An awakened animal wouldn't need Natural Spell; they can speak and have only one set of appendages to learn for a spell.
2 animal HD (+1 BAB, +3 Fort and Ref)
-8 Str, +4 Dex, +2 Wis, -2 Cha
Lots of skill bonuses
Natural weapons (that admittedly suck a lot) and improved senses
Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat
No LA means you're back up to 5400gp due to 4HD, too. I don't what kind of incentive that is if you're set on 2nd level spells at the outset.
Another thought. You might want to consider sorcerer rather than wizard due to spellbook complications. I like the image of a cat perusing a tome as large as it is, but it's quite impractical in actual play.