Lots of Changes with the Outdoor Cats from the Jose and the Pussycats Colony

Last month there was a lot going on with the Jose and the Pussycats Colony.


Betty diedNoche Nariz disappeared.


And the feeders had bought a pair of Siamese male cats for $1000 from a breeder in Indiana. They keep them indoors, but they weren’t fixed. Luckily I managed to convince them to take them to the vet clinic for free neuter packages. Their names are Ruby 1 and Ruby 2. I called the clinic on their behalf, and showed up to escort the feeders there.


A lot of this was confusing to keep track of because the feeders don’t return my calls – I have to show up in person to talk to them and arrange everything and get updates on the cats. I had no idea they bought those cats a year ago because I never thought to ask about indoor cats, only outdoor ones. There’s also a lot of people involved here – this is a family spread out in three houses.


In the midst of all this, an orange cat had showed up at their feeding station. He was super friendly, and luckily he was already ear tipped.  IMG_8680

Which means he was TNR’d already. I’m pretty sure I’m not the one who did that – I didn’t recognize him. The feeders wanted me to adopt him out, but there was too much going on at the time. I told them to keep feeding, and to keep an eye on him. Maybe I could even find his owner. He was certainly friendly enough.


I went by there again today and one of the family members came out and thanked me for taking the orange cat. I said I didn’t take him. She said that he hasn’t been around anymore. I had to laugh because I only wish it was so easy for me to just “take” cats off the street. So many are friendly and shelters are perpetually full. The shelter has even had multiple staff members at this site for the past few years telling me how friendly all of the cats are. I did manage to foster and adopt out Frostie from there. Fingers crossed that perhaps the orange cat just went home once winter hit, or that another neighbor took it upon themselves to help a cat out. If that’s the case, I’d love to meet them.

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RIP Felix: It’s Up to the Community to Help the Community Cats

Felix was found dying outside a block away from me last summer. A neighbor took a video of him laying in the dirt, slowly dying, and posted on Facebook for “somebody to do something.” It took three days until another neighbor finally scooped him up and took him to Medvet, where he was humanely euthanized.


I did not know any of this until Medvet called me, because they traced his microchip to me. Since he was full of maggots, they thought he was overcome by botfly. There was no way to save him at that point. They were incredibly kind and compassionate on the phone and explained everything they could to me.


I went through my TNR medical records and figured out I TNR’d Felix in March 2013. I called his colony the Stealth Colony because I had set up the trap in an empty lot, just on a hunch.

I had no idea who fed him, and in fact, I thought he may be a neighbor’s indoor/outdoor cat. The funny thing was I was driving down his alley to check on the trap before I went to the clinic with some other trapped cats for TNR, and he ran in front of my car, through the alley, through the empty lot, and straight into the trap. It seems like he thought the trap was a hiding place.  After his TNR, I never really saw him again, except for one time almost two years later. Eventually I “retired” the Stealth Colony in my TNR Case Study.

I then found the original Facebook post because another neighbor told me about it. It was long and convoluted, and eventually taken down, because somebody found it upsetting. It WAS upsetting – it was upsetting to see an animal suffering that people did not help. They did call Animal Control, but AC is totally overwhelmed and underfunded to pick up dying animals in any sort of timely manner. Another neighbor did finally take him to Medvet, and unfortunately I never found out who.


Also in that thread there was several posts from a man named Jose, who was very upset and asking where this cat was, because he was sure he was feeding this cat, among others, in the neighborhood. I couldn’t believe it! I found another cat colony feeder the next block over from me that I hadn’t met before. I immediately contacted him.


Turns out Jose was feeding FOUR ear tipped cats, all from different colonies in our neighborhood.  Including MY Funny Face from MY colony!  Jose calls him Simon, and had names for all of them. Jose and his wife Mary’s dogs died in the fall of 2016. Almost immediately cats started showing up in their yard, and they started feeding them. All were already ear tipped. He now also provides shelters for them.

Although the death of Felix was tragic, it was how I met Jose and Mary, more animal loving neighbors who are caring for the cats. Caring for these cats is a community effort, there is no “service” that’s just going to come and do it for you. And neighbors have stepped up to the challenge – we don’t want to see cats suffering outside needlessly. I wish we could have helped Felix faster, but we’ll keep moving forward and trying.

