Category Archives: Smoke the Cat

Halloween Horror–Cats, cats, and more cats!

Calico momma anxious to be fed.

All evidence to the contrary, I have not become the neighborhood “crazy cat lady.” I was horrified to come back from town the other day and see a half dozen cats hanging around my yard. It all started innocently enough. First I must say I have a deep empathy for single moms. Imagine caring for three toddlers while having literally to hunt down every meal.

In previous posts I have written about feeding dry cat food to the Scrub Jays that live around my yard. It started when I observed one momma Jay flying into my kitchen and stealing dry cat food to feed her two squawking fledglings. It is my habit to leave the backdoor open in warm weather to enjoy the cross breeze and it allows my cat, Smoke, to come and go at will.

I decided to facilitate the momma Jay’s efforts and nailed an old tin chicken feeder to the five-foot tall cottonwood stump outside my kitchen window. With a steady food supply, the Scrub Jays not only hung around, they perched on the fence, demanding to be fed. Eventually they broke the bird feeder, but kept coming back so I scattered dried cat food on the ground for them. Not a good idea.

Recently, a scrawny looking calico showed up on my property. I tried to shoo her off but she was persistent. She was sneaking in the house through the open backdoor and licking my cat’s dish clean. Then, a week ago, while taking litter to the trash bin, I spotted a kitten. It immediately ran away. I followed it and spied two more kittens which also scurried off. The kittens explained the persistence of the calico cat and were most likely born under my house. The poor momma cat’s sides were concave in her efforts to feed her small brood. Of course the first thing I did was to put out a dish of food and a bowl of milk.

To my dismay, four more adult feral cats emerged from under my house—an orange tabby, an evil looking almost entirely black calico with a few touches of orange and white, a mostly gray calico with a smidgen of orange, and smallish gray tiger cat that I assumed was a juvenile or young female. I called animal control and was told they don’t pick up healthy animals. The best policy, they said, is to ignore the feral cats and they will probably go away. Too late. Anyway, how does one ignore three little kittens?

That was the first and last time I let the three adult strays have a turn at the feeding dishes. Using a plastic bottle, I sprayed water at them to keep them at bay while the momma and kitties ate. I would make the juvenile wait until they were almost finished before s/he got a taste. My plan was to develop their trust until I could capture the momma, three kittens and the juvenile and take them to a shelter, as they were the most adoptable. Once that was done, I would make other three adult strays very unwelcome with the spray nozzle on the garden hose.

By the end of the week the kittens were climbing up and playing games on that same cottonwood stump. They were just too cute but my own feral cat was not speaking to me, would not even stay in the same room with me.

Smokey is a spoiled feral cat I adopted as a kitten 13 plus years ago primarily to cut down the gopher population that infested my yard. She has been an outstanding hunter but is not a fighter and has been bloodied more than once in altercations with strays. She refuses to go outside while this herd of feral cats is prowling the property.

During the week I have been putting a dish of canned cat food and a bowl of milk into a plastic storage tub that lay on its side on the ground outside my backdoor. Friday morning when the momma, three kittens and small tiger each had all four paws into the storage bin I slapped on the lid and carried them to my truck. I had drilled holes in the top of the bin and all was quiet as we started off down the highway. About three miles down the road, the calico decided she wanted out.

I thought the lid would stay on by itself but the calico popped it and I pulled over and got her shoved back in before she could escape entirely. There was no way I could drive with five cats loose in my cab. I held the lid on with one arm and continued driving but the calico persisted. I turned down a rural road that I knew ended in a cul de sac while acknowledging to myself that these cats would be terrified and traumatized at being housed at a dog pound, that chances of them being adopted were pretty much nil in that they were feral, that the pound charges a hefty fee for adoptions, and that there are plenty of domesticated cats available for no fees whatsoever.

So, I confess, I dumped the momma calico, the three kittens and the tiger cat by a bank of mailboxes at the end of the country road. I knew the momma was a hunter because I had seen her eating a mouse even while I was feeding her morning and evening. I hope someone adopts them, maybe as a Halloween treat for a child. Yes, I feel guilty, but Smokey is obviously pleased. And I have a bit more empathy for people who dump cats out in the country, but I am not feeding any more strays. There would simply be no end to it. I am putting a big board across the access hole to stop critters from getting under my house.

Happy Halloween.

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Feral Ragamuffin

Growing up, I spent summers with my father who operated a sports-fishing boat out of San Clemente, a sleepy little seaside town midway between L.A. and San Diego before former President Nixon put it on the map so-to-speak.

I revisited San Clemente in 2006, at the height of the real estate bubble in California and saw the little adobe house my father used to own for sale for $1.35 million. Apparently most homes in San Clemente were considered worth at least a million dollars at that place in time. It somehow made me proud, that my humble roots were now so valued.

That segues into finding out my feral cat may be a Ragamuffin, which, according to Wikipedia “is an expensive breed, and costs can range from $900 to $1200 per kitten.” It makes sense if you understand that domestic pets are frequently abandoned out in the backcountry by people, rather than paying fees to have the animal(s) put up for adoption and/or put down. One letter of outrage to the editor appeared in the local paper about a mother cat and her litter of kittens being dropped in the river in a wire cage and drowned.

