Wally One Year Later

Wally showed up sick in the V Colony last summer. The first vet I took him to told me to euthanize him. The second vet tested him as FeLV+, and told me to give him a chance anyways.


I’m glad I found the second vet and listened to him. Wally ended up beating the odds and a month later his FeLV test results were reversed to negative.


My friends Carlin and Kathy adopted him, and recently sent me these photos. A year later and he’s very much alive and thriving. 12197369_10206369173400647_2038391508_o 12212066_868127303256882_1569841162_n 12204448_10206369182480874_214483782_o 12204845_868127609923518_693912790_n

Kathy gave me the cutest update about Wally: “He hugs me all the time. He loves helping me when I’m on a computer. He just starts falling over to the side so he can take a nap. Missy & Wally have fun together. They love messing with each other. Missy is no longer bored. He looks totally different than when we first got him.”


And in Carlin’s words: “Wally is very healthy (i.e. fat & sassy) – we actually had to start rationing food for the first time, because he just wanted to (still wants to) eat continuously all day long… but we caught it before he became an absolute blimp – thankfully since Kathy works from home, she can keep an eye on that. Also, he likes to do this thing where he conks out on Kathy’s lap, like he gets real sleepy-eyes and starts laying back further and further – but he has to keep one hand on the table – it’s too funny.”


I’d love to visit to see all of them in St Louis sometime.



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Thank You, Carlin and Kathy, for Your Generous Donation, and Helping Me Give Wally a Second Chance!

This week Carlin and Kathy started an automatic monthly payment through Paypal to help the Cats In My Yard. This compassionate couple are great friends of mine, and I can’t thank them enough. You guys rock in so many ways!


I can’t mention Carlin and Kathy without telling the story of Wally, a cat from the V Colony that they adopted from me last summer. I trapped him last May when I was trying to re-trap Zombie Cat, a TNR’d colony cat who was really sick.


Wally looked great.  IMG_5964

I took him to the clinic for his TNR spa treatment, neutering and vaccinating, and recovered him for one night in my garage, during which he ate like crazy and did not respond to me at all. He just sat there politely. IMG_6082

I returned him without incident. It was classic TNR, or so I thought.


He showed up in the colony one month later sick and refusing to leave the yard. He was very skinny now, but he was still eating like crazy. The feeders easily handled him into a trap for me. He was missing large patches of fur from his back and neck.


He also ate like crazy in the trap, and this time he was purring and rubbing all over me. I took him to a full service vet, who literally took one look at him and said he should be euthanized. She said he was jaundiced and severely dehydrated, indicating liver disease, and that he was dying.


I found that diagnosis shocking because of the way he was acting. During this vet visit he was all over us, begging for attention.


I said I needed to think about this some more. I was charged $51.84 for this visit.


I left and started calling around. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I needed to talk to someone else. My TNR friend Erica R. recommended Dr. Silverman with Village West Veterinary.


I called and because of the situation, they told me to come right away.


Dr. Silverman agreed he was jaundiced, and with the missing patches of fur, it indicated haemobartonellosis, a blood disease transmitted by fleas and ticks. This is serious, but Dr. Silverman said that because he was still eating, it was in the early stages and could be treated. I asked to have him tested for FIV and FeLV first.


Wally tested FIV-, but, quoting Dr. S., “very, very faintly, like barely FeLV+.” I said, “Um, isn’t that like saying you’re a little bit pregnant?”


FeLV, feline leukemia, is fatal once a cat is symptomatic, and there’s still a lot of misunderstanding surrounding it. My first colony was a mixture of FIV+ and FeLV+ cats, so I believe it’s not as contagious as they say it is, but I don’t go around testing that theory on purpose. Also, I figured Wally was symptomatic and was indeed dying.


And I had never heard that FeLV can be reversed in grown cats. I had heard that it could happen with tiny kittens, but Wally was estimated to be almost a year old. And again, this was a “faint” positive.


I was a basket case during this visit. I figured I’d indeed end up euthanizing him. Dr. S lobbied hard for him, and said the haemobartonellosis was not a symptom of being FeLV+. He said he would look for a foster if Wally stayed FeLV+. FeLV+ cats are difficult to adopt out, and there are no local no-kill shelters who will admit them.


So, we decided to treat Wally. Mostly because during this visit, he again was all over us purring and rubbing, and did not want to leave my lap.


The vet did a CBC, complete blood count, and obviously his numbers were way off. We were sent home with prednisolone and zeniquen. And I started fostering Wally.


The first week was hard because I still had Zombie Cat in my foster space, who is completely feral, in a crate recovering and getting medications for a chronic Upper Respiratory Infection, URI, and dental (I had her for about six weeks). So I put Wally in another crate at the separate end, and kept things very clean and sterile to avoid transmission of anything between the two of them. After that week, I returned Zombie Cat back to her colony, and let Wally have free reign in the room.


