Thursday, February 22, 2024
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A New Foster: Meet Smokie!

long-haired black kitten
I’m so pretty!

And he’s a kitten! And another black kitty! So we’ll see if eventually the Five can teach him how to be a cat. I call him Smokie Robinson, and I’ve been singing Smokey’s greatest hits to him since he’s been here—and it hasn’t scared him away yet.

long-haired black kitten
Smokie Robinson!

Last week I transported a few cats from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society who were spay/neutered through the TNR program, and released them. Coincidentally, this little guy had come in from a foster home where he’d gone to gain weight and be socialized and come back to be neutered and adopted. He was neutered, but he wasn’t socialized enough to be adopted and we know what that means for a cat in the middle of summer when shelters are overflowing with cats and kittens. Our rescue group will help take these types of cats and kittens who still need a little help if there is foster space, so I was asked to see if I could socialize the little guy any more. He came to me last Wednesday evening, August 27.

His intake paperwork says he was picked up at about five weeks old, I presume he was alone, and that he was covered with burrs and debris in his fur. He was underweight for his age, and because he needed to gain weight and wasn’t old enough for neutering yet they found a foster home to care for him to get him to that point. Typically at two months and two pounds cats are spayed or neutered and put up for adoption, but he was about 14 weeks. I guess they gave him more time to socialize and possibly the foster home had taken another cat or kitten or a litter of kittens.

So little Smokey was stranded. My bathroom was open for business and though there were two other cats I’d nearly fostered (I’ll link their story here when I post it) at this point in the year so many were in need. I am always happy to take the senior, geriatric or hospice kitties but am not at all opposed to kittens—I haven’t had a foster kitten since 2009 with little Fromage. I didn’t see the little guy until he arrived at my house, but I wasn’t concerned what he looked or acted like, a life is a life. I couldn’t see a little kitty lose his because he needed a little more time to settle down. He was delivered by another person in the rescue group who picked him up on her way home from work and brought him here.

Initially, he was very frightened and plastered himself into the back of his carrier. I call those “airplane ears”, and combined with the round frightened eyes with totally dilated pupils he was one frightened, traumatized kitty, not one who would attack necessarily but one you don’t handle unless you have to—in my experiences handling a cat in that state of mind will leave a permanent negative impression of being handled by humans that will be hard to dispel.

long-haired black kitten
This was my first look at Smokie.

This was fine, I understood. He had just come from a foster home to the shelter and been examined and neutered, and then he was still hanging around the busy shelter in a carrier—that could be bewildering to a human too. I set his carrier in the bath tub at first because it was less chaotic in there than if I’d set it on the floor outside the tub. Not that my bathroom is a noisy happening place, but he needed time to adjust. The carrier was tiny so leaving the carrier door open I set fresh canned food and water just outside the opened carrier door and left to do more work, closing the bathroom door. But through the evening and to the next morning nothing was touched, and though I sometimes heard a soft little “mew” I heard and saw nothing else.

Thursday morning he had eaten nothing and I set out new food, mixed water into it, put the dish in his carrier and closed the door and left. He did eat then and I realized he would need a larger carrier for a few days since it would be a while before he emerged. Dr. Michelle came over to help me move him to a larger carrier which we wiped down with pheromone wipes. I used a small foil roasting pan in the carrier as a litterbox for a few hours, then removed that and placed his food and water in there, adding flower essences to his food and water.

The problem with my bathroom is that it is very small. With the carrier there I had only a small space to walk and could barely fit myself on the floor to get down on his level. I could keep his carrier in the tub but had to move it when I showered and I didn’t want to keep moving his carrier around since he was having such a difficult time adjusting.

