation…over the Rainbow Bridge joining a freedom loving group from BCR. I know these soul mates will be together for eternity…..Merrill, Volunteer Partner


SUGAR, gentle Sugar, always in the background. Shadow was the “chatty” one, but she was always near. I talked to them often. After Shadow left us, I noticed her eyes drew sad, “empty.” One day, as I walked on after my visit, I looked back to see her still watching me. Was she saying “Goodbye” for she left us that day? If you’re ever confronted by someone who thinks animals have no feelings, tell them about Sugar and Shadow, especially the timing Sugar chose to join Shadow – 1 month to the day. We all miss you both…..Rosie, Volunteer Keeper



Being a BCR Partner, I only get to know the cats on the tour path. Sugar was on the path and every time I would bring a tour by, she’d be out. She and her buddy Shadow had an interesting story for me to tell the group. When I’d finish telling the tour how we got Sugar and Shadow, people would say “How could you have one of these as a pet?” – which was exactly the message I was trying to get across. Thank you Sugar for being such a beautiful and wonderful example to everyone I brought by to meet you……Pat, Volunteer Senior Partner

Sugar and Shadow – Cougars in Love! 2006

Watch in on two of our love birds (or actually mountain lions) sugar and shadow.
They both were former “pets” and are fixed so that no more unwanted exotics are born into captivity. Big Cat Rescue is home to over 140 former “pet” exotic felines including lions, tigers, bobcats oh my.

More Memorials at https://bigcatrescue.org/category/memorials/

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