Update on the Rockstar Colony

The Rockstar Colony lost their home two years ago. It was torn down and the feeders moved away. This is pretty common – the KFC Colony last month lost their home as we started TNR. You just have to find help for the cats from somewhere else, a lot of times close by.


A neighbor, Christina, down the street from the Rockstar Colony kept feeding the cats, and they naturally moved to her feeding station. I vetted and admitted a friendly cat from there named Babalu into a no-kill shelter for adoption. Some of the other cats disappeared. That is also pretty common with colony cats.


Pepe le Pew was adopted by Christina and became her permanent indoor/outdoor cat. Today I saw him chilling on her front steps. IMG_3859

Christina said he is doing well, and that she actually had to put him on a diet because he’s gained too much weight.


Pepe loves hanging out with his friend Kojak. I’m always floored when I see cats and dogs getting along, especially former alley cats. IMG_3862

Christina also said some of the feeders from the old house actually just moved down the street, and she thinks they may have some new cats they let outside. I’ll have to keep an eye on them and make sure they are spayed/neutered. Most likely we’ll set up traps in Christina’s yard since they visit her feeding station.

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The Rockstar Colony Gets Another Upgrade

This made my day! I jogged by the Rockstar Colony today and saw they now have an outdoor heated water bowl outdoor heated water bowl

Cats need to stay hydrated and it is hard for them to find fresh water to drink outside. The outdoor heated water bowl is a fantastic solution for the winter. I’ve used one for a few years now for my colony cats. You can also use it to keep wet food from freezing.

Cats in my yard are well-fed, warm and TNR'ed.

Cats in my yard are well-fed, warm and TNR’ed.

The Rockstar Colony lost their home a month ago, and the feeder moved away. Another neighbor a few doors away stepped up and is feeding the cats daily and caring for them. They told me that right now only one of the cats is sticking around and using the outdoor cat shelter I gave them, but we think it’s probably because of all the new construction on that street. They also told me they’ve asked the “woman who feeds the birds” to keep an eye out for the cats. I figured out they were talking about the Jose and the Pussycats Colony the next block over. Hopefully the cats will come back once the construction activity dies down.

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The Rockstar Colony Has a New Home!

The caregiver for Kitty Farrell, the tripod cat, read about the Rockstar Colony losing their home. She came by yesterday and dropped off a cat food donation for them! Thank you!

I’m always blown away by how much people care and want to help. By the way, Kitty Farrell is pretty much healed from her hind leg amputation. Today the caregiver is going to start slowly releasing her from the dog crate to see how she will react to being in a bigger room.

The Rockstar Colony is doing well. Their new feeder is feeding about three cats at this point: Pepe, Mama Cass Cat and Cheezburger Cat.

There’s a lot of commotion on their block because of the construction work where their old home used to be. There are already three foundations for new homes put in the ground. I think the rest of the colony migrated permanently towards the Jose and the Pussycats Colony the next block over. We’re not sure where they sleep at night now that they lost their shelter, but I have outdoor cat houses all over the area so hopefully they will figure it out by the time it gets really cold.

The Rockstar Colony’s new feeder also told me all three cats are welcome to stay inside with her! Pepe, now named Lightning because of the white lightning bolt stripe on his front leg, is already taking her up on her offer. It remains to be seen about the other two cats. I’m very excited because I wanted to try to adopt out Pepe Lightning last year since he was so friendly, but the original feeders insisted on keeping all the cats, especially him. It worried me because he was just too friendly for his own good to be outside all the time.

Now Pepe Lightning and his friends gets fed all the time and there’s no confusion about where they belong. I'll have what he's having.

I’ll have what he’s having.


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Update on Babalu, the Friendly Cat from the Rockstar Colony

Babalu is now fully vetted and available for adoption. His paw is now bandage-free and almost healed thanks to all of you who shared his story, and the amazing donations from rescue friends Trudy, Mary, Eliya, Doug, Bonnie, Erica, Rob, Ella, Rhodri, Mari, Dorota, Colin and Dawn! Your generosity helped cover more than half of Babalu’s $900 vet bills.

