My Garage = Catty Shack

No more room for my Mini.

Since last night at the V Colony we trapped 16 cats. Six of those cats are getting their Feral Cat Complete Care Package at the Tree House Clinic. The other ten felines are already eartipped. One of those cats was still taken to the clinic because he is very friendly and they want to take a closer look at him. The rest are chilling in my converted catty shack garage. It’s easier to just leave them in the traps because it keeps them out of the way while you’re trying to get the “new” cats.

Erica says:

This is incredible. I’m impressed. Your efforts are making me look totally small-time! UGH!

Vanessa says:

Thanks! Keep in mind all of these cats are from the SAME yard so once you start, it’s best to keep the momentum going. Don’t knock yourself, Erica, you are doing A LOT for the cats.

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V Colony Sighting

Last year my friend and Master Trapper Meg from the Chicagoland Stray Cat Coalition TNR’ed a colony of cats just one alley over from my house and named the cats all “V” names after me: Vincennes, Varg, Voltaire, Vanna, Veum, Valiant, Vagabond, Vassily, and Velcro. I admire her creativity and commitment, and she moved on to other names, because asides from those nine cats, she trapped ELEVEN more from that alley.

Two weeks ago I discovered who was feeding and helping these cats. Kari, the TNR Trap-Neuter-Return Coordinator from Tree House Humane Society, and I got to see these cats in their yard.


About half of these cats are eartipped. They are obviously well cared for, have shelter under the porch, and are very comfortable cats in their yard. Kari and I are going there tonight to trap the ones that still need their Feral Cat Complete Care Package of vaccinations, parasite treatment, cleaning, and spay/neuter surgery. It’ll probably take a few tries, but I want to make sure that ALL of the cats will be eartipped in the next group photo.

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More Friendly Than Feral

Back in January I got a call from Kari, the TNR Coordinator from Tree House Humane Society, because a woman called her about some friendly cats that she was seeing and occasionally feeding in my neighborhood. It turns out that this woman lives just a few doors down from a house where I TNR’ed about nine cats in November of 2009. These cats were fed regularly and had shelter, but since their surgeries, were becoming even more friendly, as is sometimes the case.

Kari and I met in front of their feeder’s house, and it was pretty clear that Casita and Cheyenne were the friendly cats that the woman was talking about.

wassup for supper?

Can't you see that I'm friendly?

They come right up to you looking for food, and stay for pets. They were clean and well-fed, with thick coats, which meant they were mostly outside, since outdoor cats grow extra fur and bulk up for the winter cold. Kari scruffed them both and dropped them into carriers without a problem.

Since then they were in foster care, then in the isolation rooms of Tree House, and now they’re on the adoption floor of Tree House’s Uptown location, 1212 W. Carmen. Casita tested FIV+ but is showing the same signs of her loving personality indoors in Tree House’s FIV+ cat room. Check out her Petfinder adoption page.

You has good indoors home for me?

Cheyenne, the tortie cat, is now named Lira, and is acclimating nicely as well. I even have a friend who may be interested in adopting her since she reminds him of a cat he had growing up. The adoption process has always overwhelmed me because it’s a lot of responsibility and takes up a lot of time, but this could be fun.

Steve Maziarka says:

I live in Logan Square (60647) and we have a few feral cats in the area. My neighbor and I leave food and water out for whoever wants it mainly because my neighbor has an outdoor cat herself. The reason I am reaching out. To you is one of the other feral cats was on my deck this afternoon and I saw a fairly large wound on his back. I already called treehouse to rent a trap because he needs to be fixed anyway but since I know where he lives (under my neighbors porch) I am wondering if you have a trap we can quickly put him in to be helped out. I am willing to pay for the spay/neuter and for him to get checked out. Please contact me if you have an extra trap and a slot this week that marmalade can use. Yes we named him marmalade. My email is [email protected].

Vanessa says:

No, I do not have any traps. It’s great that you called Tree House for an appointment and to rent out traps. They will also cover the spay/neuter surgeries and vaccinations for free because you are in the targeted trapping project zip code. Thank you for caring for the cats! I would love to hear an update.

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Ferals Ferals Ferals

I have awesome friends that indulge me with all things related to felines.

