The Feral Villa is Now a Possum Villa

I’ve had the Feral Villa in my yard for years now. The outdoor cats have always loved it, and it’s proven to be so popular in my yard that our band named our last album after it. This year I upgraded the villa and installed an outdoor heating pad. The pads are activated by body weight and the cats love it. All three cat houses now have the pads and I always wanted a photo showing it being used. But this is not quite what I had in mind.

Yesterday I caught Dash, our TNR’d feral grey cat that’s been in our yard since 2007, in the Rubbermaid bin shelter rather than one of our luxe heated cat houses. I laughed to myself and thought “cats want what they want,” and it goes to show how well they brave the elements if he’s going to choose a plastic storage bin over a wood house with a shingled roof. Normally he uses the Feral Villa because that is “his.” He stays apart from the other colony cats, who use the other cat houses together.

I told Jim about it and he also laughed. Then hours later we went out to dinner and he looked at me and said, “I bet that opossum is in the Feral Villa. That’s why Dash wasn’t using it.”

I stared at him for a beat and said, “You think Doggy is in the cat house?”

Jim didn’t know yet that I had named the opossum Doggy so he was completely amused and confused at the same time. We were at a place by our house called Handlebar that has a lot of posters on their walls advertising local rock shows. One of them was for a band called the doggiewoggies, or something like that, so we decided to name the possum Doggy Woggy.

And then we went home and I found out, as always, that Jim was right.

Occupy Feral Villa!

Occupy Feral Villa!

This is Doggy Woggy in the Feral Villa enjoying the black heating pad. You can open the villa from the top. He did not move at all during this, and didn’t even come out when I closed it.

I have no problem with this possum, but he can’t really move in like this. I mean, maybe he can, but I can’t have a possum family in the future. I live on a city lot, and my neighbors all have large dogs. I used to have a raccoon family visit all last summer to raid the garden. To discourage them from staying, my neighbor kept his outdoor lights on all night, played a radio, and I made sure not to leave cat food lying around, so they eventually moved on.

Also, I was feeling really bad for Dash. I felt better this morning, though, because when I opened up the villa I found Dash inside there again. He dashed out like a normal cat (cats don’t care about photo ops!) and glared at me for interrupting his morning nap.

Michelle says:

I love what you are doing , so very kind. Can you tell me where you can get the mats that are heat activated by body weight? They are awesome. I want to do this in my backyard in St. Louis. I have alot of fur babies who I take care of.


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Occupy Feral Villa!

I’m not sure if the James’ Gang Colony is actually protesting anything. But they are definitely, and deliberately, ignoring me here. Dice and Funny Face, the boys on the roof, like to keep an eye on their escape route, while Bouncy Bear snuggles inside and keeps a close watch on their feral cat feeding station. Occupy Feral Villa

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It Takes a Feral Villa

I’ve actually kept up with my new running regime this year. This Chicago winter was probably the best winter ever to start. We have had nothing but great weather, and it is amazing to enjoy the spring now in full bloom. Even the sidewalks look pretty.

Thank you! You look pretty good yourself.

The hardest thing about running in my area is, um, staying on track, so to speak, because I keep getting sidetracked by cat sightings, and meeting other neighbors who are also trying to help the cats. A few weeks ago I actually saw a homemade feral villa on a neighbor’s front porch.

It’s perfect! Does this person TNR, or have feral cats in their yard? I found out yesterday when I ran by and she was sitting on her stoop reading to her kids. It turns out this neighbor used to have a feral kitten living on their block, but the kitten didn’t make it through the winter. Since then she has not seen many more cats but they kept the villa just in case. I’m so happy to have found one more neighbor that wants to help the cats in their yard.

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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

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Feralvilla Paint Job

The Feralvilla is now made out of a new material that they recommend painting.


I always tell everyone about the Feralvilla. We’ve had one in our back yard for years. The cats love it, and for the cost, it is worth every penny because all you have to do is assemble it. Well, and now paint it. The cats love the other outdoor cat shelters Jim made, but the materials he used ended up costing the same as the Feral villa, if not more, plus he had to take a lot of time and tools to make them from scratch.


We just received the new villa for our front yard colony. Jim already painted it! I came home to find the parts drying all around the garage. I can’t wait to assemble it – it’s getting cold outside. IMG_8769




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Feral Cat Colony Maintenance: Treating a Wounded Cat

Neighbors told me they saw kittens in their yard. That in itself is an emergency, so my friend Marta and I set traps all last week.


We scoped out the two locations. These locations were in secure yards, the weather was mild, and there was no set feeding time for the cats. So, we decided to set traps overnight, otherwise known as what I call “stealth trapping.” I’ve done it many times in my area. It is a great way to get cats that you never knew existed in the first place. And on this occasion, it turned out to be a lifesaver for a cat.


One of the locations is in a churchyard. We had the, ahem, pastor’s “blessing” and full access to her secluded yard. Neighbors told us that cats go in and out of her garage. IMG_1504

There’s a gated area next to the garage where we placed traps. IMG_1503


I’ve trapped here before. This church is on the same block as a hoarder/drug house that I worked on for a few years until it was finally shut down last summer by the city. Many of the cats on this block obviously came from that house. But I do believe all of the cats thrown out of that house are now TNR’d, because we never trapped or saw any kittens last week (although I’ll keep trying just in case I’m wrong). All we trapped were ear tipped cats. They were all returned immediately outside.