Whenever I bring in a friendly cat from a colony to foster, I get them fixed, vaccinated, tested, and whatever else they need.  Babalu was clearly comfortable as soon as I bought him inside. He just wanted me to stay and pet him. IMG_1418

He was also clearly hungry. IMG_1316

Normally the cost is around $80-200 per cat after a couple of visits at Tree House’s vet clinic. In Babalu’s case, though, I also brought him in because back paw looked injured. This photo is as close to his back paw as I could get. He did not want to touch it either. It looked infected and filthy. Babalu

At Tree House, Babalu tested FIV+, but other than his paw, he is a healthy cat. They referred him to Dr. Castillo over at North Center Animal Hospital. Dr. Castillo also volunteers his vet services over at Tree House.

Dr. Castillo determined that Babalu would need surgery for the paw. Since Babalu was going to be sedated, he also recommended getting his dental work done. Sedation can be difficult and complicated, so I really wanted to get it done for Babalu all at once to avoid putting him through that again. Your donations made this possible!

Babalu ended up losing just a claw, rather than a toe, thanks to Dr. Castillo’s expertise. His dental work also included getting a few teeth pulled. Regardless, he seemed just fine when I brought him home. He obviously was not pleased with the bandage, but at least he left it on. IMG_1488

In the meantime, Beth and Zac, my amazing, animal-loving, animal-rescuing friends, offered to foster Babalu until he can be adopted or admitted into a no-kill shelter!

Here is Babalu showing off his funny ears and enjoying the ride to Zac and Beth’s house. I’ve never seen a cat enjoy car rides so much, even though all of them so far have only been to the vet. photo (46)

Again, I couldn’t have helped him without all of you!

His feeder said there are a few non-eartipped cats still in his colony, so I’m hoping to continue on with TNR over there soon.

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Rockstar Colony: They’re Feral, They’re Neighborhood-Wide

For a few years now when I ask neighbors if they see cats anywhere, they all seem to mention the same house. This house is famous, with cats partying all over the front lawn, a chihuahua who serves as security, and people hanging out. Introducing: THE ROCKSTAR COLONY (COLony, Colony, colony, ….)!

The cats are a motley crew. Some are already eartipped, although I have no idea who is doing it. An eartipped cat is a universal sign that the cat has been TNR’ed already. One of these eartipped cats looks a lot like the original i can haz cheezburger cat. He’s a total star.

dooood, i haz eartip. wherez teh catnip?

This cat is also already eartipped and very friendly. S/he has distinctive white markings and followed me down the street just wanting to be pet and loved, so I named him Pepe le Pew. He’s the promoter, the one that advertises the Rockstar Colony’s existence the most. He should be adopted and brought inside, but right now I’m working on the TNR part.

I can't get no satisfaction. I want love, food and attention.

Some cats still need to be TNR’ed and are total groupies.
They hang out, fight, wrestle, mosh, drink, eat and practice free love.

Maaaaw, he's picking on me!

Don't need nothing but a good time!

Inside cat wants inside now.

I finally talked to a few of the tenants who feed the cats and they welcomed any help. Basically they were kind of overwhelmed animal lovers. One of the feeders immediately asked if we could fix his pet cat, Fluffy. He thought Fluffy was a female because he always uses the litterbox, and he thought all un-neutered male cats spray the house. Well, it turns out Fluffy is a male cat who likes to keep his indoor space clean. Now he’s neutered and vaccinated. He’s also eartipped just in case because he has a tendency to sneak out against the rules. But now that’s he’s fixed he should stop trying to join the party outside.

Along with Fluffy, I trapped two other cats. Mr. Friendly is a large male who loves the ladies and got the full feral spa treatment: neuter, feline distemper and rabies vaccinations, flea treatment, microchip, and eartip.

He's the one that makes you feel all right.

Mama Cat turned out to be already spayed, so at some point she was an owned cat, but she got the rest of the spa treatment as well. The rest of the rockstars will be done soon, and the party can continue, but it will no longer be underage.

Does this trap make my butt look fat?

Julia! says:

Pepe le Pew rules!

Vanessa says:

Pepe definitely rules! He helped me trap two more cats over there last night.

