Happy TNR Anniversary, Dash!

I found Dash, one of our colony cats, sunning himself in my yard this morning despite the cold. I call this little sitting area the Catio. He definitely has beefed up and grown a winter coat in preparation for the weather.

The catio is still open.

This is the closest Dash has ever allowed me near him. He is tolerant of the rest of our James Gang Colony, but does not hang out with them unless he has to. I just looked up his TNR surgery record from PAWS Chicago and saw that his surgery was done on November 18, 2007, and he’s been coming to our yard somewhat regularly for five years ever since. He was already an adult when I TNR’ed him, so that means he may be a senior cat by now.

Dash is proof that feral cats know how to live outdoors and survive. I do not know where he goes all day, but he feeds in our yard, and I have seen him sporadically throughout the neighborhood. He does not use our outdoor cat shelters – he goes elsewhere. He is pretty solitary as far as I can tell. Sometimes I do not see him for weeks at a time.

When I TNR’ed Dash in 2007 I did not know to get him microchipped because the 2007 Cook County Managed Care of Feral Cats Ordinance [07-O-72] had just passed and microchipping feral cats was still a new practice here in Chicago. I tried to re-trap him without success throughout the years until this past spring, for some reason, he went into one of my traps. I took him to Tree House’s clinic for their Feral Cat Maintenance Package, where he was updated on his vaccinations for distemper and rabies. Out of curiosity, I tested him for FeLV/FIV and he was negative, and he finally got his microchip. Having the microchip means he will always be traced back to me as his caretaker. I hope that will continue for many more years to come.

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The Cats In My Yard are Ready for the Holidays

There’s been a lot going on with the other colonies, but all is quiet with the cats in my yard.


They’ve been out enjoying the fairly mild winter weather. Only Bouncy Bear is around all of the time, because she is obsessed with wet food.  IMG_9480

I left all of the summer flowers out, and the finches are still all over them, looking for seeds. It’s kind of all the same color, so I decorated their yard to bring a little more holiday cheer. I miss green!


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New Feralvilla Feeding Station

We added a new Feralvilla Feeding Station for our James’ Gang Colony.


Jim painted and assembled it over the weekend. I can’t thank him enough for his help.


We let it sit outside for a few days so that the cats could get used to it, and then Bouncy Bear jumped right in this morning when I put her breakfast in there. IMG_9203

Even though everything here is under our deck, it’s not waterproof, so this feeding station will help keep the colony cats’ food out of the rain and snow. And they now have a little platform to sit on.


It kind of looks like a little manger. Maybe I’ll try to recreate a nativity scene with cats. IMG_9207

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Hyde Park Cats 2015 Calendar Now Available

Hyde Park Cats is a volunteer-run organization that helps cats and kittens in need.


For the past few years they’ve produced a calendar to raise funds for the cats. The 2015 calendar is now available for a suggested price of $10 online or at these locations. hyde park cover I met Hyde Park Cats this year through our Feral Flowers Project at Forget Me Knodt. They bought flowers and attended our Feral Flowers Design Class. Then they asked if they could include a spread of Cats In My Yard for the calendar. Of course I said yes, and am so excited to see our James’ Gang Colony cats Funny Face, Bouncy Bear, Dash, and, of course, Mooha, on their July page.  cats in my yard page

To learn more about Hyde Park Cats, please visit their site, their Facebook page, or email them at [email protected]


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Flower Design and TNR Class with Forget Me Knodt

Forget Me Knodt hosts sold out flower design classes all year at her shop. In celebration of National Feral Cat Day and our summer-long Feral Flowers Project, Janessa from Forget Me Knodt will teach a class on how to design with blooms specifically from our garden, including zinnias, cosmos, allium and solidago arranged in mason jars. Each student will learn all about design and go home with their own bouquets.


Afterwards, we’ll talk about TNR: Trap-Neuter-Return, and I’ll answer any questions you may have about cat rescue and caring for a feral cat colony in Chicago.



Forget Me Knodt, 1313 W. Wilson
Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, BYOB Edition

Includes cheeses, meats and artisan breads from Baker & Nosh
$40 per student – limit 20 students

The majority of the proceeds will be used for food, shelter and medical care for managed feral cat colonies.

Call 773-944-1041 to sign up for your spot. $10 deposit required, and seats are first-come, first-served


I’m very excited about this event and I hope you can join us! It’s my way of being able to share the garden with you in person. I believe gardens and cats go hand in hand, and that feral cat colonies can be cared for in a beautiful way in our yards. The Feral Flowers Project would not exist without the help of the cats in my yard, including:


Bouncy Bear



Dice IMG_8026

Funny Face IMG_8087

And of course my very own pet cat Mooha, who was Chief Gardener, as she was chasing the butterflies and bees all summer long to make sure they pollinated every flower. IMG_8037

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Cat Colonies that Cuddle Together

I woke up today and it felt like fall. The animals felt it also.


