Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Smoke: a rescue of a feral kitten

A friend, Rich, noticed a feral kitten hanging around his yard a couple weeks ago. There’s a managed colony across the street, but of course you wouldn’t expect a kitten to be at a managed colony. The kitten, who Rich began calling Smoke, got friendlier and friendlier, and Rich was determined to rescue him or her.

And today it worked out, and Smoke was trapped.

She or he is in the bathroom of Rich’s place now, a little scared, but not too badly. Rich has another cat already, and it is a one bedroom apartment, so the logistics are not perfect for this kind of rescue, but there are backup plans in place, in case Beanie won’t accept Smoke. Beanie was a street cat himself, before he decided to adopt Rich, and while he’s now an indoor cat, he is still territorial and gets super upset to see cats outside in his territory.

So Rich has some worries about Beanie accepting Smoke.

For now, he’s giving Beanie a lot of attention, he’s keeping them separated, he let Beanie sniff the now Smoke-less trap. So far Beanie is curious but not upset.

There are several challenges, of course, because Smoke is sort of half-tame, but certainly not your average friendly kitten. So Smoke needs to become more comfortable with people, and the introduction to Beanie has to happen as well. And all this in a one bedroom apartment.

Smoke will be going to the vet in the next day or so to get checked out by the vet and spayed or neutered as well, which is the obvious first step.

This is the first experience Rich has had with a feral cat (Beanie doesn’t really count because he became part of Rich’s life when Beanie jumped in the open window one night and curled up to sleep on Rich’s bed), and while he’s read plenty of advice, it always seems best to get advice that is based on the actual situation.

If anyone has some hints or information that might help Rich, Smoke and Beanie, please comment!

smoke, just rescued

smoke, just rescued


18 responses to “Smoke: a rescue of a feral kitten

  1. rich August 4, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks for posting this, we (Beanie, Smoke and I) really appreciate it. Smoke seems to have settled down and is sleeping in his/her litter box and content if I am not in the room. If I enter I get some cries and some pseudo hisses but we talk and she lies back down. Beanie seems so disinterested so far which is a good thing I think. I am pretty certain Smoke hasn’t eaten or drank anything but I am not concerned about that yet.
    I need to see how long before I need to be concerned though. I have done a lot of research but there is more to be done. Lot’s more and I guess I should give you a better picture than a scared cat in a cage in my bathtub.

  2. rich August 4, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I told Deb this in an email but here is an update. I was sitting with Smoke talking to him/her and she was nervous but quiet. Suddenly Beanie cried for food and Smoke cried out and they talked for a few seconds and Smoke was a new cat. Got up and ate, was making bread and rolling around on the shredded newspaper. I also heard purring and Smoke came over and would smell my hand. It was like Beanie told Smoke don’t worry we’ll take care of you and Smoke listened 🙂

  3. johanna August 5, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    So cute!! Well, it sounds like from Rich’s comment that things are looking more promising. I don’t have much experience w/feral kittens, but if it does get to the point where Beanie & Smoke can be introduced to each other, I like the book Cat vs. Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett a lot. It’s got a lot of tips on helping cats in the same home get along — some of them are kind of obvious, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there. It has helped in our household a lot!

  4. Deb August 5, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    johanna, thanks for that recommendation! I hadn’t heard of the book before, but it sounds like a great resource for the next time I need to introduce a new cat into an existing cat household, or know someone who does. Or for someone who has cats that aren’t getting along.

    Sadly Rich found out this afternoon that Smoke has FeLV, so even though Beanie defied all expectations and seemed to be on track to accept Smoke with little to no resistance, it won’t be safe for them to live together. Rich is really upset about this, obviously.

    He is now looking for other homes where there are either no cats or there are already felv cats.

    I’ve also pointed him to angel’s gate, a sanctuary on long island. If anyone knows of any other sanctuaries/safe havens for felv cats, please let us know! Or, if anyone knows a home that could accept a FeLV kitten, please get us in contact with them.