Nancy Blanchard says:

Your pictures rock! So it’s fitting for the Rockstar colony! Get those animal lovers to make shelters for them too, or maybe they already do?

Vanessa says:

Thank you! No cat shelters there yet, but I’m working on it.

god i love this post – especially the first photo! Anil and I will have to find this rockstar colony and give these cats pets.

Vanessa says:

Thank you! Rockstar colonies are everywhere.

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How to Convert a Feeder into a Cat Colony Caregiver

Joann found the Land Colony last summer in Avondale while we were TNR’ing all over the place there during the height of kitten season.


Margie and her husband, Pepe, were feeding the cats in their yard, and there were just too many. Joann saw several two-month old kittens.

Margie was on board with TNR, but Pepe was not at the time. We moved on to do TNR and foster kittens from several other colonies in Avondale.


We don’t know what happened to those kittens in the photos, but Margie called us a month later because she found yet another sick kitten in her yard. Simon had a URI and was infested with parasites. He was starving and underweight. Obviously he was also super cute and friendly. His rescue was a group effort from all of our friends from start to finish. We fully vetted him at Joann’s vet, our friend Elissa at Rockstar Pets fostered him, and he was eventually admitted into PAWS Chicago’s adoption program.


And then, on another twist of amazing fate, my TNR friend, Trudy O., saw Simon’s story and shared it with her neighbor. Her neighbor adopted Simon along with another kitten together there!

So obviously there were a lot of cats that Maria, Pepe and others were feeding, but we weren’t allowed to TNR yet. We were still in contact with them while we had Simon to let them know everything that was happening, but Pepe still did not want us to trap the cats. Fast forward to last week, six months later, when Kim V. and Nellie J. heard about this colony again because neighbors complained to animal control.


This time, Pepe was more on board with TNR although he still is worried. Kim and Nellie talked to him, Maria, their daughter, and tons of neighbors around the area who all feed the cats. Everyone loves the cats, feeds them, and wants them around to control the rats. No one wants the cats killed. But it’s the same old story – there are just too many of them. Maria and Pepe found kittens dead in their yard this winter, frozen from the low temperatures. They were realizing that they had to do something. Kim and Nellie were now allowed to freely TNR.


Last Friday night they showed up, and trapped 11 cats in just a few hours. They could have trapped at least a dozen more, but they ran out of traps and only had a set number of appointments..


They brought all of the cats to Anti-Cruelty Society for their TNR surgery. A LOT of cats were brought in that day for spay/neuter surgery.

THANK YOU, Nellie and Kim!

They think one of the cats miscarried in the trap before her surgery. Kim saw this when she picked up the trap off of the floor.

Out of the eleven cats, eight cats were female, three cats were male. Two of the female cats were pregnant with ELEVEN kittens total. 


Can you imagine if ALL eight females were pregnant? With those rates, 40-48 kittens would be born there this spring from just this bunch. Not to mention the other females still not trapped. You can see in the photos below Kim and Nellie trapped three tortie cats that night, but they saw at least five more. We all know tortie cats are female.


All eleven cats are currently recovering and doing well in Kim’s recovery space.

TNR and colony care and management doesn’t stop there. Kim and Nellie took it upon themselves to show everyone how to properly care for the cats afterwards. Currently the only shelters the cats have are cardboard boxes with plastic tarps and towels. Kim and Nellie are going to help them provide better shelters.


There are also outdoor electrical outlets so we’re hoping Maria may be able to provide electric outdoor warming bowls for food and water, and perhaps even heating mats for them to lay on. In the meantime Maria has also asked about costs for everything, and is even interested in possibly throwing a fundraiser for the cats. We’ll keep you posted if they do!


Maria has also agreed to register now as a feral cat colony caregiver in compliance with Cook County’s Managed Care of Feral Cats Ordinance.  Kim will be returning the cats there this week, and trapping again. We think once the cats are returned, then EVERYONE there will see how much the cats thrive and are better off with TNR. Kittens won’t be born and dying. The TNR’d cats won’t roam to mate and fight – they will remain to eat in their own territory. Kim is also talking to Maria about establishing set feeding times and a feeding station for the cats so they will all see how many cats they have and how much to feed.


