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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A New Cat In My Yard To Be TNR’d

I have a new cat visiting my yard! It’s been awhile. The current line-up of my James’ Gang Colony was established when I TNR’d Honey Bouncy Bear in May 2011. So far the cats have been pretty accepting of this new visitor. He’s been coming the last few weeks, starting late night, and moving on to dusk. He leaves as soon as he sees me but I managed to get a dark photo of him through my window.

Introducing Puffy McWonder Tail.

Introducing Puffy McWonder Tail.

He definitely does not have an ear tip yet, and looks a little disheveled. Jim named him Puffy McWonder Tail. Jim is in charge of naming the cats in my yard, since the James’ Gang Colony is named after him.

Puffy prefers wet food so we’ve been leaving it out diligently to keep him coming back for more. I hope I can trap him with canned sardines in oil in a humane Tru-catch trap next week when I’m off work.

Yesterday he actually came during the day and was waiting for wet food with the other cats. He will not stay in the yard with me but I got a shot of him on the cat path. Can you see him watching me from back there? Puffy on the cat path

And here he is in the rest of my winter garden. It looks so bare! I can’t wait to start planting! Puffy in the garden

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Public Hearing on the Cook County TNR Ordinance

There is a public hearing to review the 2007 Managed Care of Feral Cats Ordinance scheduled for Tuesday, March 19th, 11:30am, at the Cook County building, 118 N. Clark St., room 569.

The ordinance is to be reviewed because anti-cat groups such as the Chicago Audubon Society got the attention of Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin.

If you sent a letter to the Cook County Commissioners through Alley Cat Allies’ action alert page, you would have gotten the same email response I did:

“I am writing on behalf of Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin. You recently contacted him concerning feral cats.

In your email, you expressed concern about the Cook County Board of Commissioners passing an ordinance that was adverse to feral cats. I have attached the notice for a Public Hearing on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:30 am that is going to examine that issue. As you can see from the notice, the purpose of the hearing is to have a report from Dr. Donna Alexander, Administrator of the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, on the Department’s activities and the effect of those activities on the feral cat population. No ordinance will be passed at that meeting.

You are welcome to attend and testify at that meeting. To do so, please contact the Secretary of the Cook County Board of Commissioners at or 312-603-6127.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Thank you.

Brian Miller

Chief of Staff/General Counsel

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin

118 N. Clark Street, Room 567

Chicago, IL 60602


312-603-3622 f

[email protected]

From: Secretary to the Board Master List [mailto:[email protected]LISTSRV1.CCOUNTY.COM] On Behalf Of Secretary to the Board (Secretary to the Board)

Sent: Wednesday, March 06, 2013 4:07 PM
To: [email protected]CCOUNTY.COM
Subject: Public Hearing Notice for the Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.

Attached please find a Public Hearing Notice for the Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.

Please feel free to contact our Office should you need additional assistance.

 Secretary to the Board of Commissioners of Cook County

Cook County Building

118 North Clark Street Room 436

Chicago, Illinois 60602

(312) 603-6127″

The link they included does not work. I think they meant this one.

The email also included an agenda of the hearing.

I don’t fully understand everything on this agenda. Animal Care and Control officers do not go out and do Trap-Neuter-Return. Per the ordinance, that responsibility along with many other requirements, falls entirely on registered colony cat caretakers to do all the work.

I’m glad Dr. Donna Alexander, the Administrator for Cook County’s Animal and Rabies Control, will be reporting on the progress of TNR in Cook County. She seems to be the one to get things done around here.

I may have to work, but I hope to attend this hearing. I have 18 colonies registered with Tree House Humane Society and am glad to promote the numbers of TNR in Cook County.

Here’s two of the 39 cats that I’ve trapped so far from the James’ Gang Colony in my yard, Sugar and Finch.  Sugar and Finch

Karen says:

Please see link, the Chicago Audubon wants TNR to become illegal in Cook County.
Also people feeding any ferals could be ticketed.
Also see

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A Road Well Traveled From the Alley to My Yard

I was so engrossed checking out cat paw prints around the neighborhood that I forgot to take a look at the path the James’ Gang Colony use for access to my own yard. This path is the gangway next to my garage. There are stepping stones along the path but I did not get a chance to shovel it out. I love how the cats use the same exact paw prints every time. They’re practically etched into the snow. We’re expecting a big storm tonight so I’ll have to make sure their entrance does not get blocked.

Kim says:

I love watching the ferals meticulously follow in the same tracks that were paved before them. It’s wonderful to see how cautious they are to minimize their exposure to the elements. Smart cookies for certain!

Vanessa says:

You’re right, Kim, they are so smart!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Occupy Feral Villa!

I’m not sure if the James’ Gang Colony is actually protesting anything. But they are definitely, and deliberately, ignoring me here. Dice and Funny Face, the boys on the roof, like to keep an eye on their escape route, while Bouncy Bear snuggles inside and keeps a close watch on their feral cat feeding station. Occupy Feral Villa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TNR’d Troika Include Canned Cat Food in List of Demands

Kriser’s gave another cat food donation to our pet food pantry this week to help feed the colony cats. This time it was cans of wet food from California Natural. If possible, colony cats should be fed wet food in the winter to help them bulk up on protein while staying hydrated. The James’ Gang Colony has gotten canned food all winter, but they really seemed to enjoy this particular brand. They quickly ran to the plate as soon as I put it out, forming what looked a little TNR’d Troika around the plate. Normally they do not all eat together in a group, but this brand was too enticing for them to wait and take turns.

We interrupt this revolution for nom nom noms.

We interrupt this revolution for nom nom noms.

They resorted back to silent protest when I told them that this food was to be shared with other colonies, yet again refusing to leave my yard. They have not figured out it’s hard for me to take these protests seriously when they do it all the time. But at least they’re consistent.

Also, when I picked up the cat food, a Kriser’s employee expressed interest in adopting a stray cat. I am hoping to put her in touch with my neighbors who are currently fostering Domino. Amazing.

Thank you again, Kriser’s, for helping us care for the outdoor stray and feral cats!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trap Neuter Recover Return

Last week I was talking to one of my favorite feral cat bloggers, Chicago Feral Cat Files, about feral cats who need extra recovery time after their TNR surgeries because they have other medical issues going on. Normally male feral cats can be returned outside after their surgery within 24 hours, and female cats can be returned after 48 hours. If a cat is recovering from a wound or a URI, however, and require antibiotics, their recovery time is obviously longer. In these cases we were brainstorming on how to keep the cats more comfortable.

Ideally cats that require more recovery time should be transferred into a larger cage so that they have room to stretch, eat, sleep and use a litterbox comfortably. I need to do some more research on these cages, but there are good options out there. One thing that I try to do for these cats is to line the trap with a puppy pad. The pads are more absorbent and comfortable for the cats to sit on rather than just newspaper, but they should only be used for cats that remain calm. Some cats like to shred and chew on everything in the trap, in which case the puppy pad is not a good idea.

But in the case of Boo, one of the cats I trapped in my yard, the puppy pad was perfect. She seemed to like how soft it was and only used a corner when she went to the bathroom on it.

PamPurrs Puppy Pads

PamPurrs Puppy Pads

Boo was TNR’d at PAWS Chicago in 2009. Her photo is also featured on PAWS Chicago’s Trap Neuter Return site. Boo turned out to be a pregnant female, which was so surprising to me as I rarely trap females from my yard, and she was so tiny. I named her Boo after seeing her for the first time the previous week looking out at me from inside my open basement door. I was outside gardening with the door open for hours. At some point she came into my house without me seeing her. When I did see her in the doorway, she bolted, and I did not see her again until I trapped her a week later late at night.

I recovered Boo in the trap for a few extra days with the puppy pads and she was good to go. Because she was so tiny, the trap did not seem that small for her. How do you keep the feral cats from your colony comfortable during their recovery time after TNR?


I was just informed by Google that this page on your website actually had a broken link to our website, Tru Catch Traps. I noticed the link “but there are good options out there” is incorrect.

If you want to change the link, the new correct link would be:

Or you can just drop the “.html” from the end of the current link.

Thank you very much!!!

Vanessa says:

Thank you so much, Ryan and Tru Catch Traps! I fixed the link. I’m a big fan of your products. Vanessa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Clearing Out the Cat Paths

My James’ Gang Colony cats weren’t around much yesterday after it snowed. Today I shoveled out the cat paths in my yard and swept off the snow from their favorite sunning spots. They came right away. Cats need to stay dry in order to stay warm in the winter.

Honey, Dice and Springy stay warm and dry in the winter sun.

Honey, Dice and Springy stay warm and dry in the winter sun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cats In My Garden

Work has been flying me all over Florida this week and it is a reminder of how much I miss summer. In the summer, I am always outside in my backyard garden, and so are the feral cats in my yard that I care for, the James’ Gang Colony.

Now I’m back in Chicago for a few hours and then flying east. There’s supposed to be winter weather coming at both locations so I’m trying to zen out and think of a few of my favorite things: gardens, felines, flowers. And music! This video of my colony cats is set to a song also inspired by the outdoors that we recorded in our home studio at Caffeinated Recordings. If you want to listen to the rest of it, you can find it on my Vansassa album on Bandcamp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *