Kitten Conundrum: Where Do They Go Until They’re Ready?

Hey you. Yeah, you there. I’ll bet you like kittens. It might be a little or you might already be wearing one on your t-shirt right now. If they’re not on your shirt, they might be on your socks. If they’re not on your socks, they’re probably on your mind. We know they’re definitely on OUR minds here at Tree House because it is just about to be kitten season. And what happens during kitten season? Kittens arrive. And then they need medical care. And food. And love. And they need to grow. Why? So we can spay and neuter them so they can go on to lead a long, fruitful life as someone’s best friend while not bearing any kitten-like fruit.

Now, let’s talk about the rub, for there is indeed a rub: Kittens aren’t generally spayed or neutered until they’re at least 2 lbs, which is around two months or later, depending on their health when they come in, and they can’t be admitted to our colonies until they’ve had their surgeries and vaccinations. So, where do the kittens go from the time we get them until they’re ready?


This is from your writer’s private stash of foster photos. That’s Tot. I fostered her for Tree House in 2014 and I got to watch her grow up as I got updates from her adopter. They were too young to survive without their mom.

That word deserves its own paragraph because that’s how important it is. If you want to directly save a life, you foster. You see, if Tree House (or any rescue, for that matter) has open foster homes, we can pull more kittens from CACC because we know we have a safe place to keep them. If we have no place to keep them, we can’t pull as many. Every foster home equals AT LEAST one life saved. And if you take a whole litter of kittens? MORE lives saved!

Tree House needs two things right now: Long-term fosters and emergency fosters. If you are able to keep newborn kittens in a safe place for up to 72 hours, we need you. Those 72 hours are crucial and give us a place to stash these little critters while we find them the other thing we’re looking for: long-term fosters.

Our long term fosters will keep the kittens until they’re ready for the adoption floor. This is usually from 6 weeks to a few months.

Imagine it: you watch them grow, you love them, you scoop their boxes, play with them, enjoy them, and then, you set them free. Not back into the street, obviously, but into Tree House where they’ll find the homes of their dreams, all because of you.

We need you. THEY need you.

Are you ready to save a life? Click here to start.


Tree House.

PS If you want a little experience before you accept your first foster friend, come to our Kitten Shower & Foster Recruitment Event this coming May 5, from 11 am to 1 pm. We’ll play some games, provide some foster information, have some snacks, and we MAY have a visit from some kittens. It’s $10 per person, RSVP required.

Can’t make it? Send our little ones a gift. Kittens have wishes, too! Click here to view our Kitten Wishlist on Amazon.

#ThanksToMaddie, We Can Save More Kittens!

Last Sunday, many of us from Tree House (staff, fosters, volunteers) gathered in our community room together with ten other rescue organizations to take a class from the National Kitten Coalition (NKC) that delivered important information about saving more kittens. Presented by Rosemarie Crawford, the class covered topics ranging from providing urgent care to kittens upon intake to dealing with infectious diseases and how to offer supportive care for illnesses like panleukopenia. Everyone walked away with a comprehensive handbook and much more confidence to go forward caring for little ones.

Tree House’s Dr. Emily and Rosemarie Crawford addressing our full house. (Photo provided by Rosemarie.)

Tree House was also able to host the NKC for an afternoon session aimed at helping shelters/rescues start or improve and expand their foster programs, a particularly important initiative during kitten season, when it seems like the little guys are falling out of the sky. This was all thanks to a grant from Maddie’s Fund to the NKC so that they are able to offer this lifesaving program to organizations who need it. Topics included information on how to find fosters, the benefits of fostering (For this writer, it has always been the joy of seeing kittens in my bathtub), how to fund your programs, and how to set your fosters up for success throughout the program. Thanks to Maddie, Tree House and all the organizations who joined us are now ready to improve our foster programs for this season and in the coming years.

A big thank you to both the NKC and Maddie’s Fund for making this day happen. We were so proud to host you and all of the wonderful organizations who joined us for the day so that, as a community, we can do more to help further our unified cause of saving lives.


Tree House.