Check out the Photoshop skills of my friend, Chris.

Dancing down on sunset strips, showing off their eartips!

Look, the Crew Cats even have eartips! All the cool cats have them. Actually, now all seven cats of the Rockstar Colony have them: Mr. Friendly, Mama Cat, Fluffy, Cheezburger Cat, Pepe, and the latest, a pair of black cats named Tommy Cat Lee and Hissi Sixx that I trapped together late one night.

I’d still like to get Pepe adopted out since he keeps trying to sneak inside. But for now, the gig is up for this colony. Until the next groupie shows up.

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Hail Caesar

This is Caesar.

Hey ladies, check out my eartip.

He’s from a colony of outdoor feral cats that a woman has been feeding in Humboldt Park for a decade. She used to live there, and then moved out of the neighborhood, but travels back a few times a week to feed. She calls shelters periodically to take the kittens and friendly cats. She called enough times that Tree House Humane Society realized that she was feeding without doing TNR, which would expedite breeding even more. The problem is being solved now. Over 15 cats have been TNR’ed now from that colony. This woman is no longer a feeder – she is now a caretaker of a cat colony managed properly through TNR.

Caesar is so friendly that when I came to pick him up at the clinic, I was able to drop him into a carrier immediately. I have terrible technique handling cats – if they don’t want to go into a carrier or a room or wherever, I don’t know how to make them. There are scruffing techniques, etc, but I usually leave that to other people.

Caesar is also FIV+. This is not surprising as he is an outdoor tom cat who fights for food and mates. FIV, feline immunodeficiency virus, can be transmitted from cat to cat through deep bite wounds, and fighting cats like to bite each other on their haunches. FIV is not a death sentence. FIV+ cats can live a long life, especially if they are well-cared for.

Caesar is now admitted to PAWS Chicago, which has an FIV+ feline adoption room. If you want to learn more on how to adopt out cats like Caesar, check out PAWS’ adoption page. The cats that are FIV+ or have other special needs are marked with a red heart. Chicago is lucky to have an organization like PAWS to adopt out these cats.

Carlin Reed says:

Absolutely. Percy is FIV+ and has been with us for over 13 years now.

Vanessa says:

Percy is a great cat!

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Meet Joe Black Cat

Joe lives across the street from my sister in Florida. He’s an indoor/outdoor cat like many other pets here. Every once in awhile Joe’s owner leaves the state for weeks at a time and rents out her house. She leaves Joe behind outside and he sticks around because my sister and her neighbors give Joe food when he comes around. He’s well-fed enough to be picky, as he prefers Fancy Feast. This time around Joe’s owner came to my sister’s house and dropped off food for him while she’s gone. Joe found me right away – here he is waiting for his Fancy Feast. It’s not an ideal situation, especially if something happens to Joe in the meantime, but he seems pretty content. He’s also neutered, so that helps him stay out of trouble, or making trouble for someone else’s cat.

How you doing? Wanna take the boat out?

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Feline Family

I’m going to Florida for a few days to visit some cats! I mean, I’m going to Florida to visit my pregnant baby sister and her husband and help throw a baby shower! Her cats Sylvester and Miss Moby have lived with them in Chicago, Vegas, Austin and now Fort Lauderdale. They seem to like it there the best. They are not allowed outside unsupervised, but they have a screened-in Florida room where geckos, ducks, iguanas, geese, outdoor neighborhood cats, and other wildlife can come right up and visit with them.

Avian invasion!

This way they get the best of both worlds while staying safe.

Why yes, that is a goblet and a tea cup surrounded by feline portraiture. You've heard of Fancy Feast, right?

Does my coat clash with this couch?

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The Saga of Paski, PavPav and Aga

All aboard and lined up for their food.

Monorail cats! They look like peacocks.

I’ve been trying to gain permission to access this locked yard for two years now, to no avail. I got busy TNR’ing and fostering over two dozen other cats in three locations within two blocks from here, but these cats do not leave their yard. I was never able to get close enough to try to help them.

Two weeks ago I thought I saw a rag in front of the house. This “rag” turned out to the the cutest rag I’ve ever seen. Her name is Paski.

