Feline Family

I’m going to Florida for a few days to visit some cats! I mean, I’m going to Florida to visit my pregnant baby sister and her husband and help throw a baby shower! Her cats Sylvester and Miss Moby have lived with them in Chicago, Vegas, Austin and now Fort Lauderdale. They seem to like it there the best. They are not allowed outside unsupervised, but they have a screened-in Florida room where geckos, ducks, iguanas, geese, outdoor neighborhood cats, and other wildlife can come right up and visit with them.

Avian invasion!

This way they get the best of both worlds while staying safe.

Why yes, that is a goblet and a tea cup surrounded by feline portraiture. You've heard of Fancy Feast, right?

Does my coat clash with this couch?

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The Saga of Paski, PavPav and Aga

All aboard and lined up for their food.

Monorail cats! They look like peacocks.

I’ve been trying to gain permission to access this locked yard for two years now, to no avail. I got busy TNR’ing and fostering over two dozen other cats in three locations within two blocks from here, but these cats do not leave their yard. I was never able to get close enough to try to help them.

Two weeks ago I thought I saw a rag in front of the house. This “rag” turned out to the the cutest rag I’ve ever seen. Her name is Paski.

I exploded with the cute!

I happened to have humane traps and bait in the car. I trapped three cats right away.

I smell seafood!

The feeder came out to see what I was doing. His name is Ignatz, and he’s been feeding these cats every morning for years now. Ignatz in 97 years old, and would like to leave this neighborhood as soon as he sells the house. 97 years old! He does not want to keep these cats. The cats stay all day, every day, for food, and he doesn’t know what else to do but feed them.

I took the cats to Tree House’s clinic, where they confirmed the cats are all female, fixed, elderly, with bad teeth. They should not go back outside.

PavPav, the long, white-haired cat, was shaved bald because of severe, life-threatening matting. She has no teeth left. She cannot go back outside in this weather.

I can get used to this.

Paski and Aga seem to agree. These dignified ladies are tired of scrounging for food.


Tree House is now looking for another home for these cats, and has featured their plight on their Tree House Cats Facebook page. Please help spread the word.

daniela says:

paski looks like miss moby! i love her already! good job v!

Vanessa says:

Thanks, Daniela! Paski is also just as dainty and loves to be pet just as much.

Diann Nails says:

These cats are lucky to have Treehouse and you helping them!

Vanessa says:

Thank you for saying that! I’m so happy these cats have the chance to “retire” now into a second life. They deserve it.

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Winter Care for Cats in MY Yard

Cats in my yard are well-fed, warm and TNR'ed.

We’ve had a mild winter, but last night the temperatures dropped along with a bit of snow. For the past year there are three cats in my yard that have formed a feral cat colony, which I call the James’ Gang Colony. Feral cats grow winter coats to help them withstand cold temperatures, and then caretakers can help them out more by providing food and shelter. Dice came right out to feed this morning. I TNR’ed Dice three years ago and he looks great. He used to roam alone, but now he’s part of the James’ Gang. Dice is feeding from the heated water bowl I use for their wet food. The low heat will eventually dry out wet food, but the cats usually don’t leave leftovers. Lamb is coming out of the cat hotel we built for them. This outdoor cat shelter is lined with foam insulation board and straw for bedding. The piece of plywood leaning against the house is their feeding station, where I keep bowls of dry food. It offers some protection from wind and snow.

Erica says:

This is excellent caretaking!! Clever!

Vanessa says:

Thanks for the kind words. The feral cats have it pretty good in my yard.

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Community Outreach for Community Cats

Community Appeal Letters are a great way to promote your cause in your neighborhood, and it’s even better if you can spread your message in your neighbor’s preferred language. I’ve been passing out about 50 flyers every time I go jogging now to help promote free spay/neuter surgeries from Tree House’s clinic, as funded by a PetSmart grant for our area zip codes. Running around the neighborhood on foot, while taking time to stop at people’s homes and talking to them on the street, makes you really notice the area.

This tabby and white cat was rubbing all over the posts in the yard while waiting by her red front door.

Hey, I think I've heard this one before... What's brown, white and red all over?

She went right up to me for a pet.

But I'm still not going to leave this yard for now.

A neighbor came out and said the cat is the other tenant’s pet, but he is not sure if she is fixed, and he said they let her in and out all of the time. He told me he’d help “spread the word” when I gave him a flyer. Even if this cat is a pet, and she may be already fixed, I’m still going to consider this a possibly colony of outdoor and feral cats that may need help. And so the Red Door Colony is born. 

A red door is known to be as a symbol of a safe haven. We painted our own front door red years back, and haven’t changed the color since. I remember one cold winter day in 2008 I opened the front door and a huge tabby ran right in. So maybe these cats recognize colors. He was already eartipped, but I have no idea who TNR’ed him. Since he was so friendly, I got him admitted to a no-kill shelter.

Hi, so I heard you like cats.

Actually that cat looks a lot like my cat, Mowpa, and he even fooled for a moment. Mowpa has his own Facebook page.

Anyways, what red doors mostly remind me of is Red Door Animal Shelter, a local no-kill shelter for cats, rabbits and dogs. They do not have a TNR program. But they are the only shelter around here that take in domesticated rabbits and have a great resource page explaining on how to rescue, or not, various wildlife. Most people that I know that rescue cats and dogs also have some wildlife rescue stories.

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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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