Recommending a Full Service Cat Sitter: Mama Bear Pet Care

Going out of town when you have multiple cats can be stressful. Not only are there pet cats to care for, sometimes with medical needs, but there can also be foster cats, sick feral cats resting in recovery lounge crates, and outdoor cat colonies.


Greer from Mama Bear Pet Care handles all of the above scenarios and then some. She cat sat for me a few times this year now. She has been a cat sitter for 20+ years, worked as a vet tech, and volunteers as a wildlife rehabilitator for Flint Creek Wildlife Center. She doesn’t just cat sit – she also cares for dogs and other pets.


In fact, she is currently pet sitting for a woman fostering a dog and her seven puppies for PAWS Chicago. Here’s Georgia and her one week old puppies. 10580719_507026606100650_7876362716078040356_o

Greer and I met last year when she adopted two former feral colony cats from me. Both of these cats ended up separately in animal control facilities. Their microchips were traced to me and saved their lives.


Louie is now the poster cat for her business. Louie is FIV+. So is his sister here that Greer adopted from Lulu’s Locker Rescue. 1890457_399810490155596_2111904987_o


Emrys is a bit more shy, but he is now also a total house cat. Emrys does not have FIV, and he mingles freely and safely with his cat friends. More and more progressive shelters are adopting this approach. 10365777_10152675473734610_1227857297545773598_n

See? Here they are together. They came from two different colonies with two different feeders a few blocks apart. I like to think they knew each other on the street and are reunited in Greer’s home. IMG_8319

When we were out of town last May I had Zombie Cat isolated and recovering in a feral cat recovery lounge. Here’s what the lounge looks like from the outside. It’s a crate with a Tru-Catch trap attached to it.


You could not touch her, but Zombie Cat was safely inside here and resting with a bed, litter box, food and water.


Zombie Cat is fully feral, and at the time, was in my house very sick with a URI, recovering from dental surgery, and required daily antibiotics. Greer took care of her and offered holistic suggestions from her own experience.


The cats in my yard also got her full attention. Greer kept their feeding stations clean and full of fresh food. While we were gone she gave me updates on their eating habits and who showed up for dinner.


She sent me photos. In fact, all of the photos in this post are taken by her.


Her photos made me smile because it obviously looked like business as usual and the cats barely noticed we were gone.


Bouncy Bear and Dice were still dining together. IMG_8335

Dash checked her out from the Jim Villa. IMG_8336 And Funny Face stayed back on the Feral Villa IMG_8333

Of course Greer didn’t forget my pet cats, Mooha and Mini. Mini is semi-feral and mostly bonded to me, but Mooha loved Greer.


I can’t say enough about Mama Bear Pet Care. Greer cares deeply about animals, and has devoted her life to caring for them in her home, in her work, and as a volunteer.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Lion Cuts for Matted, Long-Haired Colony Cats

Puffy is a very fluffy, long-haired cat that comes to my yard irregularly to feed ever since I TNR’d him in 2013.


This past year he’s been looking fluffier than ever. His long-haired coat is magnificent, but starting to look downright disheveled. He’s not easy to capture on camera – he’s a true feral who only visits at dusk or later. 13055269_810741855696864_4387909218079003248_o

His fur looked out of control, but I had to wait to trap until summer when it is hot enough for him to be shaved. So I zip-tied traps open at the cats’ feeding stations and starting feeding from them to condition the cats to the traps.


It worked like a charm. Last week when I came back from vacation Chicago was nice and hot. I set the traps and quickly trapped Bouncy Bear and Dash by accident. I released them immediately. Eventually Puffy went in very early morning. He looked totally suspicious. IMG_7334

And upon closer examination, I saw I made the right call. His fur was out of control, with huge matts. He looked pretty good, but matts can be very painful – they can be close to and pull on the skin. IMG_7339 IMG_7340

I took Puffy to Roscoe Village Animal Hospital, where I take all the feral cats in traps needing additional medical care.


Obviously, Puffy needed to be sedated for shaving. Since he was there, I asked them to update his vaccinations, and give him an exam. He was treated for fleas, but his ears looked clean. His teeth are surprisingly in good shape, so no dental was needed. And they gave him a full body shave.


Puffy, the Lion Cut King. IMG_7377

Doesn’t he look pleased? IMG_7368

He’s lucky I didn’t get him a dragon cut!


