Helping Caregivers with Cat Colony Management

Edda is a 60-year old woman with limited income and means caring for up to 20 cats in the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago, an area filled with cats. This is a very common scenario on the west side of Chicago and all over for people who feed cats.


My TNR friend Oleksandra told me about Edda when I asked her if she knew of any cat colony caregivers who needed extra cat food and supplies. Edda’s outdoor cats were all TNR’d by Oleksandra, Erica and Brianna a few years ago. Since then Oleksandra keeps in touch and helps Edda care for the cats, including additional vetting, since they live close, along with many other TNR’d colonies.


I met Edda this week with a delivery of cat food, an electric heated food/water bowl, and a bale of straw for her outdoor cat shelters. Thank you to all who have donated their extra supplies to us! This is an example of where they are distributed to.


Edda gave me a tour of the cats that she cares for. Every cat I saw was ear-tipped. I was impressed by that but not surprised because I know how thorough Oleksandra is when it comes to TNR.


I want to reiterate again that this is a common scene people run into with TNR. Caregivers and feeders do what they can with what they have for these cats. TNR is not just about helping the cats – it’s also about helping people and the community.


Edda has five cats living in the basement of her apartment building. I only saw one because they are semi-feral and go up into the rafters when they hear people.

This is the feeding station in her basement, with cat shelters in the back.

The cats can look out the door when it’s open. Edda does not want to let them out because she said there are people who live around there who abuse the cats. This is why she brought them in in the first place. Now she’s worried about finding them homes because she worries what will happen to them if she has to move. She said she is not well and has already refused going to the hospital because she worries about what will happen to the cats.


Another one of her TNR’d cats lives in the basement next door. He has to be kept separate because the other cats will fight with him.

She also cares for a cat across the alley. He is at the bottom of this photo by the cars. He has shelter inside that building, at the top of the stairs where the door is always open. Edda has permission to access to this building.

The stairs are extremely rickety to navigate for humans. Inside are multiple cat shelters for him and any other cats to use. There used to be another black cat here that got very sick. Oleksandra took him to the vet last year and he was treated for awhile, but ultimately had to be euthanized. There are several raccoons that also go there.

Here’s a wide view of this room, with the shelters towards the back.

Edda also feeds a dozen or so cats across the street that live in a woman’s yard. As soon as we started walking towards this house, we saw the colony running around outside.

Edda thinks this cat, Mario, is sick. Obviously I’ve never seen him before so I don’t have a comparison, but he did look disheveled. Otherwise, he moved quickly and has a very good appetite. I gave Edda antibiotics that I got as a donation (thanks, Melanie!) to try for him which might help any infection he may have. If he still looks sick after that, I offered to take him to the vet for her. 

The woman who lives there also feeds, and has outdoor cat shelters underneath the blue tarp. As soon as Edda started getting the food ready, the cats came out, jumping the fence towards her.

And waited impatiently, wondering who I was.

Mario was first in line. Seriously, look at him creep behind her! The other tabby on the left below only uses three of his legs. One of his back hind legs is held out in the air. He was like that when they trapped him and they’re not sure how closely the clinic looked at his leg when he was TNR’d. But he’s been like this now for three years there, so whatever injury he had would have healed by now, or it’s a birth defect. He can’t run very well, but he obviously knows how to survive. Nevertheless, I did tell Edda that we could take him to a vet as well for another look, but it should wait until warmer weather in case a procedure is needed with a long recovery time. It’s too cold to be putting a cat back and forth outside with unnecessary stress.

Still wondering who I am… the cats waited until we left to eat.

I’ll continue to try to keep in touch with Edda and help in any way I can. If you live in the Hermosa area and would like to help, please call 773-609-CATS (2287) or email [email protected]



Amanda Reynolds says:

I love Edda!!
I love you and your group along with the various people who give unto your great work! It is such a desperately needed work in this day. ;/
I have to believe that in time what is being done in your area will indeed be done in Rockford, Illinois and every other city where sentient beings with so very much to offer instead suffer silently.
God bless all involved!!!

Vanessa says:

Thank you for the kind words, Amanda! And thanks for everything you do for the cats!

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