Shadow – More Than a Garden Cat

January 26, 2022
Shadow sitting on table with flowers in background

People often comment to us that the Sunflower Hill Garden, located on Hagemann Ranch in Livermore California, is a beautiful and magical place. For Sunflower Hill, the Garden is a vital space we utilize for educational, therapeutic, and life skills training programs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As stewards of such a special space, we see and experience beauty and magic every day in watching program participants learn, explore, and engage with the surroundings, people, and inhabitants.

Shadow leaning on a box filled with small tomatoesOne such “inhabitant” is Shadow the Cat. Shadow is a black cat who was brought to Hagemann Ranch in 2017 by the folks at the Heritage Guild who manage the space, to control the mice and critters in the barns and other buildings on the site. Since then, Shadow has lived on the property, making the Sunflower Hill Garden her home and bringing a smile to visitors.

Shadow, who received her name because she was a constant “shadow” to those working in the Garden, is extremely popular with program participants, volunteers, and staff. She is featured in many of the Sunflower Hill Garden Update and Let’s Explore videos. She even has her own Instagram page that was created by one of her biggest fans, Kyle. A longtime Sunflower Hill volunteer, Kyle first visited the Garden with his program in 2016 and fell in love with Shadow when she came to live at the Garden shortly after. Kyle loves to hang out and take pictures of Shadow while he’s volunteering. He said he loves it when she lays flat on her back with her paws stretched out (aka her “Signature Move”). He thinks it looks funny! Along with visiting Shadow each week, Kyle enjoys volunteering and “pluckin’ the weeds because they keep us in business.”

About a year ago, Kyle wanted to share images of Shadow being playful and silly, and he created an Instagram page for her. Since then, Shadow The Sunflower Hill Cat has posted numerous pictures and videos and gained 90 followers! When I asked Kyle why he created an Instagram page for Shadow, he said, “I started taking photos one day (and realized that) Shadow was everywhere!” Her antics include playing with the oak tree galls, using the tree-stump seats as scratching posts, hiding in the row coverings, taking dust baths in the corral, and getting the zoomies all around the Garden.

Watch Shadow greet program participants, pose with Kyle, display her Signature Move, and engage in numerous antics:


Many people have commented that Shadow acts like a dog more than a cat in that she’s very friendly and affectionate. “When program participants arrive at the Garden, Shadow runs up to greet them,” said Teacher Abby. She will join participants as they sit on the stumps during the Opening Circle, and then follow them out to the field to help with activities. “If they don’t see her when they arrive, people will ask for her,” said Abby. Shadow has chosen the role of therapy animal and seems to always know who needs a little extra attention each day. She loves to jump onto people’s laps when they are sitting at a table or in a wheelchair. “Some of our participants are non-verbal and have mobility issues,” said Abby. “Shadow likes to hang out with them and have fun; they get excited and smile a lot when that happens.”

Shadow is so special and more than just a garden cat. We’re thankful that she’s chosen the Sunflower Hill Garden as her home. She brings so much joy to staff, program participants, and volunteers and lends her beauty and magic to the Sunflower Hill Garden.


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Story by: Rachel Clark, Sunflower Hill Communications Manager

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