P.S. For our readers who are curious about fostering, send us an email at to learn more. Olga and Kate, our fabulous foster team, will answer all of your questions with no pressure to go forward if you decide it’s not right for you. We’ll even be having a foster recruitment Kitten Shower this year on May 5, from 11 am to 1 pm (details to come) if you want more hands-on demonstrations. Fostering is a direct way to save a life (or many tiny lives) so if you’re even a little, kitten-sized bit interested in bottle feeding, snuggling, cuddling, and helping to raise a furry little friend who will always hold you forever dear as their very first loving human, send us a note. All you need is a spare room and a big heart.

Community Cats Ride Along: THIS Is Why We Neuter

Alana from Tree House here!

Earlier this week, I went on a ride along with Bob, half of our fearless Community Cats team known affectionally here as ZZTrap, thanks to their luxurious beards. The intention was to teach me more about the process and to get some great photos to show our community how hard these guys work to reach needy cats around the city. I got more education than I had anticipated.

A large part of TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), and very likely the most important part, is the Neuter (or spay, in the case of a lady cat.) Every season that cats are left to procreate makes harder work for shelters and rescues in the future, and without the Neuter, cats take their duties very seriously and stay busy (pun kind of intended) all season long.

The targets. They’ve spotted us.

On this particular day, Bob was visiting a home that had numerous cats requiring our services and set up a plan for trap placement. Tree House uses humane traps (which we loan out free of charge for 2 weeks to intrepid trappers who want to help with Mission: TNR) with some delicious tuna to lure the little guys in. Once they’re trapped, we cover them with blankets to keep them calm and transport them safely back to our shelter where they’re cared for until their surgeries.

Bob surveyed the space, discussed a plan with the homeowner who’d been caring for these cats, and set up his traps.

Bob setting the traps.

And then we waited. After a brief period, we got one cat, a large male. He looked at Bob, Bob looked at him, he wondered why and how he’d been detained by a garden gnome, and then we covered him with a blanket to keep him calm and gently stowed him safely in our van.

After a small catch, Bob re-assessed the trap placement, and then we waited. In the end, we caught five cats, all of who were taken in to Tree House and given the medical care they needed. All five were assessed for level of socialization, a process Tree House follows for all incoming cats. Any who love to be with people are adopted out and any who would prefer to live their lives without human contact are placed back safely and with kind parting words.

After a successful trapping, Bob and I went out once more to do a site survey. When Bob gets a call about cats needing help, he’ll visit the site first to see how many cats are around and what the situation is like so he can best prepare to help. After knocking on a few doors and talking to neighbors and other involved parties, Bob creates a plan and helps all the cats he can.

We visited one particular site that had some things I didn’t want to see or photograph, but then I thought of you all and how it’s really important to share the things we see here as rescue workers so you know what your donations are going towards. On this day, we saw a lady cat, a lady cat who, we have no doubt, will say “Hurray for spay!”

Hurray for Spay, indeed.

If you’ve ever wondered why one litter of kittens might have brothers and sisters that look so different from each other, I believe Tree House has successfully put that question to bed for you, so to speak.

And, so you know, we also have a fine example of another cat here who Bob, in his wisdom, turned to me and said, “I’ll bet that one is probably neutered.”


Bob will be back to help these cats.

I hope you enjoyed our Tree House Community Cats ride along and that you find it enlightening and informative. Should you feel the need to help further our TNR goals, we’re currently running our “Neuter is Cuter” campaign. $50 provides a neuter for one male cat and a good night’s sleep for innumerable lady cats.

Thank you for all your support. We couldn’t do it without you.

With Love,

Tree House.

PS. Our blog now has a newsletter sign up on the home page! Enter your email to get notified about all of our upcoming blog posts. We publish one every Friday to let you know what we’re up to.

National Kitten Coalition Visits Tree House – Join Us!

Dear Tree House Supporters,

We’re excited to tell you that, on March 24th, from 9 am to 1 pm, we are welcoming the National Kitten Coalition (NKC) into our shelter to conduct an important, life-saving workshop just in time for kitten season, and we’d like you to join us.