Persistence, patience and follow-through is crucial to not only trapping cats, but also in working with the feeders. Sometimes it can take months and YEARS to get a feeder on board. Communication is key, and sometimes you have to walk away for a bit. There’s always more to be done with people who want your help. And then later you can come back and ask again. We are very excited about this change of heart and hope the momentum continues.






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Rockstar Pets to the Rescue!

Elissa, owner of Rockstar Petsa doggy daycare, has been fostering and socializing Clara and Darren, two kittens we trapped in mid-October.


They were very scared when we first got them and needed human interaction immediately so that they could eventually be adopted out. Elissa has lots of socialization experience and started immediately. I don’t know what we would have done without her. Elissa, you rock!


Patrice took them to her vet a few times because initially they had bloody stool that needed to be taken care of. They also received vaccinations, parasite treatments, tested negative for FIV/FeLV, thorough exams, and boarding until we found Elissa to foster. Clara didn’t gain weight as fast as Darren did at first so there was some concern about that. She is currently on compounded metronidazole. But at this point both of these kittens are doing well and are loving being indoors. As of now Patrice has spent $796 on their vet bills.


The kittens are bonded and love spending time together. IMG_3773

And they have their own unique personalities. Darren is in full-on kitten mode and loves to play and explore. IMG_3785 Clara will pose for you on her terms, and then roll over for belly rubs. IMG_3797

If you would like to meet these kittens and help socialize, please contact me at [email protected]


If you would like to donate to their vetting costs and for other cats that we are currently vetting, you can donate through Paypal at [email protected]


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Introducing the Kitchen Colony

The KFC Colony lost their home. The junkyard they hung out in is cleared out, and no one feeds there anymore.


The good news is that eight adult cats from there were adopted into indoor homes, and the five kittens are still being fostered now by Joann.


The other good news is that Joann found a colony caregiver, Patrice, a few blocks away who has seen some of the remaining cats visiting her feeding station. IMG_3601

The feeding station is located behind a restaurant, off of a bank parking lot. So I called this the Kitchen Colony.


Patrice has been doing TNR at this site since 2004. She doesn’t keep track, but she thinks she has vetted almost 100 cats from here. A lot of the cats were friendly and she found homes for them, and found homes for their kittens. This is unfortunately one of those areas where a lot of people let their intact cats out.


I wasn’t surprised as that was also going on at the junkyard a few blocks away. The Joyce Division Colony is also a few blocks away, and most of those cats were friendly when I did TNR there starting in 2010. Patrice also knew about that colony. She said she had been begging Joyce for years for her to do TNR on the cats. She said Joyce would feed all of them and play with their kittens outside. Again, unfortunately, this is a pretty common scenario. Then she said that one day Joyce told her a woman came by and fixed all of the cats. Obviously that was me, and we couldn’t believe we were finally meeting each other years later. I had always asked Joyce if she ever knew anyone that feeds but she wouldn’t tell me about anyone else. It was so great to connect the dots and finally meet.


The restaurant and bank gave Patrice permission to feed and care for the cats here for years now. The restaurant especially likes the cats because they help keep the rats away. It’s a perfect scenario as they feed right behind their dumpsters, which normally would attract rats because of the food debris.


Patrice also set up shelters at this site under tarps. IMG_3406 IMG_3407

It was a great time to meet Patrice because she was worried about winterizing her shelters even more. I gave her a few new shelters to switch out with the old ones.


Joann and I immediately agreed to help her because the site is pretty overwhelming. Patrice already had three kittens from this site in foster care. There’s a mix of all kinds of cats here, and it’s pretty confusing. Some are already TNR’d. Some are not. Some are friendly. We spotted a pregnant female. There’s a sick black cat that we would like to trap for vetting. There are more kittens.


We set up traps several nights this month at the feeding station, and in people’s yards. IMG_3520 IMG_3540 IMG_3544

We even tried a drop trap one of those nights. Joann was there so often that the bank security guard told her he was going to have her car towed!


So far we have trapped three female cats and two kittens.


