Mel, a Dumped Pet Cat, Gets TNR’d and Finds Another Home

Back in April we helped Katarina find her lost declawed pet cat, Nico. Another neighbor, Steve, eventually found Nico on his property.


In the meantime we TNR’d two other cats while we set out traps for Nico.


One of those cats was Bailey.  img_5276

I wasn’t surprised to trap these other cats. There are a lot of colonies in this area that I TNR’d and helped vet cats from, including the Cell Phones Colony and the Creole Colony, a hoarder home that has intact cats going in and out of constantly.


Bailey seemed friendly, but he was scared stiff and would not move, so we returned him outside. Then in July, I got a call from a vet tracing Bailey’s microchip to me, who said Bailey was brought in with a wound on his leg.


The person who brought Bailey to the vet was Steve, the man who found Nico!


Steve took care of all of the vet bills for Bailey. He called Bailey, Mel, and said he has been hanging out in his yard since last winter. We think we now know which house Mel came from and those neighbors left him when they moved, but Mel was acting feral at first. Steve had been trying to TNR him also, but then Mel showed up with the tell-tale ear tip from when we TNR’d him. And as the hormones left his body from being neutered, Mel became more and more friendly.


Really friendly. Check him out in Steve’s gorgeous outdoor patio.  img_7998 img_8006

And as you can see, Mel’s white coat is now whiter than ever. img_8003

Mel hung out with Steve’s two black colony cats, although they didn’t all exactly get along. img_8004

The difference was that Mel now allowed Steve to handle him. img_8001

So Steve asked around and eventually found Mel a home with two other friends, where he continues to do well and enjoys being back indoors. Thank you for all that you do, Steve! img_8839

I’m so grateful to have met yet another animal-loving neighbor! TNR is all about networking with your neighbors to help the community cats, and microchipping helps even more. Otherwise I would never have know what happened to Bailey, aka Mel.



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Introducing the Boonie Colony

Melissa has done TNR all around this area for years. She’s moved apartments a few times here and finds cats at each location. We’ve worked on TNR together near the Cell Phones Colony. Her sister has adopted a few cats from there. IMG_0282

Even though Melissa no longer lives there, she visits almost daily and replenishes the food and water for the colony in this feeding station.


It’s really cool – that feeding station has been in the alley for months and no one messes with it.


When Melissa moved to her latest apartment she noticed a lot of cats outside. That’s how we found the Armando Colony, just a few doors down from her. Along with our friend Heather, we TNReturned and rescued 18 cats and kittens so far from that location.


But there were still more cats coming around to Melissa’s yard, so for several nights this month we set up traps. Melissa doesn’t even feed, but the cats came anyways. We have since determined there is another colony up the block, but so far the feeder is not compliant.


We have TNR’d five cats now from Melissa’s yard. I call this the Boonie Colony, named after one of Melissa’s pit bulls. The amazing thing about Melissa is that she is actually a dog person, and volunteers all the time at Chicago Animal Care and Control. But she also of course cares for all animals, and believes in TNR.


One of the cats we trapped was already ear tipped. She looked good, so we released her immediately. This is just the third all-white cat I’ve ever come across outside in over a decade of TNR. IMG_0485

The rest of the five cats we trapped were all male and taken to the clinic for their TNR spa package.


Boonie was the first cat we trapped. Obviously he was named after Melissa’s dog, and I consider him the mascot of this colony. He had a broken canine, but is healthy and now neutered. IMG_0384

He had a lot of great poses, so Jim made a gif.


TNR is good. Yes!


When we trapped Donut, we could see he is obviously friendly, and also had a very, very tight, frayed old collar around his neck. IMG_0414 IMG_0432 He was neutered at the clinic, tested negative for FIV/FeLV, and we did not ear tip him. Heather was able to get him admitted into Felines & Canines, Inc. for adoption into an indoor home. Here he is in their isolation room. IMG_0482

Spaulding is another brown tabby that we trapped. He also had a broken canine, and was treated for nasal discharge. IMG_0466  Whip is another very healthy orange boy, also now TNR’d. IMG_0584

Scruffles is a grey boy with a big old wound on his head. IMG_0572

The wound was cleaned and treated, and he was TNR’d without further problems. IMG_0604

We’ll keep trapping at this location to see what other cats show up. Thanks for all that you do, Melissa!