The NKC is a non-profit dedicated to helping shelters and rescues save more kittens. The presentation will be conducted by Rosemarie Crawford , one of the co-founders of the NKC, and will focus on the topics of:

– Stabilizing kittens, critical care

– Care for orphaned kittens (housing, feeding, etc)

– Common concerns like singles, putting w/ nursing queens, genital sucking, etc

– Treatment protocols for diseases (that will fit big and small budgets) including diarrhea

– Exams for foster parents/volunteers

– Early disease recognition

There will also be a Q&A and handouts.

Question: Who’s coming to learn about my needs? Anyone?

We are pleased to say that the spots are filling up fast and, thus far, we have eight other rescue organizations joining us to learn about kitten care. Tree House couldn’t be more proud to host our community in support of such an important cause.

If you know of another organization that would benefit from this workshop, please share the information with them. We encourage anyone who wants to learn to attend, including kitten foster parents, rescue volunteers,  and other rescues and shelters. The public is also welcome.

Details and tickets are available here.  We have only a few spaces left and sign up closes March 13th. Tickets are $25, or $20 if you’re a Tree House volunteer. Please come so we can get together as a community and save some kittens! They’re depending on us.

With Love,

Tree House.



Neuter is Cuter! Hurray for Spay!

Greetings, Tree House Supporters!

Today, we launch our yearly Spay & Neuter campaign, where we ask for your donations to help us remove the kitten-causing bits of cats all over Chicago. In 2018, you helped us spay/neuter 785 cats. This year, our goal is to increase that by almost 200% for a grand total of 1,200 surgeries.

If you happen to get our Spay & Neuter Appeal in the mail, you’ll get to see how Chip and Dip, some of our neutered cats, feel about the whole ordeal. Chip may refer to his manhood as “an empty showpiece,” but we want you to trust us and believe that it’s for his best. Here’s why: 600 males and 600 females, unsterilized, would produce at least 24,000 kittens in five years. That’s over five times the number of cats Tree House is able to adopt out in the same amount of time. And with kitten season just around the corner, now is the time.

Now, some might say that we’re trying to put ourselves out of business by bringing cat numbers down. This may be true – business isn’t our number one goal; cats are. We want to see them thrive. We want to see them all in happy, loving homes. And, if there are more cats than homes, that can’t happen, so the best solution is Spay and Neuter to make sure that all cats can live safe, healthy, lives.

One surgery costs $50. If you think about it, that’s $50 now to prevent $1000 worth of surgeries in the next 5 years. Clearly, that’s just good financial sense. So, if you’re interested in helping us create a humane future for every cat in the city of Chicago, follow this link to read more about this year’s Spay & Neuter Appeal.  If you’re simply ready to join in our cause, click here to donate.  You will be our hero.


Tree House.



**Post edited to remove the info about the Marvel giveaway event that has passed.***


Meet Our Community Cats TNR Team!

Do you know about our Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program? What about our Cats At Work program, which is helping businesses and homes all across Chicago solve their rat problems in an ecologically sound manner? If you’ve heard of either, then you are already familiar with the work of Bob and Paul, the core members of Tree House’s Community Cats team!

bob and paul TNR

Bob (left) and Paul (right), also known collectively as “ZZTrap”

Bob has been with Tree House for almost a year and is the one most seen hiding in the bushes waiting for cats. His role is an important one, because trapping is the very foundation of our TNR program.

If a cat is living outside with no one to care for it, it can fall prey to a number of dangers including illness, hunger, and procreation. What happens when cats have kittens? Those kittens have more kittens. And then what? Overcrowding happens, and that leads to more illness and more hunger. Therefore, TNR is the solution for a more humane future.

If you identify a cat living outside, Bob is the person at Tree House who can help assess the situation and assist with trapping. Once the cat is trapped, s/he’ll be brought to Tree House for neuter or spay surgery, microchipping, and medical assessment, and if the cat prefers to live outside based on our team’s evaluation, he will be returned by Bob to where he was initially trapped. Bob will also coach you in how to trap and return so you can continue being part of the solution after he leaves, but he’ll leave the neutering up to our resident vet Dr. Emily, so no worries there.