His vet bill was $393. If you’d like to make a donation to help cover his care, you can do so at the PayPal link at the top of this page.

I waited until the end of the day to return him back to my yard. Inexplicably, Funny Face started chasing after him when I returned him. Puffy doesn’t really hang out with the other colony cats here – he’s more solitary.

I finally saw him again here last night for dinner, and was really relieved to see that he was doing well, even if the other cats may be laughing at him. You can see the poof at the end of his lion tail. This time he appeared to be hanging out with Dash. Maybe they’re all making sure he is ok? IMG_7502




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Cats In My Yard are Ready for the Holidays

There’s been a lot going on with the other colonies, but all is quiet with the cats in my yard.


They’ve been out enjoying the fairly mild winter weather. Only Bouncy Bear is around all of the time, because she is obsessed with wet food.  IMG_9480

I left all of the summer flowers out, and the finches are still all over them, looking for seeds. It’s kind of all the same color, so I decorated their yard to bring a little more holiday cheer. I miss green!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New Feralvilla Feeding Station

We added a new Feralvilla Feeding Station for our James’ Gang Colony.


Jim painted and assembled it over the weekend. I can’t thank him enough for his help.


We let it sit outside for a few days so that the cats could get used to it, and then Bouncy Bear jumped right in this morning when I put her breakfast in there. IMG_9203

Even though everything here is under our deck, it’s not waterproof, so this feeding station will help keep the colony cats’ food out of the rain and snow. And they now have a little platform to sit on.


It kind of looks like a little manger. Maybe I’ll try to recreate a nativity scene with cats. IMG_9207

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hyde Park Cats 2015 Calendar Now Available

Hyde Park Cats is a volunteer-run organization that helps cats and kittens in need.


For the past few years they’ve produced a calendar to raise funds for the cats. The 2015 calendar is now available for a suggested price of $10 online or at these locations. hyde park cover I met Hyde Park Cats this year through our Feral Flowers Project at Forget Me Knodt. They bought flowers and attended our Feral Flowers Design Class. Then they asked if they could include a spread of Cats In My Yard for the calendar. Of course I said yes, and am so excited to see our James’ Gang Colony cats Funny Face, Bouncy Bear, Dash, and, of course, Mooha, on their July page.  cats in my yard page

To learn more about Hyde Park Cats, please visit their site, their Facebook page, or email them at [email protected]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fall Feral Garden

Who knew it could be so lush in the fall? Dash posed for me all over the garden. IMG_8797


Bouncy Bear photo bomb.

IMG_8803 IMG_8808

And then the sleet hit. IMG_8809

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Feral Cats in the Fall

Ever since Dice’s death last week the cats in my yard were not acting the same. Although Bouncy Bear was around constantly hoping for wet food, Dash and Funny Face disappeared for awhile. Funny Face was quite bonded to Dice so I worried about him.


This week the colony cats seem to have regrouped and are again around a lot more. Autumn always makes me a bit sad because it also means the end of the garden, but this year I decided to try to embrace the changing season more. The Feral Flowers are trimmed back, the tomatoes are harvested, and I added pumpkins and gourds for decoration.


I also placed an extra straw bale in the  garden. It has turned out to be a big hit – the cats love to lounge on it. IMG_8605

Bouncy Bear falls asleep on it regularly.


Dash is kind of exploring the whole yard again on his own. IMG_8583 IMG_8594 IMG_8664

Funny Face is definitely more skittish again. I still believe he has a secret life outside of my garden, but I’m glad he comes for dinner.  IMG_8617 IMG_8619 IMG_8624

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Feral Flowers Delivery for Tonight’s TNR Fundraiser

The blooms for tonight’s Feral Flowers Design Class and TNR Talk are harvested and ready for delivery. I am so excited to meet everyone tonight at this sold out class at Forget Me Knodt, and celebrate National Feral Cat Day.


Despite the rain, Bouncy Bear kept coming out to see what was going on and what I was doing. Either that or she was just hungry again. IMG_8433

Mooha was having none of it. IMG_8450

Here’s the garden before I started harvesting the flowers. IMG_8447

Everyone will make bouquets using amaranth, catmint, cosmos, goldenrod, zinnias, and other flowers from Janessa’s flower shop. IMG_8457

I really thought this would be the final flower harvest, but there are still a lot of blooms left. This season is very bittersweet for me – I wish the garden could go on. IMG_8458

The catty wagon is filled with flowers again. Thanks to all of you for your support, tonight should be a lot of fun! IMG_8463

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RIP Dice

I took Dice, one of the cats in my yard, to the vet today to be euthanized. We are heartbroken.


