In September 2011, you may remember reading about the prison cat project update. The prison was closing and the inmates and guards asked us to take in the four “friendly” cats that we had TNR'd – Smokey, Bobo, Runt, and Twinkletoes. We were able to get the cats and they were set up in cages at my house while they received parasite meds, etc. After the cats finished their meds, their cage doors were finally opened and they had access to the room, but it took them a while to venture outside the cage – it was all new to them. But the cats the big cat tree in front of the window, and loved it when I cracked both windows in the room so they could get some fresh air.
I shortened Twinkletoe’s name to Twink because Twinkletoes is just not a manly name and it was giving him a complex (which was probably just me projecting that onto him!). Twink and Runt could be picked up without incident but they always seemed to be miserable and honestly had a look on their face like “please, this is not for me, leave me alone”. Bobo could be touched but he would shrink from touch and he would get scared and would rather just wedge himself in someplace and hide. Smokey preferred you leave him alone, thank you very much!
I worked with the cats hoping they would become adoptable and have a nice, cushy, indoor only home. But the cats had other ideas, they truly longed to be outdoors. They wanted freedom, they wanted fresh air.
It was with a heavy heart that I realized they needed barn homes. They were set to go out to barn homes a little over a month ago but Smokey wasn’t feeling well – he was lethargic and would let me pet his head (something he wouldn’t typically let me do before without bodily injury). He let me pick him up and put him in a trap and take him to the vet. I had the vet run full blood panels, exams, etc. Smokey was entrusted to our care and we don’t skimp on medical because the cat is feral/semi-feral. Turns out Smokey had an infection and meds cleared it up. But I held off on relocating for several more weeks because it was important to make sure that Smokey was healthy and doing well before he was relocated.
Saturday, 2/4/12 was a bittersweet day. Six cats were relocated to barn homes and the, prison four were among them.
Thanks to one of our wonderful supporters, two wonderful barn homes were found for the cats. I paired them together in their new barn homes the way they tended to pair up in the room they were in. Bobo and Twink went to one location and Smokey and Runt went to the other. I told Smokey I wouldn’t cry because he could be mean (just a result of being scared, he wasn’t a mean cat) but you know what, it was all I could do to hold back the tears yesterday when I did the relocations. I wondered if I had failed them. I wanted nice indoor homes for them and they got barn homes instead. But you should have seen how happy Smokey was yesterday – even being confined to a large cage in the barn, he could smell the outdoors and was very inquisitive. And he responded really well to Sam’s voice. Of course that makes sense, he was born and raised in a men’s prison – yes there were some women officers/guards there but it was mostly men – he responds to men. I made sure that Smokey went to a barn home that was experienced with feral/semi-feral cats because Smokey might try to make a break for it and it would be devastating if he got out of the cage before the relocation confinement period was up. He needs the confinement time to get to know his new surroundings and people and understand that it is his new home and he will be well taken care of there.
I wanted to kiss them all goodbye but they wouldn’t let me. As I said, I wanted indoor homes with soft beds for the cats, but they had other ideas. So yes, I did cry. I cried because even though they didn’t get a big king-sized bed to sleep in every night, and with the stress of a relocation, the prison four seemed happy yesterday. And that is what I wanted for them – happiness. I just had to come to realize that my idea of the home they needed was not the home they wanted. So they will have a happily ever after ending – just not the one I envisioned.
Smokey, Bobo, Runt, and Twink – I love you (yes, even you Smokey even though I really think you despised me). Enjoy the fresh air and your freedom. But remember, you have people that love and care for you and always will. And I look forward to getting updates on the cats.