Barb G says:

I assume the little tag on Donut’s tight collar wasn’t useful in helping finding his owners? No microchip? Hope he finds a new home!

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Tips for Re-trapping TNR’d Cats

My friend Melissa did TNR on her block and cared for a colony for years. Her colony was the next block over from the Cell Phones Colony, and she even adopted out a cat from there.


Recently, however, Melissa moved a few miles away. She still checks up on and feeds the original colony. She has now been trying to re-trap two bonded cats from there, one of which is very friendly to her. She managed to re-trap the very friendly cat, and is acclimating her inside for permanent adoption. The cat’s bonded buddy is still outside at the old location, despite her best efforts. Melissa has spent several nights setting a trap and watching for hours from her car. So far no luck on getting the second cat.


I really admire Melissa’s patience and diligence in caring for this colony. This is a unique situation, and acclimating cats to be re-trapped is not the easiest thing. I usually only re-trap a cat because they require some sort of medical care, and it can be a very long, frustrating wait game. I zip-tie the traps open, and feed regularly from them until the cats are acclimated to them.


Another TNR friend, Heather, is now helping Melissa re-trap the cat, and of course they will also TNR any new cats should they show up in the traps. I met with Melissa and Heather yesterday to see their set-up, and bring supplies. Heather’s acclimation system pulled up all of the tricks: multiple trap sizes, zip-tied open, filled with yummy food that will be changed often, with a small cloth that was rubbed on the other colony cat for scent, and since it was so cold and snowing, the traps were lined with straw and covered with a tarp weighted down by bricks.


The plan is that Melissa will refresh the food regularly for the next few days, until she’s sure the cats are comfortable eating from them, and then set the traps to see if they can at least get the cat she is looking for. Fingers crossed that this will work this week.

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Trap-Neuter-Return Case Study: 55% Reduction in Outdoor Colony Cats Since 2007

When I first started TNR’ing cats in my yard in 2004 I had no idea how many outdoor cats there were. I did not know what a colony was and I did not even feed cats outside.

In 2007 I registered as a Colony Cat Caregiver in compliance with Cook County’s Managed Care of Feral Cats Ordinance. I kept track of the number of cats that I trapped and took to low-cost vet clinics to be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, ear tipped and micro-chipped to me for identification.

In 2008 I started reaching out to other feeders and caregivers in my area, and helped TNR their colonies as well. In all, I discovered eighteen other sites where cats were being fed. The cats here crossover into other colonies and feeding stations, but are more or less contained within this one city block because of the busy main streets that border on all sides.

153 cats here were TNR’d during this time. Out of that total, 70 TNR’d cats remain outside in managed colonies where they are provided with food and water, medical care, and shelter. The rest of the cats were either adopted out, admitted into no-kill shelters, died, euthanized because of terminal illness or injury, or disappeared from the area.

TNR works. How many more cats would be outside here if none of them were spayed/neutered?

Feral-Cat-Map-2013-Final Here’s a look at the nineteen colonies up close and when TNR started for each of them. The cats in my yard are called the James’ Gang Colony.

TNR Colony Population
Colony Name TNR Start Date Total Cats Spayed / Neutered Colony Cats 2013
Bonita Colony 3/1/2011 3 0
Eleanor Rigby Colony 12/17/2008 18 3
Frontier Colony 11/22/2009 11 2
Garage Band Colony 10/13/2009 8 6
Ginger Colony 7/15/2013 1 1
James’ Gang Colony 1/29/2007 21 5
Jose and the Pussycats Colony 4/5/2010 11 5
La Vida Lydia Colony 4/10/2012 1 3
Little Sister Colony 11/3/2010 11 8
Major Tomcat Colony 3/1/2012 4 6
Marta Volta Colony 7/1/2010 3 0
Martino Awesome Colony 11/24/2009 7 0
Mother Colony 12/1/2010 7 2
Peacock Colony 2/1/2012 3 0
Ricky Martino Colony 4/16/2010 6 6
Rockstar Colony 2/6/2012 8 3
Stealth Colony 3/26/2013 1 0
Thompson Twins Colony 12/1/2012 4 5
V Colony 10/27/2010 25 15
Totals 153 70