My senior lady indoor cats Mini and Mooha put aside their lifelong feud of matriarchal jealousy and territorial domination, and snuggled up together on the bed.


Seriously. This is how they snuggle. If they got any closer they’d be hissing and clawing at each other. Here they’re actually warming themselves with the heat of their intense hatred for each other. Mini and Mooha stake out their territories on the bed

The outside animals were a little bit more obvious.


The finches flocked together on the sunflowers. sunflower finches

The James’ Gang Colony cats in my yard were too cute. They snuggled on top of the Feral Villa. Bouncy Bear watched carefully over the boys, Funny Face and Dice, while they napped. Ferals on top of the Feral Villa

Today’s weather was a great reminder that winter is coming, and this is the perfect time of year to start cleaning out the outdoor cat shelters.


Earlier this summer my TNR friends Anna, Ellen and Alex donated a truck-load of straw that’s been in my garage ever since. straw bales Straw is the ultimate insulator to keep colony cats warm during winter. The cats can snuggle together in it. It repels moisture and retains body heat. There’s way more straw than I need, so I asked if anyone wanted some on my Cats In My Yard Facebook page. People have already showed up for it, including my friend and neighbor Annamarie, who is currently fostering Indy, a very sick and friendly cat that was dumped outside on her block. Please visit her gofundme page to learn more how she is helping this local cat. And if you’re in the Chicago area, please let me know if you’d like some straw.

Annamarie Fadorsen says:

Aw, thank you so much for sharing Indy’s story, and of course thank you again for the straw!

Vanessa says:

My pleasure, thanks for helping Indy!

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Stealth Trapping: Setting Out Traps 24/7

I’ve had traps set outside in hidden locations non-stop since Monday night. I call this “stealth trapping.”


This is when you set out traps 24-hours a day and see if you get any “surprises.” My TNR friend Bruno calls this “fishing for cats.”


With stealth trapping you leave the traps unattended, but they are in secure locations, the weather has to be mild, and you check the traps every other hour or so.


In this case I learned that most of the cats here are already TNR’d. TNR works!


I still have the sick cat on my mind, so I put a trap in that yard with the owner’s permission. His yard is completely secured by a fence. IMG_7996

Unfortunately I did not trap the sick cat. No one has seen him since that day.


I also set out a trap by the Eleanor Rigby Colony next to their outdoor cat shelters. This is under their front porch, out of view from the street and completely dry. No “new” cats here either. IMG_7995

I also set up two traps for the Marta Volta Colony. The caregiver no longer feeds because the colony was adopted out, but she said she sees cats from time to time, including an orange one. She is currently out of town and gave me the keys to her gate and said I could set traps anytime. IMG_8002 IMG_7999

I trapped an orange cat around midnight on Tuesday, but he was already ear tipped!


Poor guy looks like he’s being arrested in this photo. I guess stealth trapping is like a sting operation. Orange cat from Marta Volta Colony

I set a trap in my front yard because I’ve been seeing a new cat coming around this summer. The James’ Gang Colony cats in my backyard don’t let anyone in, but the front yard feeding station is fair game.


I already wrote about how I trapped an ear tipped grey cat.


But I had a feeling there was another one, so I kept trying.


And got this cat in the middle of the night. Popcorn before his TNR

His name is Popcorn because he kept trying to pop out of the trap. He moves fast!


He got his TNR treatment the next day at the clinic, and I released him in the front yard this afternoon. Popcorn is the first cat I ever TNR’d in my front yard! He acted very, very feral, alternating between fierceness and fear. Let’s see if he sticks around. Popcorn with ear tip

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Cats048 – The Cats In My Yard Game!

We made a new game with the cats based on the super fun and addictive 2048 by Gabriele Cirulli. The game features cats that are currently in the James’ Gang Colony, and a few that have passed through the yard over the years.

Can you beat my high score of 296,752???

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Feral Cats Enjoying the Sunshine

Last night the James’ Gang Colony feral cats feasted on holiday ham and chicken. Today they stayed in my yard and followed the sun.

This is how Funny Face checks out the action in the alley while keeping a safe distance.

This is how Funny Face checks out the action in the alley while keeping a safe distance.

Bouncy Bear stayed on the heating pad and near the food in the heated bowls.
Bouncy Bear stayed on the heating pad and near the food in the heated bowls.

Dice sunned himself on the Feral Villa rooftop.

Dice sunned himself on the Feral Villa rooftop.


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