Moving on to our Cats At Work program! The best choice is to always return community cats to where they were trapped, but that may not be an option. When they cannot be returned, such as when an abandoned building they are living in is going to be demolished, Tree House places them into the Cats At Work program and that’s where Paul, who has been with Tree House for three and a half years, comes in. Tree House, and Paul, will take those cats and re-home them to your location through an acclimation process following their trapping and neuter or spay.

As part of our Community Cats program, someone near the colony of cats will become a caretaker and be able to feed and care for the cats legally, with support from Tree House.

                                             Partners in Cat

So, if you see Bob hiding in the grasses of your neighborhood, remember that he will be very happy to teach you how to TNR so you can be a part of your community’s cat overpopulation solution. He also likes to cook every single day, so you may want to invite him in and direct him to your kitchen. And if you get a call from Paul asking about your rat problem, take a moment to ask him about his accordion. He only plays in private, so it’s kind of a mythical topic at Tree House.

In either case, don’t forget to thank these awesome Community Cats team members for doing their part to save cats’ lives and making sure that all cats, indoor and outdoor, thrive.

If you want to learn more about these programs, call us! We’re happy to help.


Tree House.

P.S. Many of you asked about our outdoor Community Cat shelters. We now have more in stock! We have plenty of the Large size ($35) and the Small ($25), with a limited number of them decorated by area school children. Come get yours and make sure your Community Cats are comfy and warm all year!

One of our limited edition Cat Shelters. Same price as the regular. A super bargain!


Cats Who Love to Eat and the Pet Food Pantry That Loves to Feed Them

As you all know, cats love to eat. In fact, most of them do it daily, sometimes more than once. Some of them like the crunchy stuff, some like the pate`, but all of them like having a full belly. And that’s where our Pet Food Pantry comes in and why we need your help.

cat eating

A known eater, doing what he does best.

In 2018, Tree House’s Pet Food Pantry provided 3,200 pounds of food to 100 pet families. That is the equivalent of over 27,000 meals and that is ALL because of YOU! Everyone who graciously donated bags or cans of food to our pantry helped those families keep their pets happy, healthy, and full. It also allowed them to keep their pets, because many of those pets might have otherwise been relinquished to a shelter without that assistance. Sometimes, pet guardians have financial difficulties and our pantry helps them keep their furry family members during those times of hardship.

Right now, our pantry is low and we need to restock so we can continue helping those families that count on us. If you have a moment and can spare about $10, please visit our Amazon Wishlist and ship us a case of food or litter. We promise it’s going to a worthy cause. You can also drop off unused, sealed donations at our shelter at 7225 N. Western Ave. any day of the week from 9 am to 5 pm. We can provide you with an acknowledgement for your donation, and we will DEFINITELY provide you with a huge, heartfelt thank you.

A lone can waiting for his brethren. (Ok, we have a few cases left, but we found this image to be more poignant.)

With Love,

Tree House.



PS. If you’re free the 16th, 17th, or 19th, CatVideoFest is coming to Chicago, with this year’s proceeds benefiting the cats at Red Door Shelter. One of our staff members, Alana Grelyak, has a movie appearing in the “Classics” section of this year’s reel and they were kind enough to give Tree House a few free tickets so we can see it, too! Tickets available at the Music Box Theater. 



FeLV: Felines Love Valentines

Have you ever sent a Valentine to a feline? They love them, you know, and if you’ve ever loved a cat, you’ve likely addressed an envelope or two. But perhaps you haven’t yet met the right kitty, the one that makes you want to bring home catnip flowers in a (hopefully) inexpensive vase you don’t mind seeing broken as a soft paw nudges it off the table’s edge. Well, we can help you find that special someone, and we can also help you see that, while you may have initially thought the broken vase was a negative, it was ugly and it was a positive change to your decor. Either way, at Tree House, positive and negative don’t make much difference when love is involved.

See, here at Tree House, we have a special room full of positive cats; positive in their attitude and their love for life and snuggling. They’re positively joyful and beautiful and happy. And they’re also positive for FeLV, but we don’t think that’s a negative. So let us take this moment to introduce you to Amberly, a perfectly adoptable, loveable, huggable girl who is just waiting for her Valentine to arrive.

amberly, available for adoption at Tree House

The one, the only, Amberly!

Amberly is FeLV positive, meaning she has Feline Leukemia Virus, a retrovirus that has no cure. She may live a shorter lifespan than an FeLV negative cat, but that just means she plans to pack more effort into whatever time she has. That means more love, more intense snuggles, and all play and no work. You wouldn’t want her to work anyway, would you? She’s gotten accustomed to her leisure time at Tree House, which she spends looking for hugs, chatting, and grooming her spectacularly patterned fur.

Now, here’s what Amberly can’t do: She can’t live with an FeLV negative cat because the virus can spread through close contact. And… that’s about it! Let’s look at the things she can do:

  • Live with a dog, or another FeLV positive cat (Have you met Meatball? Holy cow, is that little guy a bundle of joy!)
  • Love you
  • Cuddle
  • Run, jump, and play
  • Knock vases off tables, but only if they don’t match your decor (she’s really into interior design)
  • Be your friend for life

And really, is there anything else you could want?

Amberly, the adoptable FeLV positive cat at Tree House

Look at those gorgeous stripey patch colors!

Listen, we realize that adopting a kitty with a shortened lifespan can be scary, but we’re here to help. You can read this FeLV Fact Sheet  that our fabulous Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Emily Swiniarski, put together to help understand if adopting an FeLV positive kitty is right for you. If you have more questions, let us know. If you want to meet Amberly, come visit. She’s hanging out near our soon-to-open cat cafe. Until then, she’ll be waiting patiently for her Valentine. She hopes it’s going to be you.


Tree House.

P.S. If you have already given your heart to a kitty, you can choose a special gift for them from our Purrfect Purr Catique.  100% of the profits go directly to helping cats like Amberly. (Oh, who are we kidding? Amberly is one of a kind!)

Amberly, the adoptable FeLV positive cat at Tree House

Amberly waiting patiently for love. And snacks.



Pre-Fabricated, Outdoor Cat Shelters: Tree House Has Them!

Due to the extreme polar cold and a mention we got from the CBS local news, we’ve had a lot of inquiries about our prefabricated, insulated, outdoor cat shelters. We do sell them! They are made in-house out of an insulated storage tote and come stuffed with straw to keep any furry inhabitants toasty and dry.

A shelter as modeled by our lovely cat puppet “Purrs.”

The large size is $35 and the small is $25. (As of January 31, 2019 we are currently out of stock on the large size but expect to have more made soon. You can call ahead to find out before making the trip, if you like. Please note, we’re closed January 31 due to the weather emergency and will re-open Feb. 1.)

We also sell heated water bowls ($25) to keep your colony’s water, well, liquid, and we have heating pads ($40) for inside the shelters in case you want to give your colony a little upgrade. Proceeds from the sales go back into helping Tree House save more cats.

We do not presently ship the shelters, but you can come visit us at 7225 N. Western Ave in Chicago and ask for a shelter at the front desk. Someone will be happy to help you. If you have any questions, please call us at 773-262-4000 and speak with the Community Cats department for more info. If you are out of state and trying to get a shelter, please look up your local TNR group. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to assist you!

You reading this means you are actively trying to make a cat’s life better, and for that, we thank you.

Purrs stays comfy inside with lots of straw!

Polar Cold Day II: Closed Again

Well, it seems we were too optimistic. We thought this cold would let up. Alas, it keeps us in its icy grip for yet another winter day. Once again, we must announce that, for the safety and comfort of our supporters, guests, volunteers, and staff, we will be closed Thursday, January 31st, 2019. 

We have our paws and tails crossed that we will not have to do this again and plan to be open Friday, February 1. If anything changes, we will announce it here.

Closed again?! Nuts.

Until then, stay snuggled in your blankets as pictured above. Our kitties promise they’ll wait patiently for your return.

(P.S. Let’s take a moment to give a hearty shout out to our staff members who blazed their way through the cold to make sure our kitties were fed and loved. Thank you!)