  5. Mary Martin August 5, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Wow, I was just going to recommend that. I have experience with about a dozen feral cats, and none of the stories ended well. What I learned is that many vets will spay or neuter a cat and then test for FeLV or FIP, and promptly recommend euthanasia. So you get a bill for the neutering and then they recommend “destroying” the cat. Emily is an FIP cat and doing well, but every other FIP, FIV and FeLV feral I trapped or accidentally adopted had tumors and was ill was already exhibiting symptoms of disease and contagious (by one way or another). This was all at least 5 years ago, when I had no idea that anyone tried to save these cats–and the vets all told me they couldn’t be around Emily, like ever. Animal Control wouldn’t look for a home for them, as they have plenty of healthy cats who need homes. I tried to find homes, but to no avail. Sometimes I couldn’t even find a foster.

    It’s so sad and it haunts me. I was responsible for the deaths of all of these cats. And from what I now know, maybe a couple of them could have been adopted by people willing to take on the extra care and expense.

    At least Rich has a diagnosis. From what I’ve been told, FeLV cats can live a handful of years without symptoms and can be perfectly happy with their indoor lives for that time.

  6. Deb August 5, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Mary, luckily Rich has a really good vet and they talked to him honestly about the options open to him, and euthanasia was the last resort they listed. The sad thing is that if it was impossible to find a home for Smoke, it wouldn’t be responsible to release her back out into the world either, because FeLV is pretty contagious. I’m not surprised that you were given no information other than that you’d have to euthanize…I think information is getting out more and more that there can be other solutions, but that’s pretty recent…most people still think that if their cat has FIV or FLV or FIP, that euthanasia is the only option.

    From what I’ve read, the FeLV makes them more prone to cancers, but as you said, they can live some good years before coming down with any symptoms. And I’ve also read that if it is in the primary stage, some cats can actually fight it off and essentially be disease free. I’m not sure you could ever be confident of that enough to mingle them with non-felv cats though.

    Rich’s sister has a coworker who has FeLV cats (one actually died just a few weeks ago) so he’s hoping that could be a home for Smoke. Angel’s Gate seems like a good resource as well (they recently took in 24 FIV cats from a breeder-release situation (the breeder was going to euthanize, of course) and actually built a separate little house for those cats) and hopefully can refer to other sanctuaries if they don’t have room themselves.

    It is heart-breaking regardless. Rich had gotten really attached to Smoke, but he’s feeling positive right now that he’ll find Smoke a good situation for whatever remains of her life.

    And as you said, at least Rich has a diagnosis.

  7. rich August 5, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    As Deb said Smoke is a she and older than I thought. The vet thinks she is two or three even though she acts like a kitten and only weighs six pounds.
    Yeah I was real upset earlier and still not thrilled but I feel it will all work out and she will live a happy life somewhere. Sadly it won’t be here 😦
    Yeah my vet is awesome. It is a holistic vet center that my ex-wife used for years. Even though it is an hour drive with no traffic (took almost two today) it is so worth it. She really went over a lot of options and mentioned some homeopathic treatments that seem to show a bunch of promise. Sadly I cannot keep her and work with her since I need to worry about Beanie’s well-being but someone will love her and she will love them.
    Thanks for all of the support.

  8. johanna August 5, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Aw, Rich, I’m sorry to hear that! It sounds like you have some leads on good homes for Smoke–I hope something pans out & she’s able to live in a happy safe home.

    Re: FIV–most rescue groups advocate that FIV cats be adopted out alone (or to homes w/other FIV cats) but I recently learned that this may not be necessary. (I know Smoke has FeLV, I just thought I’d mention it since FIV & other diseases were brought up too as ones that vets recommend euthanasia for.)

  9. Mary Martin August 6, 2008 at 9:17 am

    You said: “I’ve also read that if it is in the primary stage, some cats can actually fight it off and essentially be disease free. I’m not sure you could ever be confident of that enough to mingle them with non-felv cats though.” That’s exactly what happened with Emme. As long as she doesn’t EVER go outside and have contact with other kitties, the neighborhood should be fine.