And it makes even more sense when I discovered that the Ragamuffin is an offshoot of a breed introduced in California in the 1960s by Mrs. Ann Baker. She trademarked the name “Ragdoll”, set up her own registry—International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA)—and imposed stringent standards on anyone who wanted to breed or sell cats under that name. In 1994, a second group decided to leave the IRCA and form its own group because of increasingly strict breeding restrictions. Since the name ‘Ragdoll’ was trademarked, the group renamed its stock of Ragdoll cats Ragamuffins.

Ragamuffins are a muscular, heavy breed of cat not reaching full maturity until approximately four years of age. The physical traits of the breed include a rectangular, broad-chested body with shoulders supporting a short neck. The head is a broad, modified wedge with a rounded forehead and a nose dip. Ragamuffins come in all coat colors and patterns. Fur length is slightly longer around the neck and outer edges of the face, resulting in the appearance of a ruff, and increasing in length from the top of the head down through the shoulder blades and back, with the coat on the sides and stomach being medium to medium long. Although the coat is thick and plush, it does not readily mat or clump and is easy to care for. Ragamuffins are bred to be sociable, intelligent, affectionate, cuddly companions that are playful throughout their lives.

That perfectly describes my cat, Smoke, except that she’s feral so I am the only one who sees her sociable, affectionate, cuddly companion side. It’s like finding a wonderful treasure at a yard sale. It’s nice to know, but it doesn’t matter because you have no plans of ever cashing it in.

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Smoke 4: The taste of blue

Blue Jay at Birdfeeder

Hey Smokey – may I call you that? Thanks for being in touch. I think you’re name is real cool. A name can tell you a lot about someone. I knew a cat once called Mouse and she was one messed up pussycat as you can imagine. I think starting your own blog is a fantastic idea. You’ll need to come up with a really catchy title but I’m sure that’ll be no problem for a clever feline like you.
Hasta pronto.
x Isabelle
PS Do bluebirds taste of the colour blue?

Isabelle Gregson, an actress living in the U.K., sent me my very first fan mail via She Writes, bless her heart.

Re: taste of blue

Actually, Isabelle, CJ says they’re blue jays and I ain’t never caught one. You should have heard ‘em yesterday, squawkin’ all over the yard, up in the pine, zipping this way and that, in some kind of noisy mating dance, so loud I couldn’t hardly nap. (Caught my share of sparrows though.) I think ice cream tastes blue, even when it’s white—but I don’t often get ice cream to eat.

CJ said she called her very first cat Kitty Blue. CJ was only five years old and she didn’t name the cat, a farm cat with blue-gray tiger stripes. CJ and her sister dressed Kitty Blue in doll clothes and put her in an old dresser drawer for a bed, then ran off to dinner and forgot her until the following day. Kitty Blue wasn’t blue, she was red-hot steamin’ mad. CJ said they never dressed up Kitty Blue again. Only thing CJ ever puts on me is flea collars and I fight her about that, but then they do work.

Names: Kitty Blue is a cool name, unlike Mouse. (Isabelle is a pretty name.) Calling a cat “Mouse” is like calling a human “Cow.” Cats eat mice, vermin that need to be kept in check. People eat cows, placid bovines raised for beef and milk. Don’t nobody want to be called a Cow (nice as cows are), certainly no female person.

Think on this Mouse: “Thou art the Great Cat, the avenger of the Gods, and the judge of words, and the president of the sovereign chiefs and the governor of the holy Circle; thou art indeed…the Great Cat.” – Inscription on the Royal Tombs at Thebes

Catchy blog titles: Help! I thought “Smoke the Cat” was a catchy title, but it turns out it’s slang for smoking weeds? Why would anyone want to smoke weeds? Why would anyone want to smoke anything? Phew! Got any suggestions for what to call my blog?

xSmoke, the Feral Cat

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Smoke 3: Coon Catchin’ & Dispatchin’

If you look at my picture on my page (click on Smoke the Cat at the top of this page) you will see I am sitting on a window ledge below which is a shelf which CJ hung just last year, thinking I would enjoy the view. I absolutely love it. From here I can spot gophers and mice, which I do, and then I can climb down the ladder on the right (CJ made that ladder cause you can’t just go and buy an old wood ladder anymore she said) and catch them. And I can come right back up and bring them in CJ’s bedroom. This is the part she gets a little freaky about. I don’t get it.

It’s a nice room with a nice smooth white floor so there is no place for them to hide unless they go under her closet door or her bed, but I’m very patient and will sit and wait forever if I know they are hiding from me. But if CJ is in there, she will shoo me right out of the room with all this whoopin’ and hollerin’ like she’s never seen a mouse or a gopher before, a real Fraidy Cat she is

But she only did that stuff (the ladder and the shelf) after she got a washing machine and dryer and closed up the hole in the back wall where I used to come through or go out through. It’s the wall that connects to where the in-law apartment used to be. And where the previous owner had a washing machine connected which is why there were faucets connected at about three feet up.