Except for this big tom cat with a head wound. I named him Iglesio, in honor of the churchyard, or otherwise known as Iggy. He was already ear tipped, but I did not recognize him. IMG_1462

IMG_1470 Roscoe Village Animal Hospital agreed to see him immediately. They are known in the TNR community for treating cats in traps. They treated Woodrow Whiskers for me last winter.


Dr. Harschut explained that the wound was an infected abscess from most likely a cat bite. They sedated Iglesio, thoroughly cleaned and shaved the area, administered pain medication and antibiotics, and graciously gave me a rescue discount. The total cost was $219.


Iglesio looked like this when I came to pick him up later that day. IMG_1485

Unfortunately the wound was now bleeding into his eyes, so the vet also gave me an eye cleaning solution to avoid infection. She said he could be released within 48 hours if all went well.


I set Iglesio up in the feral cat recovery lounge in my house.


The vet had also scanned for a microchip, and gave me his number. I traced it to Tree House, who called the person who TNR’d him. She then called me. Iglesio was the only cat she had ever TNR’d in my neighborhood almost exactly two years ago to the day I re-trapped him. She had trapped him up the street from me, and even named him after the street I live on! She has since moved to Vegas, and did not know who was feeding Iglesio.


Asides from the wound, Iglesio is in good shape, and weighs fourteen pounds. Obviously he has found someone who feeds him regularly. There’s a feeder on almost every block in my neighborhood.


Within the next few days he looked a million times better. Antibiotics are a beautiful thing.  IMG_1574

IMG_1581 IMG_1567

In the meantime, he started showing signs of friendliness. IMG_1552

So I kept him for a few extra days to see if he wanted to stay indoors.


Ultimately Iglesio really likes to be pet, and is very motivated by food. However, once he’s fed, he then clearly was looking to escape the entire time. He was stressed out by the crate and the room he was in. He would hide from me once he finished eating. I decided to return him to the churchyard.


It turned out to be the right decision. He bolted from the trap and ran to a very specific location. I know exactly where to keep an eye out for him should he ever require additional vet care, or if he ever shows that he would want to come indoors permanently. I’ve also transferred his microchip information in my name.


If you’d like to make a donation to help us care for cats like Iglesio, you can donate through Paypal through the link at the top of this page, or through [email protected]






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Growing the Feral Flowers Garden

Once I planted the Feral Flowers Garden it was time to hurry up and wait.


The perennial plants around the Feral Villa were already growing strong. Dice and Funny Face on Feral Villa Dice in the perennials

The cutting flowers garden is all organic and planted straight in the ground from seed. All it took was lots of spring rain, careful weeding and transplanting, and time. So much time that I was pretty impatient.


The colony cats were enjoying the new spring weather and the bare garden didn’t seem to faze them at all.  Dice and Funny Face in the catio Dice on the table Funny Face on the Alley Cat Allies house Dice doing yoga And then, finally, you could see little plants.


Bouncy Bear on Feral Villa


Funny Face and Dice under the chair

Sunflowers! Funny Face in crosswalk

And more! IMG_6707

A LOT more.


The Feral Flowers Garden was well on its way to success.

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Feral Cats Enjoying the Sunshine

Last night the James’ Gang Colony feral cats feasted on holiday ham and chicken. Today they stayed in my yard and followed the sun.

This is how Funny Face checks out the action in the alley while keeping a safe distance.

This is how Funny Face checks out the action in the alley while keeping a safe distance.

Bouncy Bear stayed on the heating pad and near the food in the heated bowls.
Bouncy Bear stayed on the heating pad and near the food in the heated bowls.

Dice sunned himself on the Feral Villa rooftop.

Dice sunned himself on the Feral Villa rooftop.


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The Latest in Feral Fashion: Thick Winter Coats

I thought it was really cold out today, but the James’ Gang Colony stayed true to feral form and were not cooped up in their three heated cat houses. Instead they lounged in the sun all day and showed off their thick winter coats. They only moved when I came out with more wet food for them multiple times. The food froze if they didn’t eat it immediately, so I brought a little bit out all day. They have me trained well.

Dash and Funny Face lounge on the catio even in the winter.

Dash and Funny Face lounge on the catio even in the winter.

Dice even decided to nap on the roof of the Feral Villa, instead of staying in it.

I'm free, I'm feral, I'm not going to stay cooped up all day.

I’m free, I’m feral, I’m not going to stay cooped up all day.

Ear tips and puffy winter coats are always in style for colony cats.

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Hot Guys With Cats

Just because I’m out of town doesn’t mean I stop thinking about the cats. Jim totally understands this, and accepts it for the most part. At this point he gives me updates without me even asking first. These past few weeks have been full of updates from him:


“The Feral Villa has arrived.” Which means he will assemble it. He even suggested we make a video of that. Stay tuned.

“The outdoor heating pad is here.”


Dice ate dinner.”

“Dice didn’t eat dinner but all of the food is gone.” Dice is clearly sick so Jim knows I’m especially worried about him.


Popcorn was eating the food in front. This time he jumped over the fence when he saw me.” Popcorn got his name because he slammed right into the fence once when he saw us, and then wouldn’t stop trying to escape from the trap when I TNR’d him. Popcorn was not injured in both cases, and it sounds like TNR made him smarter.


It’s nice to have someone hold down the feline fort while I’m gone. He also created this web site for me, and does the heavy lifting projects, like cleaning and organizing the feral cat supplies in our garage, and building outdoor cat houses. There’s nothing hotter than a guy with a soft spot for the animals. Our indoor pet cat, Mooha, has learned how to exploit that soft spot to her fullest advantage.


Here they are bonding over their mutual love of cheese. IMG_4165







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