He loved it. IMG_6863

Really loved it. He did not want me to leave him alone in the foster room. I started using the laptop in his room to keep him company. IMG_6893

Two weeks later I brought him back to the vet.


We re-tested him and he was FeLV-.


I could not believe it. Dr. S was right and I saw before my own eyes that this disease could be reversed – we caught him just in time.


His CBC this time was also a lot better, and we were sent home with more prednisolone and zeniquen.


Because he was negative, I started bringing him upstairs in my house, still separate from my pet cats. He loved that also, especially the couch.


Whenever I left his side he would follow me around the house, always at my feet. IMG_7330

During this time Carlin and Kathy decided they wanted to adopt him. They live in St Louis. In mid-August my boyfriend Jim drove Wally to Champaign to meet them half-way. Once Wally was settled in their car, he immediately climbed on Kathy’s lap.


He’s settled in ever since with them and their other pet cat. Whenever I see Carlin he just says that Wally is the best. Saving Wally’s life took about two months of care and fostering, administering medications, a day of driving, and two vet visits that cost $326.42  He deserves it because every life matters. Your donations help support cats like Wally.







Maryann Collins says:

Thanks so much for this, Vanessa. I did not know this was at all possible.

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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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TNR Works: 67% Reduction in Outdoor Cats Since 2007

Here are the numbers:


A total of 177 cats were TNR’d within one square mile since 2007.


59 of those cats remain outside here at 20 colony sites where they are fed and sheltered. Outdoor cat population decreased at 18 of those locations. Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.31.48 AM

Compare that with last year’s numbers of 153 cats TNR’d, and 70 of those cats remaining outside.


TNR works.


Even though 24 more cats were TNR’d here last year, the outdoor cat population decreased overall even more from 2013 to 2014, from 55% to two thirds reduction: 67 percent!


That means only one in three cats remain outside here ever since I started TNR!


How does that work? The majority of the 24 “new” cats from last year were friendly, most likely people’s cats left outside, so they were pulled off the street for adoption. Even though we added one more colony site last year, the Stealer’s Wheel Colony, aka the hoarder/drug house, the majority of those cats were pulled off the site. Out of 16 cats only 3 were TNReturned. The other 13 were admitted into shelters, relocated, or died.


In the meantime, some of the other colony cats, like PatchesClover, Wally, Berto, and Woodrow Whiskers decided to become friendly and were adopted into indoor homes.



And some of the colony cats were euthanized/died. RIP Dice and Betty.

Or the cats disappeared, like Noche Nariz.

We would see even greater reductions in numbers if people stopped leaving their pets outside, or there was no such thing as animal hoarders. Those are things I cannot control, and do not dispute how TNR works, because they really have nothing to do with TNR. TNR is for feral cats, and there have been very, very few “true ferals” here in the past few years. If I have to TNReturn cats here outside, it’s because I cannot find indoor homes for them fast enough. I am also pretty busy caring for the medical needs of these fantastic “legacy” colony cats as they are aging gracefully out there. They are doing well, but older cats sometimes get sick.


The ONLY point of TNR is to reduce the cat population humanely. I can never say it enough. I dream of the day of not seeing cats in every alley. We are getting closer to that reality.


Here’s the case study to illustrate the point: Feral-Cat-Map-2014-Page-1

Feral-Cat-Map-2014-Page-2 If you want to download this case study here’s the pdf:

Feral Cat Map 2014


I also helped people TNR outside of this area. I call these “satellite colonies” and the colony numbers were reduced as well, by more than a third overall. Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.46.17 AM

If you’d like to know more about how TNR works in reducing the outdoor cat populations, please visit Alley Cat Allies, a national organization dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of our nation’s cats. They have a number of case studies conducted nationally of people and organizations doing TNR successfully. I am happy to be included on that list.






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The Costs of Cat Colony Caregiving

There is a lot of invested time, effort and money needed to help the feral cat colonies. But I wanted to share the numbers here to show what can be done, that it’s not impossible, and to thank all of you again so much for your support. Also, I know there are people out there who do so much, and I really encourage everyone to broadcast their rescue work. People do amazing things, and their stories can also inspire others to help more animals.


So, here’s a look at 2014, a year in review, if you will:


Colony medical costs were $2,767.37, for seven cats that I found sick outside.


Cat food and supplies cost $1,579.69


Thank you again to Barb G., Ben M. and Carolyn T., Carlin R. and Kathy M., Dorota Z., Elisa G., Erica R. and Rob J., Greer G., Heather F., Joyce K., Kristina R. and her mom, Linda R., Liz H., Lora M., Niuris R. and family, Rachel and Nick K., Rhodri K., Rob and Candice C., Zac and Beth N. Your Paypal donations totaled $1398.79


Thanks to Janessa and Forget Me Knodt for teaming up on the Feral Flowers Project and selling the flowers I grew in my garden last summer, and for hosting a Feral Flowers Design and TNR Class. Together we raised $1,181.50, and also raised a lot of awareness for the outdoor cats.