Used to be a little raccoon would come through there and steal my food. CJ didn’t care except when she left the dry food bag out and they chewed a hole in the corner and about cleaned us out of dry food in one night. It was right next to this big-dog water dish I inherited and they could wash the dry food and then eat it, stupid raccoons. I hate raccoons.

Well, this little guy grew up, real big. So one night, CJ’s son is visiting and he goes outside for a smoke, leaving the backdoor open. In sneaks this great big ol’ raccoon. I didn’t hardly even recognize him. When he comes in I scrunch under the metal cabinet in the corner where I know he can’t get at me (he was a big sucker and they are omnivores). He looked like he weighed about fifty pounds but they have a lot of fur so it’s hard to tell.

So in comes big Mike, a whole lot bigger than that raccoon and he’s standing in the doorway. So what does the raccoon do? He tries to go out the hole in the wall, a hole he just about outgrew when he was still suckin’ up his mama’s milk. In fact when he first got too big, he would climb up and reach through and wave his little hand around, like it was a drive-thru window. But at this moment, he’s all crazy and scared and clearly can’t get out through that little hole, so CJ gets a broom and hands it to Mike who sweeps that coon right out the door. Funniest thing I ever did see.

She should have grabbed her camera—dumb CJ, dumb.

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Smoke 2: ‘Who’s the Rat what Stole the Cheese?’

 I was born under a café, what they call a greasy spoon, where CJ worked part-time as a cook. I knew her voice and sometimes I saw her take out the grease bucket and dump it in the recycling barrel. But I didn’t have nuthin’ to do with her, not even when she brought me here to her house. She said she was allergic to cats but said I could live in the little house and catch gophers that were digging holes all over her yard.

Well, I’ve got to tell you, I’m a born hunter. Must be, because I was just weaned when I came here, although my momma used to catch mice, not difficult living under an old restaurant. They had a cheese rat once. Some guy broke in and stole a whole 10-pound brick of Swiss cheese and the cash register. He couldn’t get the register open and started throwing it on the ground, making enough racket to alert the police if we’d had any.

CJ wanted to write a story about it for the local paper, but the editor said no. The editor said they did not print any bad stories about this little town. Can you imagine? What kind of “news” paper is that I ask you. CJ worked there part-time, too. Like, ‘Who’s the Rat what Stole the Cheese?’ (The kitties know but they ain’t talkin’.) People would love to read that. That’s what sells papers for goodness sakes. CJ said the last owners got run out of town for writin’ something bad about the lumber industry and this editor was scared that could happen to her. Scaredy-cat, sheesh!

Livin’ in that broken down in-law apartment was fine with me. I didn’t want to live with no human anyway. But I was gonna miss my littermates, or so I thought. CJ put down this warm pad covered in flannel, an electric heat pad she said it was. It was awful nice for sleeping on. She left me a bowl of water and dry food and brought wet food every evening. When I heard her coming I would scoot through a space in the wall and hide under the house. But sometimes I wasn’t so fast and she saw me, or I would peek out and see her.

You know what? Curiosity got the better of me and one day I just had to take a look in the kitchen. I could always hear her moving around in there and hear water running and stuff. So I peeked in and what do you think? CJ puts down some fresh chicken livers for me. I ain’t never sayin’ NO to fresh chicken livers. That was kind of it. I moved into the house and I’ve been here ever since.

Did you know that feral cats are willing to adopt a human if you get them young enough and treat them nice? It’s a fact. I got me a pretty good human.

I’ll have more to share on Thursday.

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Smoke the Cat

This is not me. Darn Photoshop. I have my own page. See Smoke the Cat.

Let me say I think this is a bad idea. It’s not mine. Blame it on CJ or Carolyn Barbre or Backcountry Writer, whatever she is calling herself. She’s the one who named me Smoke, not terribly original but then we don’t get to choose our own names, do we?
She say’s it’s because of my long gray fur and she sometimes calls me Smokey. But don’t you even think about it. I hate cute. Cats are not cute. We are regal.

CJ listened to an audio book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, narrated by a dog named Enzo. I hate dogs. She couldn’t stop talking about the wonderful dog story, yuck. So, since she’s been blogging, but found it impossible to personally to blog every day, she’s suggested I fill in, maybe once or twice a week, like say Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m sure I can do at least as well as some slobbering dog.

I’m thirteen, pretty old in cat years and something of an antiquity for feral cats, which is what I am and will always be. Leopards don’t change their spots and feral cats don’t go all mushy for humans. I won’t have no truck with nobody but CJ. When she has guests, I’m gone, outta there, whosh! I have a secret way to get under the house and I won’t come out until the coast is clear.

But sleeping about twenty hours a day is not good for this ol’ girl’s figure. The truth is, I’ve had some interesting things happen in my life too. So as long as nobody comes knocking, I don’t mind sharing.

Think I’ll call it “Smoke the Cat” and maybe with a subtitle of “A memoir of life on the wild side.”

What do you think?

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