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Hyde Park Cats 2016 Calendar Now Available – Cats in My Yard Featured for October

We are included again (!!!) in the Hyde Park Cats calendar for 2016.


This highlighted link includes instructions on how to order this calendar from hydeparkcats.org


Every cat in a trap here has a story that deserves to be shared and celebrated, which is pretty much why I started this blog in the first place. Here are their stories:


From left to right, top to bottom:


FIRST ROW, left to right:

Ferret, from the Jose and the Pussycats Colony, TNR’d in February 2012, and still feral and thriving outdoors. She has a cat bed outdoors with fresh, clean blankets every day. IMG01281-20121020-1306

Frostie MacCreamsicle, also from the Jose and the Pussycats Colony, TNR’d in March 2012. He is friendly so I fostered him and he was adopted by my friends, Eliya and Mary.


Whip, the orange cat, is from the Boonie Colony, TNR’d in March 2015. We have not seen him since he was TNReturned outside, but he comes from a very large colony that is fed daily by a feeder who lets the cats in and out of his basement. IMG_0457

I trapped this tabby cat from the Eleanor Rigby Colony in March 2015. I let him go right away – he was already ear tipped but I don’t know who originally TNR’d him. There are multiple feeders on every block in this area. IMG_0655


SECOND ROW, left to right:


Wally, the black cat, from the V Colony, was TNR’d in May 2014. He was very friendly and very sick – the first vet I took him to advised me to euthanize him. I took him to another vet for a second opinion. He tested positive for FeLV, then reversed the test results, and was adopted by my friends Carlin and Kathy in St. Louis. Now over a year later he is still very much alive and thriving in their home. 12212066_868127303256882_1569841162_n

Garfield, the long-haired orange cat from the Armando Colony, was TNR’d in December 2014. I still see him periodically when I visit. IMG_0372

Mala, the black cat, also from the Armando Colony, was TNR’d in December 2014. She was very feral and also returned to Armando’s house once she recovered from her surgery.


Cosmo Moon Eyes, this black and white cat from the Peacock Colony, was TNR’d in August 2014. He is still around and being fed according to his feeder, Ashley, a young girl in junior high who learned all about TNR from this process. IMG_7741


THIRD ROW, left to right:


Mr. Friendly, the brown tabby and white cat from the Rockstar Colony, definitely lived up to his name. He was TNR’d in February 2012 and his feeders wanted to keep him as an indoor/outdoor cat. He was still thriving later that year and I would see him periodically throughout the neighborhood. Unfortunately the following year he was killed by a car. My rescue neighbor and friend Kim found him and gave him a proper burial as he deserved. RIP Mr. Friendly. IMG01278-20121020-1302

None, the grey cat, was the first to be TNR’d from the Chester Colony in March 2015.  none

Joann tried to foster her indoors for a bit, but None turned out to be feral and was ultimately returned outside. Their feeder Chester feeds daily and they have shelter in this garage. IMG_0972

Popcorn, the brown and white tabby from the front yard of my very own colony, James Gang Colony, was TNR’d in September 2014. I named him Popcorn because he kept trying to pop out of the trap and made a mess inside the entire time. He is feral and still visits my front yard feeding station at night, although I have no idea where he goes otherwise. IMG_7992

Apple, also from the Chester Colony, was about five months old when we trapped her and her sister Ava in March 2015. Joann could not bear to put them back outside without trying to socialize them first. She ended up keeping both of these sisters where they are living their lives indoors with her and her other five pet cats. IMG_1076

We can’t wait to get these calendars to distribute as gifts for the holidays!














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Thanks to Eliya and Mary for the Cat Food Donation!

Eliya and Mary adopted Frostie Mac Creamsicle when he showed up in the Jose and the Pussycats Colony in 2013.


Frostie was clearly friendly right away. He also had a head wound that was treated. IMG_0448

His trapping was immortalized forever in this TNR video.