I am also working on TNR in areas that are further from me, which I call Satellite Colonies because they currently have one feeder and area that they stay in.

TNR Satellite Colony Population
Colony Name TNR Start Date Total Cats Spayed / Neutered Colony Cats 2013
Cell Phones Colony 7/1/2012 11 13
Iron Works Colony 10/15/2012 8 6
Joyce Division Colony 11/3/2010 10 5
Totals 29 24

I started this blog almost two years ago to chronicle the lives of these cats and show how TNR is working to reduce their overall population humanely and safely. The colony names are listed on the right and each have their own photos and stories. Almost all of the colony cat populations have been reduced. Colony management is ongoing and crucial to the success of TNR, otherwise the numbers will increase again when new unaltered cats show up to feed and breed.

Thank you all for your continued support! Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how together we can continue helping even more cats this year.

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Cat House Factory

My garage is currently a factory for making new outdoor cat shelters and cleaning out the old ones. Because of TNR, the population of outdoor cats in my colonies is decreasing, and I am able to consolidate some of their former shelters and move them into different areas.  Cat house factory

I donated some of the shelters to the Cell Phones Colony, because they didn’t have any to begin with. They are now keeping the cats warm in the auto lot. I’ll have to update more on that soon – there are now 11 TNR’d cats there!

Today I’m excited to go and help trap cats for a targeted TNR project with Chicago TNR on the southside. Any cats we trap will be taken to PAWS Chicago’s low-cost vet clinic. I’m donating Rubbermaid bin feeding stations and hopefully I can feed some ear tipped and TNR’d cats while I’m there.

These feeding stations are easy to make. I used bins that were missing the tops and couldn’t be used to make a cat shelter. Instead of throwing them out, you just turn them upside down and cut a hole large enough for a cat to feed in there. It protects the food and cats from the rain and snow. easy feeding station

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Thank You for Your Support & Donations to Help Colony Cats!

A feral cat colony caregiver surprised me this week by signing up for scheduled monthly donations for the cats through Paypal.

THANK YOU! If you are interested in donating, there is a Paypal link on the right hand side of this page.

All donations are used to trap-neuter-return and continue to care for the colony cats by providing them food, shelter and medical care when needed. My current project is trying to finish TNR for the Cell Phones Colony. I am hoping they will come out to the baited Tru-Catch traps more readily now that it’s getting colder outside. People tend to forget to feed cats outside during winter because they are staying out of the cold. And the cats are hungrier than ever during these months.

This is how I managed to TNR the Eleanor Rigby Colony. Even during a snowstorm, the cats came out immediately to check out the traps baited with canned fish in oil.

Barbs says:

Even $10 a month, while it seems like a pittance, can go a long way. I’ve been looking at “frugal” ways to entice and maintain the ferals, and things like tuna in oil, or sardines, or even the salmon cat food from Aldi, at under $.40 a can, can go a long way, for either trapping or caretaking of TNR ferals. In a perfect world, ALL the kitties would have fresh fish every day! But if the cheap stuff isn’t perfect, it will keep them alive, and their tummies filled. We do the best we can…
If you “think globally, act locally”, you can see that supporting your local TNR folks is a good thing to do!

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Conditioning Cats to Feed in a Different Place

We’re still trying to talk to the main feeder who won’t cooperate with TNR for the Cell Phones Colony, but in the meantime we can move ahead and do it anyway without him. Unfortunately he also lets these cats in and out of his home but there’s not much we can do about that for now.

