An Update on Smokey

Smokey in his new crate.
Smokey in his new crate.

Smokey has been “in” for four weeks, not changing much, but while the weather is still cold and he’s been inside for that long we decided to change up his accommodations a bit to see if that helps him feel more comfortable.

He’s been in a large crate and we’ve been using his trap with the back door removed instead of a carrier or box for him to hide in. He seems comfortable with that and being able to retreat inside but still see us. Also, on the off chance we’d have to pack him up to go to a vet or to unpack into a transfer cage, it seemed the best thing to maintain for as long as we felt we couldn’t handle him normally. Shannon began to visit him daily a couple of weeks ago and he’s responded to that, and I’ve been happy someone else is helping to care for and socialize him.

He eats well and is in fact a “hangry” cat, pretty hissy when he’s fed a few hours later than anticipated. He was past two 5.5 oz cans so we began giving him two cans at one visit then one can at another. He began vomiting, and it looked to me as if he’d eaten both cans of food as fast as he could at that feeding time. We adjusted that to getting 13.2 oz. cans and giving him half at one visit and half at another, and that seems to be a good amount and a good schedule.

He is without a doubt the neatest cat I have ever cared for. He liberally uses the litterbox but rarely ever even tracks much litter from it. I didn’t have to replace the low-sided one I grabbed the day we moved him because he never misses. His food is completely eaten and the dish licked clean. He drinks just a little of his water but we add water to his canned food so he gets plenty. Sometimes he’ll pull the cover off his trap when he’s covering things in the box, but he really likes to lie on the top of his trap. At one point he was pulling all the covers off and pulling them into the crate through the bars, but that seemed to be a litter box thing.

For the most part he’s alone down there unless someone is doing laundry. We leave the front of his crate uncovered so he can come out of the trap and look around, even look out a window from there, or go back into his trap if he doesn’t want to face the person who is down there.

Shannon and I both give him treats that he must take from our hands, and while he might hiss, he will stop and take the treat, freeze-dried chicken. He will often engage with a wand toy that has some dangly things on it, but he sits in the back of the crate most of the time we are there.

Hiding behind his trap, not in, not out.
Hiding behind his trap, not in, not out.

But aside from minor interactions he really hasn’t progressed with much sign of socialization. It’s been pretty clear the crate was crowded for him, and with a little more freedom he may loosen up a little more.

Shannon found a crate in someone’s trash that was just a little bent up but was the same size as the one we had, so we put them back to back, laid down the back doors so they were one open space inside, and zip-tied the crates together. Now he has twice as much space, still a little crowded. I placed one of my larger carriers into the back crate with a bed in the bottom and we hope he’ll sleep in there and sit on top of it. We did put his trap back into the front crate with him in it because we didn’t want to give him too much change at once. He has a scratching post, more space for his food and water, and his litterbox is farther toward the front of the crate, plus a crate hammock above it all. We hope to be able to take the trap out of there soon and that he may start to move around more freely and interact more naturally.

When it was all said and done, he stayed in his trap and was kind of in the frozen kitty state. He looked at some spot in front of him, didn’t react to the treat nor to my finger coming through the bars of the trap. When I uncovered him this was what he looked like, and he stayed in that position through the treat offer and us walking around and dropping toys inside. It’s the “frozen cat” state, and he reverts to that whenever things change for him, like when we clean his crate, or when we took him out of it in the trap so we could set up the new crate.

The full view.
The full view.

Behind the pink cover is another entire crate just the same size. We placed a carrier in there with the door blocked open by a scratching post, something new for him. There’s a fluffy bed inside the carrier and a blanket on top so he can sleep in any place he chooses. We also added a crate hammock over his food so he could both choose to use that and to have it as a cover over the food and part of the litterbox. We covered his trap completely before we left and turned the lights out.


Shannon and I both arrived at the same time the next day, late afternoon, and we were so happy to find Smokey in the carrier chilling on the bed in there! No hisses at all, and there were signs he’d gone exploring—some litter on the crate hammock, and some extra-long threads on the sisal cover of the scratching post. We pulled out the trap and put in a cat track scratcher near the litter box so he can use it to clean his paws. He didn’t interact with us, but he always takes a day or two to get over changes, one of the reasons we were so surprised he was in the carrier. We’ll see how he goes from here.

Smokey chilling in the carrier.
Smokey chilling in the carrier.

If he doesn’t start to socialize, Shannon and I both know we can’t keep him in a crate forever. He doesn’t intimidate either of us with his hissing and hesitation to approach us, but neither of us would dream of picking him up, or even reaching over his head to pet his back. Two months from the time we trapped him, with lots of interaction, should be a good test of his willingness to be socialized. If not, he can go to stay with Birgitta where he’ll have his choice of lifestyle.

Would you like to help?

As always, I love being able to help cats this way. My goal is not just to go out and trap the cats, but also to be a good example to others who are following, then give lots of information so that others learn how to do this too, and if they find a cat in a similar circumstance they have an idea what’s entailed, whether it’s TNR or fostering to adopt. Even more than fostering, bringing a cat in from a perilous life outdoors is so rewarding. Of course, it’s also time-consuming and has its expenses, and I’m on a tight budget. Thanks to those of you who have sent donations that paid for spays and neuters and food for Smokey and the ferals we TNRd last month.

If any of my readers would like to help me with expenses like extra food and materials for trapping, or gas money, no small amount when running back and forth to clinics and trapping sites, I would really appreciate it. The car repair I’d mentioned was fixed by my good friend Bill, but I couldn’t afford to register for any vendor events during the year, including the Steel City Kitties Cat Show this weekend. I really have to balance these things, but I can’t let cats to in need when I have the ability to help. You can always buy something from my website I’m always working on new items for cat lovers to give as gifts to others or to themselves. Donations can go to my Paypal address bernadette (at) bernadette-k (dot) com, or you can go to Portraits of Animals and purchase a gift certificate in amounts of $5.00 or more and let me know it’s for me, or whatever else you’d like to do.

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5 thoughts on “An Update on Smokey

  • February 9, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    I don’t know if you guys had a chance to see last night’s update, but Smokey is out of the trap and into the carrier. And Shannon messaged me today that all the catnip toys were in the carrier today and he hopped on top of it to look at her. The scratchers had been used. I’m hoping for the best when I go this evening!

  • February 8, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    smokey; dood, we R sorree yur havin a time a justin…N we hope ya reel eyez thos peepulz iz grate N is ther ta helpz …st francis’s blessings two ewe ! ☺☺♥♥

  • February 8, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    You are doing so much for Smokey; I hope he comes out of his shell. But if not, he’s got a good life ahead of him…because of you!

    • February 9, 2019 at 3:20 pm

      I get a little grumpy about it when I’m in the middle of something and have to leave it, but I’m glad for Shannon who is there every day. In the end, I’m glad I can help him.


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