RIP Ivan, Colony Cat from Avondale

Ivan is the second cat that has died since we started the Avondale TNR Project. With every TNR project of this size – here we are talking about estimates of 50 cats within three blocks – there are always inevitably sad endings along with the happy ones.


Ivan was trapped and taken to the clinic on May 31st for his TNR treatment. He was feral and his surgery went without a hitch. He was returned back outside to the colony after recovery without a problem, along with a few other TNR’d adult feral cats. They are all healthy, even tested FIV-/FeLV-, and have lots of feeders and garages for shelter.  IMG_7597

The next photos may be upsetting to people, so consider this a warning.


Last weekend Joann got a call from George, the feeder who is trying to stop us from trapping, to say he found a dead cat in the alley. He was furious, and most likely blames us for killing this cat. He also texted Erica from PAWS this photo of Ivan’s dead body, without an explanation. Can you imagine? Dead_cat George also then called Erica and screamed at her for twenty minutes about us and the cats. She has been trying to help him for the past few years now with TNR. We wish we could get him to listen to us, but at this point there is no time or reasoning with him. We want to concentrate on helping the cats as much as possible with the time we have. The only good thing is that at least he called to tell us. Even when the outcome is tragic, it is better to know what happened, rather than just having a cat disappear. When Joann talked to George and other residents, they said someone already threw out his body. Joann and Kim searched the alley and found his body in this dumpster, right near where we’ve been trapping this past month. RIP


This is not the proper way to dispose of an animal’s dead body. Also, they wanted to make sure to scan him for a microchip so that we were absolutely sure that this was Ivan.


Joann took him to MedVet Chicago. They scanned him for his microchip, and examined him. They did not find any signs of trauma or broken bones. They found his mouth was clenched shut and full of blood. They thought he may have died of rat poisoning, but said they could not tell for sure without a necropsy, which costs $900 there. They then disposed of him free of charge. We are very grateful for their help and compassion in this matter. clinic


Ivan also may have died from trauma from being hit by a car. I have found other cats like this, and so have other trappers. Cats get a glancing blow to the head or body, and then die a day or two later from internal bleeding. Yes, a necropsy is needed to know for sure.


RIP, Ivan. We wished we could’ve helped you sooner, but we know you are free of pain now. We will keep trying to help the rest of the cats in this area with TNR.

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More TNR and Meeting More Feeders at the Pallet Colony

Melissa and I trapped at night in the alley next to the retirement center because we knew there were cats also coming from the coach house. Despite a lot of human activity in this alley, cars pulling in and out, people coming out to smoke, a security car making the rounds, random rain and wind, we still managed to trap five more cats.


One of the neighbors, Juan, came outside to meet us and was very concerned about the cats. He wanted them around to take care of the rat problem. Juan was polite but kind of upset for a bit. He seemed happier once we explained that most of the cats would be returned to the alley because they are feral and not adoptable.


This is an interesting site to trap at, since there are multiple feeders who feed them sporadically, there are tons of places for the cats to go to – including huge industrial lots for metal recycling and pallet companies, and you don’t really see any cats.


That is, you don’t really see any cats….


until you set a trap.


As soon as Melissa set out the first trap, cats came to check it out. IMG_4536

And we started trapping them one by one.

The first night we trapped Hemingway, a male orange tabby. He is feral and was TNReturned after his TNR surgery at PAWS’ spay/neuter clinic. IMG_4605

We also set up traps at the retirement home and went back and forth in-between the sites to check on them.


Fulton was trapped there. He is feral and was also TNReturned. IMG_4600

Then we trapped a long-haired orange cat.


Orange Juice is feral and was TNReturned. IMG_4637

When we returned the next night we realized there were two more long-haired orange cats. Melissa and I refused to leave until we trapped both of them. They are also both feral and were TNReturned.


First we trapped Butters. IMG_4606

And then Vella. She’s female! Female orange cats, even tabbies, are pretty rare. She is the THIRD orange female cat we trapped at this site. IMG_4630

When I returned Butters and Vella, I met Ron, the man that lives in the coach house and feeds these cats. Joann met him the week before and told me about him. Ron really cares for these cats, and was totally on board with getting them spayed/neutered and any other vet care they may need. The buildings here are pretty decrepit and it’s hard to figure out what’s going on. It’s really none of my business anyways. Obviously Ron needs some help, and we are trying to be compassionate towards this colony and their feeders, including Ron. He asked me for two bucks, as he asked Joann before as well, and when I handed him a larger bill because that was all I had, he was really happy. He ran into the house to show me the wet cat food he buys for the cats. I don’t care what he does with the money as I can’t really help him for now, I just try to show compassion and understanding. These scenarios are pretty common when you’re doing TNR – it’s not just helping the animals. It’s a community service. It’s why I am so drawn to PAWS’ Comuunity Outreach program in Englewood and volunteer when I can. It encompasses everything I was trying to do in my own neighborhood doing TNR, going door to door, and working with feral cat colony caregivers and feeders.