The auto repair shop next door is happy to let us trap in their lot. The cats are all over the cars there – check out the paw prints! cat paws on cars

We saw a bunch of cats hanging out underneath the tarps there. It’s the perfect cover for them. shelter in auto repair shop The lot owners agreed to feed daily there to entice the cats to stay and expect food. Once we’re ready, we will stop feeding for a day or two, set traps baited with canned fish, and see if we can get the remaining cats that still need to be fixed and vaccinated.

It was hard to see what was going on under the tarps. The cats had already been fed that day, but we put out some tuna in the alley to could get a closer look at some of them. It wasn’t quite clear if they were ear tipped or not, but they were definitely related. cats in the cell phones alley Now that it’s colder it might be easier to trap there because there is less food being left out in the alleys. The main feeder doesn’t have his door open anymore and is staying inside. The cats are less visible when it’s cold and people don’t want to go outside to feed them. We’re going to try to use all of this to our advantage – my most successful TNR projects have been done in the winter months.


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How to Win Friends and Influence People to Help with TNR

A friend told me that she successfully trapped a cat over the weekend, and Tree House’s BVDM Mac Lean Spay/Neuter Clinic informed her the cat was already microchipped and neutered last year. My friend lives a block from The Cell Phones Colony. This cat colony is much harder to TNR because of opposition from the main feeder and is an ongoing project.

Last year I joined Tree House staff in that alley and we managed to trap some cats because we had the cooperation from the staff of the auto lot next to the colony. But the colony mostly hangs out on the main feeder’s property. He is an elderly man who feeds diligently so we could not get all of the cats because they were not hungry enough to go in the humane Tru-Catch traps. At one point the man became enraged and threw out a trap. He would not listen to us or agree to TNR. His family that also lived there tried to talk to him, but would not go against his wishes.

There was another woman a few doors down who also fed the cats and disagreed with trapping and fixing them because she insisted we were not bringing the cats back. She wanted all of the cats there and for them to keep reproducing and catching the rats.

The project was at a standstill.

I’ve kept my eye on that alley ever since and when I was jogging through a month ago I saw what I thought was a dead kitten on the main feeder’s property.  kitten on deck You can’t tell from the photo, but there’s a wrought iron gate in the way. I threw a few stones to try to get the kitten’s attention, and it became obvious that he was sick. He was lethargic and did not react much to me.  kitten in the sun

The auto lot next door told me there were other sick kittens besides this one, and they agreed again to have traps on their property. I spoke to another relative that lived at the main feeder’s property and it was the same scenario as last year – she agreed the cats needed help, and told me they even found a dead kitten that morning. But it ultimately was up to him.

It was time to resume Trap-Neuter-Return there again regardless.

I brought some traps the next night with two other friends who are experienced trappers and caregivers of TNR’d feral cat colonies. One of them lives a few blocks away. When I picked her up, we drove through her alley and came across some of her colony cats. cats on a dumpster

When we went to The Cell Phones Colony and set up the traps, we were met with opposition from the same woman as last year, along with a few other men who were in a garage hanging out and playing cards.

At first, communication was impossible, as they accused us of being “cat killers.” They did not believe we were going to bring the cats back. When the woman threatened to call the police, I told her she should as their behavior toward us was alarming and I wanted the police there.

That gave her pause.

Free feeding outdoor cats in Chicago is illegal. TNR is not, as there is a Managed Care of Feral Cats Ordinance that protects these cats and the people who care for them.

In the midst of this, we also trapped a cat with a trap we had already set up. The cat actually already had an ear tip, the universal sign that a cat has been TNR’d. We showed the people the ear tip, explained TNR again, and let the cat back out.

They were starting to “get” it.

We pushed even more and started showing them photos of our colony cats on our phones, and how we care for them. Being called a cat killer really hit a nerve with me and I think the people were starting to understand what we were trying to do.

Nevertheless, we decided to leave because there was so much commotion already. The woman told us she also fed the cats around 5pm daily and we said we would be back later that week at that time.