Dice was the quintessential feral tom cat. He showed up in my yard at the beginning of 2009, and I trapped him easily and quickly that January. Here he is right after his TNR surgery looking a little rough. DSC03552

That rough look never quite left him, and he pretty much left my yard for awhile for a few years. I would see him randomly throughout the neighborhood, on other blocks.


Until the James Gang Colony started, a few years later in 2012, along with Dash, Funny Face, and Bouncy Bear, and slowly formed an alliance in my yard, as the cats learned to come to me daily for their dinner.


Then Dice flourished with the attention and companionship, and became a healthy, fat, tom cat. Just look at those cheeks. DSC07092

He was always a bit solitary.


Dice seemed to appreciate the meals, accommodations, and companionship with the other colony cats. DSC08181 DSC07485 DSC08492

But many times he preferred to be alone. DSC07217 DSC08267

He was especially tight with Funny Face. The two were always together these past few years. DSC08022 IMG_5053

But this year, after the brutal winter, it was clear that Dice wasn’t the same. He had lost weight, and seemed tired. I re-trapped him and took him to a vet for treatment and a full dental in the spring.


He seemed to bounce back and had a good run this past summer, but he continued to lose weight. I prepared the traps to re-trap him again.


This turned out to be unnecessary. I went out of town last Sunday for work, and when I came back into town the following Friday, I found him laying in my garden, meowing, with black mucus all over his face.


For the first time, he allowed me to touch him. When I got him to the vet, they determined that he basically needed round-the-clock hospitalization. Since he was feral, that was not really an obvious, easy solution.


At this point Dice weighed four pounds. The vet administered fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. We waited to see if he would improve crated in my house. He ate a lot, but barely moved, even to go to the bathroom. I tried to make him comfortable and keep him clean, but it was clear that even though I think he knew I was trying to help him, my presence and being in my house was stressing him out.


Rather than putting him through a lengthy hospital stay and a bunch of invasive tests, we decided to euthanize Dice today. He was the quintessential tom cat again today. He hissed, and then relaxed, and showed us his feral nature, even though he was barely able to move. I think Dice appreciated the love, and he showed us true dignity in facing such a death. His rough face softened and was at peace finally. I’m glad he allowed me to get to know him a little bit these last six years, and I hope I was able to make his life a little bit better during this time.

Dawn says:

Im so sorry, thank you for taking care of Dice all these years

Vanessa says:

Thank you for the kind words, Dawn, and for all that you do for the animals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

It’s Still Summer in the Garden

After a week in Mexico I was pleasantly surprised to find summer is still here in Chicago. The leaves are turning colors, but the feral flowers are in full bloom.


The cats in my yard were regularly fed while we were away, but I think they noticed we were gone. The garden path was littered with feline gifts of rats and a pigeon. Bouncy Bear and Funny Face ran around us in protest when I discovered these gifts, and we disposed of them. The colony cats rarely hunt, so I wondered if these gifts were their way of missing us. Who knows…


But it got me thinking about how the garden is a tiny patch of nature here in a city setting, on a standard Chicago lot.

The zinnias have truly taken over. When you sit in the corner catio, it’s like you’re hiding behind a secret wall of zinnias. IMG_8121

Zillions of zinnias.


They even took over one of the paths.

With the zinnias, came the insects. We have TONS of butterflies. This particular monarch was tagged from Monarch Watch, a group based in Lawrence, Kansas. IMG_8101 The grasshoppers and bees really like the Green Envy zinnias, which were kind of like camouflage for them. My friend across the alley has a bee hive, and the bees were all over the flowers all summer.   IMG_8106

And then of course, there are the cats. Who basically hang out wherever they want.

On the garden path.

IMG_8264 IMG_7819

And the walkway. IMG_7898

In the shade.

And in the sun. IMG_7926 IMG_7924

On the Feral Villa. BouncyBear

And on the fence. IMG_8252

On the deck. IMG_8241

And on the catio.


Except when I’m there. They won’t sit with me. I didn’t even see Jim take these photos. This is my favorite place to blog.

photo 3 photo-8

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *