Heating Pads, Food and Water Bowls All Plugged In

I’m out of extension cords.

Here’s Dash enjoying fresh, clean, room-temperature water outside in sub-zero weather thanks to the magic of my outdoor outlets. There’s another heated water dish behind him with a bowl of wet food kept warm inside. You can see the electric cord running out of his cat house, connected to a heating pad that the cats can lay on. I’ve got two other cat houses also with heating pads plugged in. I TNR’d Dash in 2007 and this is his first winter with warming pads. He seems to be thoroughly enjoying it and stays in my yard a lot longer now. The cats don’t even touch the electric cords. I’m glad I finally upgraded to electricity, but it was time because the outdoor cats here are losing a lot of shelter in my area. There’s construction being done for a new park and lots of vacant homes are being torn down.

I’m thinking I should wrap holiday lights around this set-up and maybe even add a Nativity scene Dash plugged in

Allison says:

Very cozy setup! So lucky to be in your care!

Speaking of nativity scenes, did you see this? I can’t help but laugh picturing the cats tossing the baby Jesus out of the manger.


Allison says:

So sorry! I just saw the link in your post.

Vanessa says:

Thanks for the kind words!

No apologies necessary, it’s a great story and link that deserves to be shared again and again! My favorite part is that those cats are ear tipped.

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The Feral Feeding Station Has a New Friend

We made a new feral feeding station using these instructions from Neighborhood Cats. Normally I put food out daily in a controlled amount so as not to attract wildlife, but we were out of town at the same time so I put extra dry cat food out for them.

Then this happened. opossum

I’m sure this opossum was more scared than I was. He hissed like a cat at me because he was cornered, so I took the photo and left.

The cats seemed to care less about the whole thing. Bouncy Bear is looking at me for more food, Dice is huddled up in the cat house, and Dash has no problem dining in front of this new visitor.  dinner with the cats and the opossum

I don’t wish this new guy any harm so we’ll just have to keep controlling the amount of food we leave outside. He should move on without a problem. There’s a lot of construction going on in our neighborhood, including clearing land and cutting down lots of trees for a huge city project. It’s no doubt that some of the wildlife is currently losing their habitat and looking for other places to go.

Anna Luiggi says:

I’d like a better look at that white house and it’s set up. did you buy it or make it? looks really nice.

Vanessa says:

Jim designed and made it. This post has more photos and information about that outdoor cat house.

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The Latest in Feral Fashion: Thick Winter Coats

I thought it was really cold out today, but the James’ Gang Colony stayed true to feral form and were not cooped up in their three heated cat houses. Instead they lounged in the sun all day and showed off their thick winter coats. They only moved when I came out with more wet food for them multiple times. The food froze if they didn’t eat it immediately, so I brought a little bit out all day. They have me trained well.

Dash and Funny Face lounge on the catio even in the winter.

Dash and Funny Face lounge on the catio even in the winter.

Dice even decided to nap on the roof of the Feral Villa, instead of staying in it.

I'm free, I'm feral, I'm not going to stay cooped up all day.

I’m free, I’m feral, I’m not going to stay cooped up all day.

Ear tips and puffy winter coats are always in style for colony cats.

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Come See Outdoor Cat Houses All Over Chicago Today

We added another feral cat shelter to our yard yesterday. Now we have three wood shelters for the cat colony to choose from, and all three will have heating pads. The original cat house is to the right with the cat feeding station, and the new one is on the left, made from following Alley Cat Allies’s instructions. There is also a Feral Villa hidden behind plants in the middle. Can you see Dash and Dice checking everything out? new outdoor cat house If you want to see examples of outdoor cat houses, or learn how to make one, there are two events today, 10/27, to choose from.

In Bridgeport, you can see cat houses made by artists on display for a new project called The Terraformer Advancement Towards Interspecific Communication, curated by Christopher Smith. This project is in a vacant lot south of 3216 S. Morgan, open today, 10/27, from 2-6pm. 

In Uptown, if you want to learn how to make outdoor cat shelters, or purchase one, Tree House Humane Society is hosting their annual Winter Preparedness Fest from 1-4pm, at 1212 W. Carmen.

They will have community cat shelters for sale for $15 and $20. Here’s an example of their larger $20 Rubbermaid bin feral cat shelter. There is enough room for 2-3 cats in there.

Pepe and his new shelter You might even get lucky and see Al, their resident outdoor colony cat. Al, Tree House colony cat

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Breakfast can’t be late, even on Caturday

We woke up this morning to find Dash on the deck reminding us that it was way past his normally scheduled feeding time.

Dash on deck

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Tips on Cleaning the Outdoor Cat Shelters for Winter

This is the time of year where my garage gets taken over by outdoor cat houses. cat house factory

This year we’re making another colony cat house for the cats in my yard. We also bought heating pads for all three shelters.

In addition, I’m cleaning out all the cat shelters and adding new straw for their bedding, as well as new insulation.

Dash came to check out what I was doing to his cat house underneath our deck. Can you see him? Dash helping me clean out the cat house Most of the cat shelters I have around the neighborhood are made out of Rubbermaid bins.  Cleaning them and changing the insulation is easier because all of the measurements have already been done.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve learned along the way.

I empty the bins and hose them down in the yard. The old straw can be composted.

In some cases the sheets of insulation also need to be replaced. You can see the old insulation on the floor here is dirty and scratched up by the colony cats.

cat insulation scratched up I use the old sheets of insulation as a template to cut new sheets. I trace around them and cut. No need to measure! To ensure a tight fit, wedge pieces of scrap insulation on the outside. cat house construction

Add straw inside and close. If you add too much straw the cats will just pull it out to make more room. This is not a problem, especially if the cat house is underneath a deck or stairs. The straw acts as extra bedding for them on the floor.  Frontier Colony Cat Houses


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Feral Cat Myth #1: Cats Live Short, Miserable Lives Outdoors

Out of all the myths about cats, the myth that feral cats live short, miserable lives outdoors is the one that drives me crazy the most. It is pretty much why I started this blog. This blog chronicles the lives of the feral cat colonies that I TNR, trap-neuter-return, and continue to care for with the help of feeders and caretakers in my community. You can see the stories of the individual colonies by clicking on the links under “Categories” on the right. All of these cats and their colonies have names.

The reason why this myth is wrong is because it is based only on human emotion, and is propagated by humans who know nothing about these cats. They are the people who walk into a room, shout, “You’re doing it wrong!,” and walk out without offering help or an alternate solution. They never tried TNR. They never tried to do anything at all.

Who are we to determine what constitutes a short, miserable life? What is short? What is miserable? Do these people think these cats would rather die than be outdoors?

So enough about these myths, and let’s show the cats that dispel these myths.

I’ve written about Dash before, since he has been in the colony in my yard, the James’ Gang Colony, since being TNR’d in November of 2007. He’s been coming back ever since sporadically, on his terms, for almost six years now. He never lets me get close, but he will stay in my yard now when I open the back door, instead of dashing away like he used to. He doesn’t even feed all the time in my yard, so obviously he finds alternate food sources because he is clearly not starving. He is healthy and free and feral.

This morning I opened the door and found him hanging out under my deck. He was hard to see at first as he was in the shade. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing, and then realized he was enjoying the catmint. Sometimes I worry (another pesky human emotion that is a waste of time) that the cats are not visiting my yard in the summer, but then I can tell when there must have been a cat party overnight by the freshly trampled catmint plants.

I ran back inside to get Dash a plate of food, put it outside for him, and went back into the house to watch him eat it. But he didn’t eat it, he just turned and walked out of my yard. He is living his life outdoors, as he wants to, as he knows how, doing exactly what he wants to. We should all be so lucky to live our own lives like that. IMG_1580

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Meet Freckles the Feral Cat, TNR’d in 2007

Freckles the feral cat was TNR’d during the Fourth of July holiday in 2007 by Trudy, another dedicated colony caretaker and Cats in My Yard fan. Trudy provides Freckles with daily food, water and shelter, but he still won’t let her touch him. Freckles is a great example of how feral cats can live long, healthy lives outdoors. And Trudy is a kindred spirit in that she diligently provides care for the feral and stray cats while making sure to TNR the feline colonies. Freckles is a lot like Dash, a feral cat from my yard who was also TNR’d in 2007 and has been visiting my feeding station ever since, but still won’t let me anywhere near him. Freckles

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