Joann and I have plans to continue TNR there (in fact Joann was there tonight and already trapped another cat!). We’ll update more about this cat, Jeremy, and other cats soon. 12628617_766059226831794_8042460492869588110_o

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Cats Know How to Ask for Help, You Just Have to Pay Attention

Last week in the midst of another deep freeze here in Chicago I was checking on my outdoor cat colonies and found this TNR’d cat from the Mother Colony just sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, trying to warm himself in the sun.

Munkimo on the sidewalk When I got closer he ran up the sidewalk to his feeder’s house. He was shivering and looked much thinner. He has not looked like himself within the last month or so, but he never let me get too close to him. This time was different. He meowed at me repeatedly, and then started winding around my legs, rubbing and purring. I saw blood on his back. I put down a can of wet cat food and he scarfed it down. There was another plate of dry food still there, and a cardboard box with a towel in it. Munkimo at his feeder's house The feeder poked her head out the window and said she had not noticed anything different about him, but that he was trying to get into her house the past few weeks. She never let him indoors, and said he is now always on her stoop. He used to leave after eating, so I wonder if he lost his shelter, or perhaps it was just much too cold to matter. I explained he looked injured and sick, and she said her landlord doesn’t allow pets in the building. This is government housing, and she has limited means to care for cats. With her blessing, I came back with a trap for him, which was hardly needed. He was all over me to get more food, so I just placed him in the trap with a full plate.

The vet clinic said the wounds on his back were bite wounds that were so old and infected that the skin and hair just peeled off. They cleaned up the area and gave him antibiotics. He was also dehydrated, weighed only five pounds, had a fever and tested FIV+. Munkimo back wounds When I first TNR’d him in March of 2011 he was a lot sleeker, cleaner and healthier at 7.5 pounds. I actually trapped him in my yard, but he didn’t return after his surgery.  Munkimo during TNR Instead I found him feeding at the Mother Colony two blocks away from me and kept tabs on him these past few years.

Here he is during the summer, while his feeder explains to me that she only feeds him, no other cats. She also did not realize he had an ear tip or anything else like that.

He was always waiting by her door for food and she seemed to diligently feed him. Munkimo at her door

I don’t know what happened to him recently, but he is indoors with me for now. I took him to North Center Animal Hospital for another look. They gave him more antibiotics, and he is also now being treated for roundworms. His blood work showed that he had low red/white blood cells and low protein levels, but these were due to the infection and malnutrition.

His little monkey paws were also a mess.  Munkimo's paws

Once indoors he seems fairly content to sleep a lot. Seriously, look at those monkey paws! Munkimo sleeping The funny thing is that he also seems to prefer to sleep on a hard surface. I’ve tried every configuration of a cat bed, towel and blanket, and he has shunned them all. He scrunches his body to get away from them.

Munkimo in the corner When I removed everything, he finally spread out and seemed comfortable. It’s like he wants to sleep on a tatami mat. Maybe this cat is Japanese? So I named this little five pound Japanese monkey cat Munkimo. Munkimo tatami mat

Munkimo is also named in honor of my Polish monkey pet cat, Mowpa, that I had to euthanize last year the same day I took Munkimo to the vet this year.

Now a week later Munkimo’s monkey paws seem to be cleaned up and healing. Munkimo's healing paws

As well as his back. Munkimo's healing back

In the meantime Munkimo is a very chill, polite, quiet cat that likes to stare at me a lot.  Munkimo stares

A LOT. Munkimo up close

Please keep your fingers crossed that he continues to heal.

Dawn says:

what ever happened to Munkimo, do you still have him ? Thank you for taking care of him : )

Vanessa says:

He’s doing great! He’s fed daily by a woman on the next block that I donate wet food to. Here’s a new photo:

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Trap-Neuter-Return Case Study: 55% Reduction in Outdoor Colony Cats Since 2007

When I first started TNR’ing cats in my yard in 2004 I had no idea how many outdoor cats there were. I did not know what a colony was and I did not even feed cats outside.

In 2007 I registered as a Colony Cat Caregiver in compliance with Cook County’s Managed Care of Feral Cats Ordinance. I kept track of the number of cats that I trapped and took to low-cost vet clinics to be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, ear tipped and micro-chipped to me for identification.

In 2008 I started reaching out to other feeders and caregivers in my area, and helped TNR their colonies as well. In all, I discovered eighteen other sites where cats were being fed. The cats here crossover into other colonies and feeding stations, but are more or less contained within this one city block because of the busy main streets that border on all sides.

153 cats here were TNR’d during this time. Out of that total, 70 TNR’d cats remain outside in managed colonies where they are provided with food and water, medical care, and shelter. The rest of the cats were either adopted out, admitted into no-kill shelters, died, euthanized because of terminal illness or injury, or disappeared from the area.

TNR works. How many more cats would be outside here if none of them were spayed/neutered?

Feral-Cat-Map-2013-Final Here’s a look at the nineteen colonies up close and when TNR started for each of them. The cats in my yard are called the James’ Gang Colony.

TNR Colony Population
Colony Name TNR Start Date Total Cats Spayed / Neutered Colony Cats 2013
Bonita Colony 3/1/2011 3 0
Eleanor Rigby Colony 12/17/2008 18 3
Frontier Colony 11/22/2009 11 2
Garage Band Colony 10/13/2009 8 6
Ginger Colony 7/15/2013 1 1
James’ Gang Colony 1/29/2007 21 5
Jose and the Pussycats Colony 4/5/2010 11 5
La Vida Lydia Colony 4/10/2012 1 3
Little Sister Colony 11/3/2010 11 8
Major Tomcat Colony 3/1/2012 4 6
Marta Volta Colony 7/1/2010 3 0
Martino Awesome Colony 11/24/2009 7 0
Mother Colony 12/1/2010 7 2
Peacock Colony 2/1/2012 3 0
Ricky Martino Colony 4/16/2010 6 6
Rockstar Colony 2/6/2012 8 3
Stealth Colony 3/26/2013 1 0
Thompson Twins Colony 12/1/2012 4 5
V Colony 10/27/2010 25 15
Totals 153 70

I am also working on TNR in areas that are further from me, which I call Satellite Colonies because they currently have one feeder and area that they stay in.

TNR Satellite Colony Population
Colony Name TNR Start Date Total Cats Spayed / Neutered Colony Cats 2013
Cell Phones Colony 7/1/2012 11 13
Iron Works Colony 10/15/2012 8 6
Joyce Division Colony 11/3/2010 10 5
Totals 29 24

I started this blog almost two years ago to chronicle the lives of these cats and show how TNR is working to reduce their overall population humanely and safely. The colony names are listed on the right and each have their own photos and stories. Almost all of the colony cat populations have been reduced. Colony management is ongoing and crucial to the success of TNR, otherwise the numbers will increase again when new unaltered cats show up to feed and breed.

Thank you all for your continued support! Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how together we can continue helping even more cats this year.

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Trapping an Injured Feral Cat

A few weeks ago I met a woman on a Facebook neighborhood group because she was asking how to find a feral cat that went missing from her yard.

It turned out she was a caretaker who has done TNR, trap-neuter-return, and her colony was just a few blocks away from my Joyce Division Colony. I love networking!

Here is her beautiful story about how she started TNR and has been caring for this missing cat, Kitty Farrell, since 2009.

Kitty in her caretaker's backyard.

Kitty in her caretaker’s backyard.

Kitty then turned up with her back leg dragging behind her. She was clearly injured and needed medical help, so I dropped off some traps for her caretaker to use. I also wanted to meet her in person.

She first ended up trapping another cat that required TNR, so she took him to PAWS’ low-cost clinic. Sprocket

He’s named Sprocket, short for “Spray Cat,” because he used to spray her yard everywhere. TNR stops that behavior because cats lose their territory drive after being spayed/neutered.

As you can see from the photo, one of Sprocket’s eyes is tiny and malformed. The vet said it was fine and not bothering him. Of course the caretaker will re-trap Sprocket for further vet care if needed.

Another week passed before Kitty Farrell showed up again, this time with her back leg tucked up behind her. The caretaker made a drop trap, and thankfully managed to trap her yesterday, where she immediately took her to the vet.

The vet amputated her back leg, and she will have to be in recovery for a week until the stitches come out. What happens after that remains to be seen. The caretaker is willing to permanently adopt Kitty into her home. Please keep your fingers crossed that Kitty will make a full recovery!

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