The gray cat across the street from Ginna Seese’s Island House apartment was not easy to catch.
Seese’s own cat had recently died, and she hadn’t planned to get another pet. But when she first noticed the gray cat, ‘Smokey Joe,’ among the group of feral cats next to Island House three months ago, she knew she had to get him off the street.
When Seese and a few of her friends put out food for the feral cats, Smokey would eat and then routinely run off across 30th Street.
Seese has been feeding feral cats for years — even before she came to Island House, when she lived in a First Hill neighborhood. MEOW Cat Rescue has provided some of the cat food.
Worried that Smokey could be hit by a car, Seese decided to start feeding the cat on the other side of the road, in the parking lot of the Reporter.
Bedraggled, mangy and in obvious need of veterinary care, Smokey would make his way along the edge of the parking lot, between the curb and hedge of trees — coming when Seese called for him, yet afraid to get too close. A delivery truck entering the alley on the other side of the hedge could send him running, or other passersby. And he had a few critters to contend with over the food: raccoons. On cold, wet nights, Smokey would sometimes seek refuge underneath a parked car.
“Sometimes he would be so hungry — he’d eat two cans, all of it, and then off he’d go,” Seese said.
Seese tried to pick up the cat once, but he scratched her.
Trapping the cat would be the only way to rescue him.
Bundled up against the cold the week after Thanksgiving and leaning on her walker for every step, Seese had help to trap the cat. She and another woman experienced in trapping spent hours waiting, watching, pacing the parking lot from one end to the other — desperately hoping that Smokey would be hungry enough to enter the cage with food inside. As soon as he was trapped, Seese would take him to a veterinarian, get him cleaned up, and bring him home as her own pet.
But it didn’t work. Nothing could be done to make Smokey enter the cage, and Seese realized that wouldn’t be the day. There would be more days, and nights, of crossing the street, setting out cans of food, and hoping that the raccoons would leave the cat alone.
It was the first Friday of December, during the first week of Advent, when the miracle happened.
“It was really just like a miracle,” Seese said. The cat came to her that night and laid down, as if he was simply giving up. Seese picked him up and put him in the basket on her walker, with a towel inside, and closed the lid.
“He didn’t give me any trouble,” Seese said. “He isn’t aggressive at all.”
She then wheeled him across the street and kept him in her apartment over the weekend until she could take him to Island Cats Veterinary Hospital first thing on Monday. The cat knew right away how to use a litter box — someone had previously owned him. At the veterinary clinic, Smokey got his shots and was prescribed antibiotics. The vet determined the cat’s age to be around 2 or 3 years.
As Smokey is settling in and recovering in his new home, he is content to sit in Seese’s lap. But he is still a bit wary of strangers, and when he is shy or spooked, he hides under the bed or the sofa.
Seese postponed her cleaners that first week. When they came later, Seese stayed in her bedroom with the cat, with the door closed, until the vacuuming was finished.
But Smokey has taken to Seese’s daughter, Barbie, who has four cats of her own and, like her mother, feeds and helps strays in her own neighborhood in Snoqualmie.
There are no more feral cats next to Island House at present — the last one, like Smokey, has recently been adopted into a home.
With Smokey curled up on her lap, Seese has received her Christmas gift.
“I was just so pleased that he came to me that night,” she said.