    However, regarding what johanna said, there’s apparently some kind of genetic predisposition to contracting FIP, and there’s a test to tell if a kitty would be vulnerable to Emme’s FIP. There’s no way I could get another kitty, as FIP would be the LEAST of my problems, but maybe FeLV is similar? (I guess the awesome vet would know that, though.) Maybe it’s worth an ask. Thanks, johanna, for reminding me!

  10. rich August 6, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    My vet did mention that if it was FIV it may be workable to have Beanie with her. But I didn’t go into that because it was not the case.

  11. rich August 9, 2008 at 9:29 am

    So she is becoming tamer and tamer and more and more trusting. She will not let me pick her up be she did crawl into my lap when I was sitting cross-legged on the floor. I was petting her and she got startled and jumped off and took a few steps then came back for more petting. It will take a bit but she is going to make someone a great house cat.
    My sister’s chef is afraid to take her. He had a tough time with his cat that just passed and his other cat is slightly ill. If the other cat passes he will make a clean slate with two healthy kittens. He said the last year has been hard but rewarding and he can’t do it again right now.
    Unfortunately I can’t her and I am having a hard time finding her a home. I have called and emailed over a dozen rescuer/shelters and not one has returned. I posted an ad on PetFinder but individual ads are not searchable and do not have pictures so that is probably useless. I am willing to support her (as much as I can) financially but I can’t do anything if no one returns calls or emails. If anyone has any leads I would greatly appreciate it. She is too sweet to live a life locked in a cage in my bathroom.

  12. Lenn August 15, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Rich, you are so kind. In a world of such rampant evil, these quiet acts of kindness don’t get attention much. They do my heart, and psyche, good.

    I was recently doing a major cleansing of computer files and found an article I saved about this very issue, and how FIV+ kitties don’t necessarily need to stay away from “healthy” kitties.

    I will need a little time to find it. If I can find it still online, I’ll send the link. If not, I can send it as an image file. Would you be able to either post it or send it to Rich, Deb?

  13. Lenn August 15, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    I found it more quickly than I anticipated. It’s originally from Best Friends magazine, but here are 2 links.

    PDF version (javascript must be on):

    HTML version:

  14. rich August 18, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Lenn: Thanks for the info unfortunately Smoke has FeLV not FIV. Some people are mixing FeLV cats but I am not willing to chance it.

  15. Lenn August 19, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Oh, goodness, I didn’t think very hard–I was thinking FeLV was a different name for the same FIV. But FeLV is often called feline leukemia, whereas FIV is called feline AIDS. I don’t know much about how FeLV is spread, but I understand your concern. It’s still great that you working so hard to help this little one. I hope something works out.

  16. Deb August 20, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Lenn and johanna, I wanted to thank you both for the info on FIV! Even though Rich’s Smoke has FeLV, I think it is still really good to get the info out there about FIV, because there are a lot of misconceptions about these dreaded cat diseases.

    And Mary, with the info on FIP as well.

    Rich has found some info on FeLV that leaves some hope – essentially a cat that is born with it might fight it off, and be (it is believed) disease free. There is an additional (and expensive) test that will determine whether it is in the bone marrow. If it is not, Smoke might be one of the lucky ones. But there can be false negatives, apparently. Smoke would have to test negative in the regular test (if I understood correctly) 3 times over the course of a year for her to be considered to be free of the disease.

    There is still not much information on whether they can transmit to other cats at that point, however. Some suggest vaccinating the negative cat and mixing them, but the vaccination itself comes with risk of injection site sarcoma.

    So. It is somewhat positive, but not completely. I know Rich would not be comfortable making the decision to mix them, even if Smoke tests negative, but the good news is that it is a lot easier to adopt out a cat that is expected to live a pretty normal life span, as opposed to just one or two more years.

    Anyway, Rich is awesome for taking care of Smoke, and every day she seems to gain confidence, and shows how much she enjoys attention.

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