I exploded with the cute!

I happened to have humane traps and bait in the car. I trapped three cats right away.

I smell seafood!

The feeder came out to see what I was doing. His name is Ignatz, and he’s been feeding these cats every morning for years now. Ignatz in 97 years old, and would like to leave this neighborhood as soon as he sells the house. 97 years old! He does not want to keep these cats. The cats stay all day, every day, for food, and he doesn’t know what else to do but feed them.

I took the cats to Tree House’s clinic, where they confirmed the cats are all female, fixed, elderly, with bad teeth. They should not go back outside.

PavPav, the long, white-haired cat, was shaved bald because of severe, life-threatening matting. She has no teeth left. She cannot go back outside in this weather.

I can get used to this.

Paski and Aga seem to agree. These dignified ladies are tired of scrounging for food.


Tree House is now looking for another home for these cats, and has featured their plight on their Tree House Cats Facebook page. Please help spread the word.

daniela says:

paski looks like miss moby! i love her already! good job v!

Vanessa says:

Thanks, Daniela! Paski is also just as dainty and loves to be pet just as much.

Diann Nails says:

These cats are lucky to have Treehouse and you helping them!

Vanessa says:

Thank you for saying that! I’m so happy these cats have the chance to “retire” now into a second life. They deserve it.

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Winter Care for Cats in MY Yard

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

We’ve had a mild winter, but last night the temperatures dropped along with a bit of snow. For the past year there are three cats in my yard that have formed a feral cat colony, which I call the James’ Gang Colony. Feral cats grow winter coats to help them withstand cold temperatures, and then caretakers can help them out more by providing food and shelter. Dice came right out to feed this morning. I TNR’ed Dice three years ago and he looks great. He used to roam alone, but now he’s part of the James’ Gang. Dice is feeding from the heated water bowl I use for their wet food. The low heat will eventually dry out wet food, but the cats usually don’t leave leftovers. Lamb is coming out of the cat hotel we built for them. This outdoor cat shelter is lined with foam insulation board and straw for bedding. The piece of plywood leaning against the house is their feeding station, where I keep bowls of dry food. It offers some protection from wind and snow.

Erica says:

This is excellent caretaking!! Clever!

Vanessa says:

Thanks for the kind words. The feral cats have it pretty good in my yard.

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Community Outreach for Community Cats

Community Appeal Letters are a great way to promote your cause in your neighborhood, and it’s even better if you can spread your message in your neighbor’s preferred language. I’ve been passing out about 50 flyers every time I go jogging now to help promote free spay/neuter surgeries from Tree House’s clinic, as funded by a PetSmart grant for our area zip codes. Running around the neighborhood on foot, while taking time to stop at people’s homes and talking to them on the street, makes you really notice the area.

This tabby and white cat was rubbing all over the posts in the yard while waiting by her red front door.

Hey, I think I've heard this one before... What's brown, white and red all over?

She went right up to me for a pet.

But I'm still not going to leave this yard for now.

A neighbor came out and said the cat is the other tenant’s pet, but he is not sure if she is fixed, and he said they let her in and out all of the time. He told me he’d help “spread the word” when I gave him a flyer. Even if this cat is a pet, and she may be already fixed, I’m still going to consider this a possibly colony of outdoor and feral cats that may need help. And so the Red Door Colony is born. 

A red door is known to be as a symbol of a safe haven. We painted our own front door red years back, and haven’t changed the color since. I remember one cold winter day in 2008 I opened the front door and a huge tabby ran right in. So maybe these cats recognize colors. He was already eartipped, but I have no idea who TNR’ed him. Since he was so friendly, I got him admitted to a no-kill shelter.

Hi, so I heard you like cats.

Actually that cat looks a lot like my cat, Mowpa, and he even fooled for a moment. Mowpa has his own Facebook page.

Anyways, what red doors mostly remind me of is Red Door Animal Shelter, a local no-kill shelter for cats, rabbits and dogs. They do not have a TNR program. But they are the only shelter around here that take in domesticated rabbits and have a great resource page explaining on how to rescue, or not, various wildlife. Most people that I know that rescue cats and dogs also have some wildlife rescue stories.

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