Eliya and Mary donated extra cat food they bought to help Frostie with his food allergies: Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d for Skin/Food Sensitivities, wet and dry food. Please let me know if you know of a colony cat that may have allergy issues and could use this food! IMG_3491

I used the opportunity to visit with all of them. Frostie is quite a lover, and I’m forever grateful to Eliya and Mary for providing him a wonderful home! IMG_3315 IMG_3322

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Another Colony Cat Adopted Off the Street

This cat from the Jose and the Pussycats Colony was officially adopted off the street three months ago. IMG_8680

I ran into one of the feeders today and she told me the good news. She said a woman kept coming by, and because he was so friendly, she wanted to adopt him. The feeder helped wrangle him into her car. She said they run into each other once in awhile and he is now a happy house cat.


Eleven outdoor cats were TNR’d here. The population is now down to about 4-6 cats that feed here regularly. TNR works! I’m always happy to hear about one more cat off the street!


My only hesitation is that I wish they would let me know, as the microchip information should then be transferred to the new adopter. In this case, I am pretty sure I did not TNR this cat – he showed up from another colony – but it is always good to trace the chip and get their paperwork correct so that this cat can always be returned to the correct place. It’s one of the glitches of TNR – there are several cats that I am trying to transfer the chip info to the new adopter.

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Bonded Feral Cats

These two TNR’d cats from the Jose and the Pussycats Colony are constantly together.


Feral or domesticated, cats are social animals that can develop strong bonds to each other, and their caregiver.


I’ve been doing TNR and managing this colony for their feeder since 2011. This feline friendship seems to have developed within the past year or so. It’s become more noticeable to me recently as I was looking through photos, and the fact the colony has gotten smaller. Some cats, including Noche, disappeared. And Betty died.


This grey and black bonded pair eat together. IMG_5336

And they have some mutual territorial agreement with Ferret, the cat on the left. All of these cats are always on the front steps, but Ferret gets a cat bed to herself.


Even with the recent construction of the new steps. IMG_8944

If Ferret leaves, they’ll hang out together in that bed as well. IMG_8766

I think they’re so comfortable now in their territory, that they didn’t even move the other day when I climbed up the stairs to visit the feeders.  IMG_8946

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When a Colony Cat “Disappears”: The Unknown Story of Noche Nariz

These past few weeks there has been a few deaths from the colonies. Dice was euthanized. Betty was found dead in her backyard.


This can be difficult, but at least we know what happened to these cats.


One of the hardest things for a feral cat colony caregiver to deal with is the “unknown.” It really sucks when a cat “disappears.”


Of course, that is part of being a caregiver. Cats disappear sometimes, and all you can do is hope that perhaps the cat was scooped up and adopted indoors by another person (yeah, that sounds like a fantasy, but sometimes, the TNR’d, ear tipped cats show up later with a collar on), or, more likely, if they died, there was little unnecessary suffering involved.


It’s one of the reasons that I will never understand how people can let their pet cats in and out, especially in a heavy urban environment such as Chicago, where pretty much anything can happen. Once a cat leaves their property, they are fair game, legally and realistically. Cats can get poisoned, hit by cars, claimed without recourse by another person, tortured, or just wander off forever. Cats who are socialized to humans are especially susceptible to such danger. Feral cats are more savvy, as the adult ones outside are truly the fittest and strongest from their litters. They know the streets and know to be wary of danger. After all, they’ve made it this far. The outdoors are their true home and they know how to navigate it and survive.


Noche Nariz was a black and white cat with a distinctive black nose from the Jose and the Pussycats Colony, the same colony where Betty was from.


This colony is mostly made up of TNR’d black cats, so cats like him and Betty were very visible from the start.  photo (52)

Noche hung out on Maria’s steps ever since I TNR’d him in 2010, waiting for dinner. IMG_2436

I wouldn’t call him friendly, exactly, but he was acclimated to his territory at Maria’s house, and the three other houses next door where the rest of her family and neighbors live who also feed the cats. He did not flinch or move from his hangouts when you passed him on the sidewalk. Instead, he would pose beautifully.


During the winter, he was one of the few cats from the colony that actually used the outdoor cat shelters his feeders made for him in their backyard. IMG_3257

When I was talking to Maria and her family about Betty, I asked about Noche because I hadn’t seen him since the spring, after the polar vortex. Maria admitted to me she also hadn’t seen him, and had no idea what happened to him.


It kills me how many cats here seemed to make it past last year’s terrible winter, but then got sick, perished, or “disappeared,” by the time spring arrived.


There is a chance that perhaps Noche was scooped up and adopted by a neighbor that he may have bonded to. He had a tendency to hang out by people’s front doors, but so far I have no idea.  IMG_1094


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RIP Betty

I TNR’d Betty from the Jose and the Pussycats Colony in February 2012. Most of this colony feeds and hangs out on the front porch. Betty lived all by herself on the back porch, and I was told she was a mama cat many times before her TNR. In fact, two of her daughters were living inside with her feeders. We took her daughters to the clinic to be spayed as well.


Betty was very feral, very old, and very deaf. The feeders think she lived in their backyard for the last fifteen years. She would not interact with any of the other cats in the colony. IMG00700-20120202-0926

Because of her deafness, I was able to get up close and see that she was sick. And that she had the most AMAZING amount of fur.  DSC07148

It took me three days to trap her. I spent hours in her feeder’s kitchen, watching the trap. This is a terrible photo, but this is what she did most of the time while I was waiting. She just hung out on top of the trap. It made me laugh so much, even though I was so desperate to get her, because she was so sick and congested.  And her coat is so crazy looking – it made her look huge, like a raccoon. mobydick_ontropoftrap

When I finally trapped her, she was on antibiotics for over a week before her spay surgery. She looked much better afterwards. Her tongue was always out, so obviously she needed a dental, but she tested negative for FIV/FeLV, and seemed to recover fairly well. DSC07253 I had grand plans of adopting her inside because she was so different looking, and her deafness and age made me think she was too vulnerable to be outside. Plus, frankly, the conditions she was living in the back porch were filthy, no matter how much I talked to the feeders, or offered to clean up. In fact, a lot of things about this colony were a mess, but I want to tell Betty’s story now, and not dwell on things that can’t be changed. When I brought back Betty after being recovered for two weeks, the feeders did not want her back. They had thought I took her away permanently. It was actually kind of a fight, but there was nowhere else for her to go.  It was so strange, though, because they immediately brought her food. They really do care about these cats, and allowed me to vet all of their indoor and outdoor cats without objection, and would even try to help with trapping. They fed wet and dry food multiple times a day, provided shelter for the colony on their front and back porches, and would never accept cat food donations from me. I would periodically bring clean outdoor clean shelters for her. But Betty was very feral, and would even snub the shelters I brought for her preferred old blankets.


This is the time of year where I clean out all of the shelters for the feeders. When I cleaned out Betty’s shelter two weeks ago, I could see she was very matted and congested again. I wasn’t sure if I should start trapping her immediately for treatment, because at this time of year she could not be shaved. She needed her fur for the winter.


I just stopped by the house today and the feeders told me they found Betty dead outside last week in the backyard. They always answer the door when I go there, but I can never get them to call me, even for something like this. I would’ve taken her immediately to the vet had I known, but who knows if she would have wanted that. I hope Betty died peacefully on her own terms, as a truly feral cat.  DSC07301

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Running Around to Help the Animals

It’s glorious outside today so I went for a run. As much as I try to do this, I’m still out of shape because I keep getting sidetracked. I stop to take a look at every cat I see, and talk to neighbors about spaying and neutering their animals.

Today’s run was productive and fun, although I didn’t get very far.

Every colony cat I saw was ear-tipped. That always makes me happy. These two cats from the Jose and the Pussycats Colony were enjoying their daily breakfast buffet. Jose and the Pussycats lunch

Then I saw this cat lounging. photo-5

I’ve seen him outside before and talked to his owners. They let him in and out. A woman came out to see why I was taking photos and we had a good discussion about neutering him. She opened up more to me once she realized we were neighbors, and was interested in getting low-cost vet care for him. I’m going to leave more information in her mailbox.

And then I found a perfectly good pet carrier being thrown out. These cost around $20 new. It just obviously needs to be cleaned. Today turned out to be a great day for a run! found pet carrier


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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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