We went back to my friend’s alley and decided to try to TNR there instead. There are already 10 TNR’d cats there, so we accidentally trapped and released a half dozen, but we also trapped three intact cats.

My friend took all three to PAWS Chicago’s Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic to be TNR’d.

When they were ready to be returned after their surgeries, we took all three cats in the traps back to The Cell Phones Colony alley first to show the people there the cats with their brand new ear tips. We showed them the medical paperwork detailing their surgeries and vaccinations.

Now they were asking if we could come back and trap in their alley.

We returned all three cats back to their original alley. There was a bunch of kids hanging out there so we explained everything we were doing to them. We gave them fliers about TNR to give to their parents. One little girl, no more than four years old, told us about her new kitten that wasn’t eating. We asked her where it was and she took us into her home.

There is never a dull moment with this TNR project. TNR requires community effort and cooperation. If you can get your neighbors on board with TNR, it will be much easier to help the cats.

The little girl actually had two kittens. One had some sort of bulge on its side, so we convinced her mother that it needed medical attention. The other kitten was maybe three weeks old and they did not have anything to feed it. We went to Petco to buy some kitten formula for them.

Later that week we went back to The Cell Phones Colony alley to try to trap again. We saw some cats already TNR’d first. TNR'd cats from The Cell Phones colony cat in tree

Then we saw some of the cats hanging out on the main feeder’s property. Unfortunately we did not see the sick tabby kitten anymore.  The Cell Phones Colony on deck This time the woman helped us! She did not feed the cats that day, and helped us bait the traps with their usual food, along with sardines in oil to try to entice them. What a turnaround!

But because we still do not have the cooperation of the elderly man who is their main feeder, we managed to trap just two intact cats, a male and female pair who were also fixed and vaccinated at PAWS Chicago.

Baby Chocobo

Baby Chocobo


Moon Pope

Moon Pope

The rest of the cats were not hungry enough to go in the traps or leave the property. They just watched us. Cell Phones Colony cats After Baby Chocobo and Moon Pope were recovered from their spay/neuter surgeries, we showed the woman again when we returned them outside to their alley.

This woman and her neighbors are now thanking us and trying to help. Unfortunately the elderly man who is the main feeder still will not listen, but we will keep trying. I’m hoping my friends in that area will also keep trapping.




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Can You Hear Me Meow?

When people know you try to help cats, they like to tell you all about the cats that they see. My friends, The Cell Phones, grabbed my attention because they said all the magic words: cats, alley, vacant lot, junkyard, and their neighbor feeds them. Well, really, The Cell Phones FIRST grabbed my attention because they are an incredible band and I am happy to have gotten to know them personally, and am now happy to know they are such caring people to boot.

I needed to see these cats for myself, and as soon as I got there, I saw this one. He’s supposed to be the head of the colony, which is now called The Cell Phones Colony. His name is Sprint.

I got eartip. You got food?

And, he’s already eartipped!!!!

It sounds like some people leave food out for them on a concrete slab in one of the empty lots, but they are also being responsible for the TNR part, which made my day. TNR is obviously becoming more and more common, as it is the proven, most humane way to control the over-population of feral cats.

I took a walk around the block anyways to pass out TNR fliers because this colony is in Tree House’s Targeted TNR Project Grant, and came across this guy:

Can you eartip me now?

He’s not eartipped, but according to one of the building’s tenants, he belongs to someone there. His name is Nextel because he’s going to be fixed next if he’s not already. We’ll be taking a closer look at this neighborhood in the future.

Erica says:

What a fantastic post! I’m caring for a colony in west Logan Square. I’ve posted my blog above. ERICA

Vanessa says:

Great blog, Erica! I’ve added it to the blogroll. We’re neighbors – we should join feline forces one day.

Erica says:

Yes I hope to meet you sometime. I have gotten a little more involved in helping other Tree House TNRers do some trapping and also outreach to get the word out on the new donation for the 2 zip codes. The Petsmart grant expired but there is a new private donation to keep the 60647/51 program going!!!

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