Thursday evening I moved the carrier outside of the tub facing the bathroom door and left the bathroom door open for a few hours while I worked in the studio and all the cats followed me in there and milled around on the landing to let him sense the activities of the house. The baby gate was in place, and although that didn’t stop my cats from getting in there, they accept it as a barrier temporarily and it works for a short while to orient the cat in the bathroom with who he’s dealing with. Later that night when I opened his carrier door to feed him he mewed to me and walked forward, looking up at me then moving back in. I could reach in to pet him lightly as he ate.

long-haired black kitten
I could give him a neck scritch while he was eating in the carrier.

Friday evening he ate his food and I petted him, and when I left the bathroom door open again for a brief time to let him sense the activities of the house and he mewed for attention.

long-haired black kitten
He mewed to get out of the carrier.

Then he came to the door of his carrier and looked around. I closed the bathroom door and opened his cage door. In a series of brief explorations he emerged and began to poke around.

long-haired black kitten
Emerging from his carrier.

He fully emerged and seemed to have no interest in the carrier, but still looked at me and ran behind the toilet when I moved. I called off all other plans, put his carrier in the tub and stayed with him in there until after midnight, even sleeping on the floor for a while, as he explored the tiny room and me. Below is pretty much what I saw of him each time I came in the room until Monday afternoon when he finally relaxed enough to greet me. Up to that time I had to reintroduce myself to him each time I came into the room.

long-haired black kitten
Smokie’s safe place.

To explain a bit about how small my bathroom is, when I sit on the floor with my back to the tub and stretch out my legs, I can touch the opposite wall and door with my toes. When I bend my arms and hold out my elbows I touch the toilet and cabinet with barely extending my elbows. Smokie could not ignore me and had to explore me along with the rest. I could not touch him and he ran behind the toilet when I moved too much or there was any noise at all, but he would play with toys and walked on me when necessary, and he was very talkative.

Through the day Saturday I let him explore and I managed to touch him, scratching him on the back of the neck by night time, and for a day that was the only place I could touch him, even if he saw my hand coming. I was quickly trained to say his name softly and then carefully reach down and scratch the back of his neck, and only then did he recognize I was the same human whose toes he’d been trying to tackle a little earlier, and I was rewarded with a vibrant purr and a long kitty stretch and a mew as he came out into the room.

long-haired black kitten
A neck scratch is allowable.

Saturday night we had a huge storm and I closed and covered the window and tried to get him to go into his carrier so I could cover it but poor kitty ran around the little room every time there was thunder and lightning, and even heavy rain. Through the day Sunday, though he ran and hid each time I came in as if I was Godzilla and he had to be coaxed out and reacquainted he was eating well and using the big litter box and we had a purring and petting session each time I went in.

long-haired black kitten
These are mine!

He didn’t play too much when I wasn’t in the room, so I made sure to stop in and play for a bit through the day.

long-haired black kitten
I am handsome!

I moved the world’s oldest homemade cat scratcher in there for him, one I’d made from a 4×4 nailed upright to a piece of plywood in…1987. I had initially covered this with carpet remnants with the carpet facing out, then when it became worn out after I moved here I used another remnant and covered the bottom so it matched the floor on the landing, and added a strip of carpet to the top, jute side out, wrapping heavy sisal rope to a portion of the rest of the pole, leaving some wood exposed. Over the years I’d added a toy to the top like a cat teaser or a feather toy, but mostly they’ve just liked to sit on the top and make fringe from the edges of the carpet. It has been well-loved.

long-haired black kitten
He’s got it down with the scratching post!

He also likes the turbo scratcher and I have one with a ball that flickers when it moves that I got for the Four when they were first emerging from their room, but I have to move it into the tub when I come in because there is no place for me to walk. By Monday the only time he hid was when I showered, otherwise he only slightly hesitated greeting me when I came in.

long-haired black kitten
Just not sure what’s happening while I’m in the shower.

I could pet him with both hands but I could not pick him up, yet he loved his back scratches and butt scratches and purred happily when I was in there.

long-haired black kitten
Butt scritches are good too!

By evening he no longer ran to hide when I came in but greeted me purring.

long-haired black kitten
I made this mess and I’m proud of it.

I keep the baby gate at the door so no one can easily run in or out as I enter and leave, and I generally shut the door as soon as I come in. With paint on my hands and hands full of brushes and rinse jars I didn’t get the chance to right away, and seeing the Five milling about on the landing he hurried to the gate. “Ninjas! You have ninjas here!” He was fascinated and wanted to meet them right away. I heard a distant hiss from one of the Five who were studying him from my bedroom across the landing.

long-haired black kitten
You have ninjas!

Not yet, not until after he’d passed his quarantine time, even though he had a clean bill of health from WPHS. He had developed a little sneeze on Sunday that I thought might have been from running frantically during the storm and trying to stuff his face and self into tiny spots. As it has persisted he will see a veterinarian and I have continued to wash my hands each time I go in or out.

long-haired black kitten
Yes, I’m handsome.

I can’t get over how tiny he is after so many adult cats, and how handsome!

long-haired black kitten
I have a small white spot.

He does have a small white spot on his chest and some white lower on his belly, and fuzzy gray underfur that is likely why he was called Smokie. Often kittens with medium to long hair develop more fuzz first, which is their under fur and it’s often several shades lighter than their adult color, then later grow in their first longer guard hairs and appear to darken. You can still see some of Smokie’s gray on his chest and belly.

long-haired black kitten
He has distinctly grayish underfur.

And here are his super deluxe ear hairs, so long!

long-haired black kitten
I have deluxe ear hair.

Cats are always so concerned about why you are cleaning their stuff from the litter box. They put it there! They want it there! Smokie runs over when I scoop his box to inspect.

long-haired black kitten
Hey, I put that there!

Smokie even had to check inside the trash can after I’d cleaned his box.

long-haired black kitten
Why did you throw that away?

And even at this young age, he knows the camera is his friend. Really—I set it down on the floor so it wouldn’t be swinging around from my neck when I leaned over and he was on it right away, rubbing his face all over it and hugging it, then finally playing with the neck strap.

long-haired black kitten
Already he knows the camera is his friend.

I still can’t pick him up, though he loves to be petted all over and is very affectionate with me, and he’s almost gotten on my lap a few times.So next he will continue to get accustomed to me and my stupid singing of some of Smokey Robinson’s greatest hits because I grew up singing with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and his hits performed by others too are some of my all-time favorites, “I Second That Emotion”, “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”, “Cruisin’ “, “My Girl”, “My Guy” and a lot of others.

So far Smokie seems to like Motown and we are getting along just fine. Soon he’ll meet the Five, and he’ll also meet other humans and we’ll see how far he can go in learning to trust again.

. . . . . . .

A little note about my bathroom…yes, it’s kind of a mess. I had persistent water pressure problems through the spring until I managed to convince a plumber that I needed a new pressure regulator, and the toilet tank valve had a very slow leak from the excess pressure in the line–those valves aren’t intended for a lot of pressure, and the toilet tank is the last valve in my plumbing system so the pressure was heaviest there. The slow leak soaked the sub-floor, which is sagging slightly between the joists and even split a little between the toilet and sink, and the tile is broken up in those places. Oh, joy, I get to have my bathroom floor replaced! If any of the three plumbers I’d called had listened to me back in March this never would have happened. I should have replaced the pressure regulator myself and I knew it. And not to mention having the world’s slowest computer in my studio at the moment because I paid to have some plumbing done instead of getting the new computer for this room, so it takes me hours to edit photos and write posts! Just a little bit of frustrated complaint, thanks for listening.

Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.

There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.

  • Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
  • Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
  • Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
  • Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
  • Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.

If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.

Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives

Read about other cats I’ve fostered.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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© 2014 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
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And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!



From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

18 thoughts on “A New Foster: Meet Smokie!

    • Thanks, Random Felines–every day he’s friendlier and more playful!

  • Smokey is a darling and SO cute!
    He is in the best place right now and we know you will have him friendly,trusting and playful
    in no time! He will soon be ready for his forever home.
    As for the bathroom, purrs for all your trouble, but kitties are not concerned with decor 😉
    All they want is love,food a bed and scritches 🙂
    Purrs Georgia and Julie,
    Treasure and JJ

    • Georgia and Julie, he does better each day! His little sneezy did get worse for a couple of days, but just when I was about to take him to the vet he turned around and now has just a little sniffle–and he’s bouncing off the walls with fun. And REALLY wants to meet the ninjas.

  • Be still my heart, Smokie! You are just too cute and too handsome! And those ear hairs – goodness me! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you are a gem, Bernadette, for taking in cats and kittens who need to have their faith in human nature restored. If I lived in the US, I’d adopt this gorgeous fella straight away! xoxoxoxox

    • Dani, it’s too bad you’re half a world away because he is a DOLL! Each day he is more fun and playful, more trusting and less fearful. It’s not me–he’s the one doing all the work, and he’s been seriously working hard!

  • Thanks for your understanding of my bathroom–it’s not so much the looks of it as the ignorance of the plumbers who would not listen to me because I am a girl. I should charge them the cost for repairs for their negligence. It’s why I’ve done many of my repairs myself–that, and I like to do it–but to save time I’ll pay someone else. The plumber who used to do things well and reasonably just kind of left town. But the other thing is the bathroom is the only room in the house I had the opportunity to completely remodel, I designed the remodel and chose all the fixtures and it’s all new. It’s a room where I relax in the tub, and often I spend time looking out the window, watching the sunrise, or watching the snow fall, I’ve taken a lot of photos of that view as well as done paintings in all seasons. And now it all has to be taken apart again, at my expense. Still makes me mad!

  • Anne Slevin

    Bernadette he’s a real beauty! And your dedication is not lost in translation. There is never a need to explain any part of one’s home when it’s so obvious that home is brimming with love. I too brought home a fella last Thursday from the Humane Society. He’s an older”Himmie” that someone dumped in a nearby town. My old gals are a bit put out but he is so mellow it’s just a matter of time before they melt the way I have. And who needs a dining room anyway! Your deeds on this earth pave the way for the next realm but I somehow think your highway has already been built, maybe a couple of times over…

    • bluemoonalone

      AMEN to that Anne!!

    • Anne, thanks for taking home an older kitty. Yes, dining rooms are overrated!

  • dood….ewe bee one rockin kewl little dood……eat plentee oh flounder mackerull trout & perch N
    ewe will be on yur way ta bee comin a mightee panther …ROAR …..♥♥♥♥♥

    • Ocean whitefish today, Tabbies–and I think this guy is going to have one majestic silver mane for sure!

    • That always happens really fast, Sally! I want him to be able to win other hearts too, and he’s going to be a big and handsome cat!

  • bluemoonalone

    He is adorable B..It’s so strange to see you playing with a kitten at home..I’m sure he will do well with you and the 5..Are you sure you don’t want to keep him..huh…lol..also you don’t have to explain your home to us..any kitty that is lucky enough to stay in your home is a happy kitty..Even if their time is short it is well spent being in in your care and love..A little mess doesn’t change the love and warmth that any kitty receives when they stay with you..much better than a life on the streets I’d say..Maybe we should ask Mimi..Hugs

    • Bluemoonalone, thank you so much! No, I’ve always found fostering to be so rewarding, making cats happy and playing matchmaker–I’ve already been at it for this little bun! He’s even friendlier today, it’s so wonderful!

  • Look at that face! He is just gorgeous… I can imagine he feels pretty small compared with your big four.
    May he have a happy and healthy life.

    • Maru, he is breathtakingly pretty! And sometimes when I look at him I can’t believe how small he is. I always feel so bad when little ones are so frightened but I’m hoping he will relax. He is going to be such a handsome adult!


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