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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Free TNR Resources for Local Feral Cats

The TNR movement is gaining a lot of support and attention in Chicago. Another low-cost clinic that provides spay/neuter services for feral cats, otherwise known as what I like to call their “spa treatments,” is Tree House Humane Society’s BDVM Mac Lean Spay/Neuter Clinic. The clinic is just three miles from my house! And at the start of this year, Tree House is offering these services free for those of use living in the 60647 and 60651 zip codes of Chicago. I don’t know how the cats feel about it, but I feel lucky to have such help. To promote the program, I’ve been passing out flyers during my morning jogs. And of course I’m eager to utilize this help, so last week I trapped five cats at two locations that I know needed assistance with TNR, and couldn’t do it themselves. The Community Appeal Letter for TNR in 60647 and 60651 Zip Codes is available in English and Spanish.


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How TNR Started for Me

I first learned about Trap Neuter Return, or TNR, in 2004 because a cat that looked pretty sick showed up in my yard and would not let me near it. I went online and found out about TNR and how it worked from Alley Cat Allies, a national organization that advocates for the humane treatment of outdoor feral cats. From there I learned about local resources to start conducting TNR from my yard. At the time it looked like PAWS Chicago was my best option, so I went down to rent humane Tru-Catch traps to catch this sick cat. I ended up trapping a dozen cats over a three-month period before I trapped her. The experience opened my eyes to how many cats were in my area. I took each cat to PAWS Chicago’s Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic to be fixed and vaccinated. Not many people were using their clinic yet for TNR back then, but the TNR movement has grown a lot ever since.

The other day I looked at PAWS Chicago’s TNR Animal Advocacy page and saw they used one of my Flickr page photos to promote TNR! I had no idea they used it and it made my day. The photo is the one further down the page showing an eartipped cat recovering in a trap.

This is Boo from the back during her recovery. She seemed to like the puppy pads I put in there for comfort as I did not release her for over 48 hours. I would have liked to recover her even longer considering her surgery and the fact that she pulled out a nail when she was first trapped, but she was ready to go.

This cat’s name is Boo, so named because one day while I was gardening in my yard, I turned to see her looking at me from inside the open back door. She startled me, and I startled her right back by setting up a trap and trapping her that very same night. The clinic told me she was only six months old and already pregnant, but they were able to terminate her pregnancy successfully and she recovered nicely. Boo is tiny so I tried to recover her a little bit longer after her surgery. She is feral but she probably went into my basement to case out a place to have her kittens. I still see her from time to time in my neighborhood.

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TNR = Trap, Neuter, Return

I have been practicing TNR – Trap, Neuter, Return, in my yard and helping out others in my community with cats in their yards since 2004.  You may have found this site because you have cats in your yard as well. TNR is the most humane method to help stabilize the feral and outdoor cat population.  You trap the cat using a humane trap baited with food, take it to a low-cost veterinary clinic to be vaccinated and spayed/neutered, let the cat recover in the trap for a day or two, and return it back outside to where you trapped it, letting them live out their lives the way they already know how.  During their surgery, the top of the left ear of the cat is snipped off, called eartipping, so as to identify it in the future as already being fixed.

A  few weeks ago I started jogging outside around my neighborhood. You notice a lot more things when you’re on foot. Right now I’m noticing a lot more outdoor cats, but that’s also because I know where to look, and I can’t help myself. Yet I was stunned to find a colony of three outdoor cats just a block away from me right on the front porch of a single-family home. They had food, water and shelter. What really made my day was that all three cats were already eartipped! More and more people are practicing TNR every year. I tried to speak to their caretaker, but there was a language barrier. Many families in my area predominately speak Spanish. I can’t speak more than conversational Spanish, and I think the caretaker knew I was talking about the cats, but I couldn’t figure out who TNR’ed these cats. Finally, I just pointed at them and said, “Bonita!,” which made her laugh at least. And so, I christened them the Bonita Colony, an example of how TNR not only saves the cats’ lives, but with the help of a caretaker, makes their lives outside easier, healthier, and a whole lot prettier.

We've got food, water, shelter, and medical care. We're just fine out here. Thanks for admiring us!

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