Thanks to my friend and bandmate, Julia B., for hosting a Halloween show of rock music, called Feral Fete,  performed by my amazing, animal-loving friends, and donating all proceeds, $702, to Cats In My Yard.


Without donations and fundraising, this would have been so much harder. In total, as of the end of 2014, 177 cats were TNR’d in 20 locations within one square mile here since 2007. There are now 59 cats remaining outside. The other cats were either adopted out, died, or disappeared.


And sometimes the remaining ones get sick, especially now that the colony cats are aging. I believe all animals’ lives matter, whether they are feral or not, and will try to provide any medical care necessary. I want to thank North Center Animal Hospital, Roscoe Village Animal Hospital, and Village West Veterinary for their help, care and compassion in treating cats in traps.


Here’s another look at the cats that your donations and support helped with last year. Please note that some of these images may be distressing to look at.



Munkimo from the Mother Colony showed up at his feeder’s house in obvious distress during a winter storm last February. He was cold, wet, shivering, and there was blood on his back. I easily placed him in a trap and took him for multiple vet visits. His bills totaled $309.55 Munkimo tested FIV+, but he was sick because of an infected bite wound and upper respiratory infection, URI. The skin just peeled off of his back. He had a fever, and his paw pads were black with frostbite. After being crated in my house and treated with antibiotics, he bounced back within a few weeks. But I had to keep him inside crated for almost two months because this was during the Polar Vortex and he still needed the hair on his back to grow. He has been doing fine ever since I returned him.

Zombie Cat

Zombie Cat from the V Colony had sores behind her ears, disheveled fur, labored breathing, and a chronic URI. I trapped her and brought her in for multiple vet visits. She had several rounds of antibiotics and a dental. Her medical bills totaled $518.22 She stayed with me for two months in Feral Cat Recovery Lounge donated to me by Dave H. During this same time it got stressful because I was also treating another feral cat for URI (Sneezy), and then another cat (Wally) came in sick that I ended up treating and fostering because he was also friendly. And I had a planned vacation during this. But it worked out, and even though Zombie Cat still gets sick with URI, she is much better. And definitely doing better outside.


Sneezy from the V Colony was just with me for a week in a recovery Tru-catch trap. He was treated with antibiotics that just cost $10 for his chronic URI. Sneezy was absolutely terrified the entire time, so confinement is extra stressful for him. I had to weigh the stress of that against his overall well-being. He still gets a bit sick outside, and sleeps a lot, but is doing better.


Wally also showed up sick in the V Colony a few weeks after his TNR. He turned out to be incredibly friendly, so I ended up fostering him for two months while he was being treated for haemobartonella and taking him to the vet. His medical bills totaled $326.42 He made a full recovery and was adopted by my good friends Carlin and Kathy in St Louis.

Billy Idol

Billy Idol from the V Colony showed up sick while I was fostering Wally. His head was tilted to the side, he meowed nonstop, his eyes were red and had discharge, and he walked in circles. The vet determined that he was suffering possibly from toxoplasmosis and a URI. His medical bills totaled $257.05 Thankfully his feeders were able to treat Billy in a recovery trap for a week with antibiotics and medication. Billy seemed to get better and they let him back out into the colony because he was stressed from the confinement. So far ever since he seems to be doing well.


Dice is from my colony, the James’ Gang Colony, and he got really sick last year. In the spring I trapped and took him to the vet where he was treated for URI, stomatitis, and had 10 teeth pulled with his dental. This seemed to buy him some time, but he was sick again in the fall. He showed up one day and just laid in my yard. He was down to four pounds and the vet thought perhaps he was going into kidney failure. His medical bills totaled $860.03 Also, confinement was incredibly stressful for Dice. He would only eat, and could barely move. Ultimately, after a few days, he was humanely euthanized at the vet’s office. RIP, Dice. My heart still breaks when I think of him. The last photo is from back when he was a healthy, TNR’d colony cat.

Woodrow Whiskers

Woodrow Whiskers from the La Vida Lydia Colony disappeared and then showed up sick at his feeder’s house. She took him in, and he was docile and clearly in distress. He would urinate sporadically. I took him for multiple vet visits where they treated his bladder, did blood tests, and determined he most likely has cystitis. His medical bills totaled $486 He made a full recovery with the antibiotics and medications. He showed his friendly side once he was indoors, so was admitted to a no-kill shelter for adoption.

I’ve got my eye on a few cats I’m concerned about out there, and am busy with the colony cats that decided to show their friendly side. And I have plans to help TNR colonies for other feeders. Onward to 2015!

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