How to Find Cats in Other People’s Yards

People ask me how I find all of these cats. Sometimes, the cats find me, but once you know where to look, it is unfortunately very easy to find them yourself. Step one is when you see a cat, just follow him, and chances are he will take you straight to his colony.

I travel for work. This week I ended up in downtown Billings, MT. I decided to go for a run, and ended up in a quiet residential area. My run was not going very well because I am not used to the dry heat or the elevation there. So I slowed down and soon enough saw a black cat cross my path. I followed him, and saw him dart into some bushes.

Then he ran across the street and led me straight to a “cat house.”

The Cat House was next to an abandoned house, so I just walked into their yard and immediately saw some more cats. This one led me down a path. He had a collar on and seemed pretty curious about me.

Orange you going to follow me?

Another cat did not want anything to do with me.

This cat was checking me out from the next yard.

The orange cat was clearly the owner of the Cat House and blended right in.


No one was home to talk to about TNR, but these cats were clearly cared for and I can only hope they were spayed and neutered as well.

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Networking for Feral Cats

I was talking to a co-worker who mentioned a friend of hers has “tons” of cats outside on her block. We started talking about TNR, and it turns out her friend lives in one of the zip codes that Tree House Humane Society is helping with their targeted TNR grant.

This friend does not feed the cats because she has a dog that likes to chase them. But everyone else on her block feeds, including the neighbors on both sides of her. I went over there to take a look, and yes, saw at least six cats outside during the late afternoon.

These cats lounge in a beautifully kept garden, are well-fed, and have shelter in the iron works business next door.

Feral cats playing follow the leader.

I am calling these cats the Iron Works Colony.

This is an ideal situation for the cats to breed, and the neighbors estimated there were anywhere from six to fifteen cats in this colony. The cats are fed twice a day, by multiple houses, and look quite smug about it, as they should.

Who is hunting who?

Some of the cats are very friendly.

I bet this cat would stay inside once he's fixed.

And they all seem really comfortable.

When are they going to stop talking about us and just give us food?

I hope we can get this colony TNR’ed in time for the winter.

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TLC with TNR

Latte is one of those cats outside that could use a little help. We trapped him last week in the midst of a thunderstorm at the Frontier Colony location. He was neutered and vaccinated immediately, but he also had a visible wound on his back and conjunctivitis.

Latte could use a little TLC.

Tree House’s clinic cleaned his wound and gave him Clavamox antibiotics for a week. He was easy to treat because he ate everything they gave him, and slept a lot. By the end of the week he was getting bored and hissy, which means he was feeling much better. I was happy to see how good he looked when I picked him up to be returned outside – his eyes looked clear, he definitely gained some weight, and his fur looked fluffy.

Can I go back outside now or what?

Latte was hesitant to leave the trap when I returned him, but then he bolted and went straight for an abandoned garage. My next task is to see if I can get access to that garage because it was clear this was part of his home territory, and I bet there are other cats using that space as well. He went in through one entrance, and then poked his head out another to spy on me.

You're STILL here? Um, got any noms?

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If You Feed Them, They Will Come

I met another cat-caring neighbor named Joe this week because he contacted Tree House Humane Society looking for TNR assistance. Tree House introduced us through their Feral Friends network. I was happy to meet Joe because he lives next door to the Frontier Colony, which I TNR’ed in 2009. Tree House admitted two of these cats into their shelter this year. The Frontier Colony is also just one block over from the Peacock Colony. At this point I thought I knew most of the cats in this area, but Joe has been seeing even more.

So far Joe has adopted two other cats from his street, and can not keep taking more in, so we decided to trap in his yard this week. One of the cats we trapped needs to be TNR’ed, but he has an upper respiratory infection and is on antibiotics first. He also has wounds on his back so we’re glad we could give him this much needed medical attention.

We trapped another cat who was already eartipped. We named him Tang and decided to bring him into the clinic for booster shots and to trace the microchip.

It turns out this cat was TNR’ed by me a year ago, six blocks away, for another colony caretaker who free feeds in her garage. I love microchips because they always reveal more pieces to the puzzle. The only thing better would be kitty cameras to really track these cats.

Somehow a year after being TNR’ed Tang made it to Joe’s house, which requires crossing a fairly busy street. Tang has turned out to be incredibly friendly. He head-butts everything, rolls over for belly rubs, and meows for attention. He also eats anything you put in front of him immediately. One can of food after another. Tang is hungry, and probably not used to eating regularly. He has lost weight since he was first TNR’ed. It’s no wonder he traveled across a busy street from one feeder to another.

Tang is available for adoption. Here he is showing his skills in the litterbox and laser vision.

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Neighbors Helping Cats in Their Yards

Callie the kitten was found two blocks away from me. She was actually on the same block as the Rockstar Colony so I’ll have to find out if there are more cats that need to be TNR’ed there. She is underweight with sore paws, so it looks like she was wandering around for awhile. She followed one of my neighbors home, and is available for adoption. Tonight she is resting at Tree House Humane Society’s clinic for vaccinations, spay surgery if needed, and a thorough check-up. As you can see, Callie is very comfortable here and wants to stay inside.

I can get used to this.

Please contact me if you are interested in adopting her. I love to see my neighbors caring for cats in our community!

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Update on the Peacock Colony

Remember Paski, PavPav and Aga, the senior femme felines from the Peacock Colony? They were being fed outside, but the feeder really could not continue trying to care for them. They hung out on the porch railing like monorail cats, and hid under the garage for shelter.

Monorail alley cats.

It turned out that three ladies were already fixed, but had medical issues. Releasing them back outside was not a humane option. With the help of Tree House Humane Society, this little colony found an amazing retirement foster home.

These cats can stay together as a colony, now amidst soft blankets, fuzzy toys and cat towers.

We can stay, right?

Torties are tough. This is how I smile.

They look out of large windows at the wildlife, but no longer have to be a part of it.

Check out our room!

Check out our view!

These cats are not feral. According to Ignatz, the man who has been feeding them for the past five years, these three cats were part of a hoarder house across the street, and were turned out once the hoarder left.

They will stay in their foster home until a new cat sanctuary that is supposed to be open in May can welcome these ladies into retirement.

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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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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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Cat Math

18 cats were trapped in 3 days from the V Colony last week, all from 1 alley 2 blocks from my house.

12 cats were already TNR’ed and eartipped, so 10 were returned back outside, minus 2 that were friendly and admitted to Tree House.

Which means the other 6 cats were TNR’ed. 2 of those cats required antibiotics for URI (upper respiratory infection) and are healthy again.

Out of those 6 cats, 4 were male, and 2 were female. 1 of the females was pregnant.

So what do these numbers mean?

It means ZERO kittens. That alley already has enough cats.

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Catty Wagon

Cats in traps in cars.

Pack ’em up, pack ’em in. Here’s three cats in the Mini being taken to the clinic for their feral cat spa packages. Nine cats left in the Catty Shack. We’re going to try trapping again tonight and then wrap this project up just in time for the weekend.

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