Ruby was first. She is the colony ambassador. She is friendly and all of the colony cats pick on her. She kept rubbing up against our legs. IMG_3412


Her ear was already tipped, but because she was not chipped, we have no idea who TNR’d her. Joann fully vetted her at Roscoe Village Animal Hospital for $390 and has been fostering her ever since in her home. She is FIV-/FeLV-. If you are interested in fostering or adopting Ruby, please contact me at [email protected]


Sally was also trapped the same day. She is the mother of the kittens that Patrice already had in foster care. Her TNR and FIV/FeLV test at PAWS Chicago was $41. She tested negative! IMG_3428

Joann tried fostering her indoors as well, because she follows Patrice all around outside.

Sally was miserable at her house, and acted feral. We returned her back outside. It is clear that she is just bonded to Patrice. It’s funny because Sally always spies on us from a safe distance. IMG_3599

But once Patrice is alone, she just follows her. Patrice texted us last night and said she couldn’t take it anymore and crated Sally in her garage. She is trying to see if she can acclimate her indoors.


We also trapped Birdie and her two kittens. Birdie went in one trap, and the two kittens went together in the other trap. Birdie is feral and was TNReturned. Her TNR package and FIV/FeLV test at PAWS was also $41 total and she also tested negative. IMG_3621

Patrice fully vetted and boarded Birdie’s two kittens for $420 at her vet, Family Pet Animal Hospital. Meet Clara and Darren. IMG_3602

My friend Elissa from Rockstar Pets agreed to socialize and foster them. It’s already working. IMG_0164

If you are interested in fostering or adopting Clara or Darren, you can also please contact me at [email protected]  They are FIV-/FeLV- and still need additional vetting.


In the meantime we will continue to TNR this colony!

cat lover says:

I enjoyed reading this wheras I also TNR and feed feral cats. I am in Los Angeles and love my feral cats….they are friendly and have become part of our lives! Thank you for caring for the cats!!!

Vanessa says:

Thanks for the kind words and for all that you do for the cats!

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Networking with Your Neighbors to Help the Outdoor Colony Cats

Relocation for feral cats is very difficult and should be used as a last resort. I’ve managed to avoid it in my area so far by networking with neighbors to find other people to feed the cats when a feeder is no longer able to do so. I’ve written about The Rockstar Colony before, a colony that lost their home, and a new feeder on the same block stepped up to care for them, providing food and shelter, and even adopted one of the cats.


The Eleanor Rigby Colony is another example, as they are on their THIRD home since 2009, also all on the same block. Their previous feeders died, but each time another neighbor stepped up to care for them. People care about the cats much more than you may think. You just have to talk to them and network.


Ingrid H contacted me two weeks ago from Everyblock for advice on finding another colony or another feeder for her TNR’d feral cat, named Veda. She’s been feeding this cat for almost a decade. I was very excited to hear from another person here who did TNR that long ago! I asked to share her story, and she kindly obliged, even providing me with photos.


Ingrid is moving at the end of this month to another state, and she knew she was the only person that fed Veda. She let Veda into her basement during the winter. Veda is pretty feral and not suited to be a full-time indoor cat, though, and Ingrid was worried about what would happen to her when she left. Ingrid initially thought that Veda would have to be relocated elsewhere.


This is Veda.

Veda, Logan Square cat

Veda initially came to Ingrid’s apartment building looking for food. Ingrid fed her, and before long Veda showed up with her kittens.


One of the kittens, Ratso, was adopted out by PAWS Chicago. Ratso, the logan square kitten

Ingrid ended up keeping two of the other kittens.


This is Malvina. Malvina, Logan Square colony And this is Andy. He’s still a scaredy cat that only allows Ingrid to pet him when she’s laying down next to him.

Andy, logan square colony

Obviously Ingrid is going to take these indoor cats with her to her new home, but she was worried about what was going to happen to Veda.


Once Ingrid started talking to her neighbors face to face, she found people willing to help. A neighbor across the street from her said that not only would she continue feeding Veda, she would do it in the same spot Veda was used to! No relocation necessary at all.


Ingrid also just bought a Feral Villa hoping that Veda will use that this winter. I suggested sprinkling some cat nip around it to entire her. Do you have any other suggestions? I love a happy ending.

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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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