A Day to Celebrate Gay Rights for Soda Pop & Conan



In honor of this very important day in history, we would like to celebrate one of our gay kitty couples! Conan & Soda Pop, President Obama congratulates you in your efforts and work for gay rights. We support your loving relationship, your basket cuddle time, your pensive window dates, and your trust in one another. Conan, even though Soda Pop sometimes strays and checks out other boys, we know you are always there waiting, trusting that he will come home. Soda Pop, we know about your inability to resist cuddles & rendezvous with Dr. Bob, but we are rooting for you and Conan to make it through (we know you have a soft spot for gingers after all).  This is a day to celebrate you and your love! We hope you find a lovely home together with lots of baskets and windows. We hope your marriage (now supported by the Supreme Court) lasts a lifetime!

Posted by Danielle C

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Tell-Tail Signs

Cats can be one of the most expressive animals. They are able to communicate their pleasure or displeasure to us despite not being able to communicate using human words. If you’ve ever wondered what a cat is thinking, look no further than his or her body language. Cat language is also communicated to through verbal cues like meowing, hissing and spitting, but if you observe your cat, you’ll probably notice they are silent most of the time, communicating instead through ear, tail and body posture/position. The tail is an important part of the cat to watch and de-code in order to understand your cat’s feelings.

Did you know that almost 10% of a cat’s bones are in its tail alone? Tails are used as a way to maintain the cats’ balance, and cats can jump up to seven times the length of their tail! You can learn about your cat’s state of mind by observing the posture of the tail. Here are some tips to give you some insight as to what your cat’s tail might be telling you:


-Tail curves down and then up at the tip – this means that the cat is peaceful and contented.

-Tail slightly raised and gently curved – the cat is curious and interested.

-Tail held vertical but with tip tilting over – the cat is interested and friendly and in a greeting mood but is also slightly cautious.

-Tail held vertical with the tip stiffly held upright – the cat is very happy which is ready and willing to greet, with no reservations.

-Tail held vertically and quivering – this often happens after the cat greets you and means a friendly hello.


-Tail lowered, maybe even between legs – this is a signal of submission. Your cat may be feeling lowly and defeated.

-Tail held low and puffed out – the cat is fearful.

-Tail arched and bristling – the cat is in a defensive mode, but also a cat ready to defend itself if pushed. A cat will always puff itself up when challenged to try and make itself appear bigger and scare the challenger.


-Tail held straight and bristling – this is the sign of aggression.

-Tail swishing violently side to side – the sign of conflict in its most angry state, usually a sign that the cat is about to attack.

-Tail still with tip twitching – the cat is mildly irritated. If the tip starts to twitch more vigorously then the cat is becooming more bad tempered.

Baldwin & Babalou-bobtail brothers!

Right now at the Bucktown Branch we have three cats that have some or all of their tail’s missing! Babalou, Baldwin (brothers), and Deb all came to us around the same time, but we have little information about what happened to their posteriors. We believe that it could have been a birth defect in the case of the brothers. In all three cases, they act like completely normal cats, not adversely affected by their lack of tailpieces.


We are left wondering at times, what would their tails be telling us about their feelings since we don’t have a tail to observe? There are other physical cues you can use to pick up on your cats mood if they are without a tail.

Take the cat’s ear for example. They play a large part in cats communication. There are five basic ear signals – relaxed, alert, agitated, defensive, and aggressive.

Happy relaxed cat

-The cat will usually sit with its ears facing forward and tilted slightly back, as it listens for interesting sounds. When an interesting sound is detected the ears change into alert mode.

The alert cat

-The ears will become more pricked as the muscles in the forehead pull them in. If the ears begin to twitch or swivel, the cat is probably feeling a little anxious or unsure of the noise or situation.

An aggitated cat

-If the cat is feeling in a state of conflict, frustration or apprehension or apprehension, the cat will often display a nervous twitching of the ears.

A defensive cat

-A defensive cat will display its ears fully flattened. This is also a practical defense mechanism so that if the cat gets into a fight its ears won’t be damaged.

An aggressive cat

-The ears are rotated but not fully flattened, with backs visible from the front. This is the most dangerous ear signal a cat can transmit.

A cat’s eyes can be incredibly expressive as well. If you keep an eye on the size of your cat’s pupils, you can read into their mood along with their other bodily cues.

Fear or excitement

-If a cat feels threatened and also if it sees something pleasing the cat’s pupils will become dilated.


-An annoyed cat will turn its ears back, while its pupils constrict and its whiskers bristle forward.

Playing and hunting

-The ears are pricked, pupils dilated and whiskers thrust forward.

Relaxed or friendly

-A relaxed cat will have perked ears and whiskers. Dilation of the pupils depends on the light.

If you take these cues into consideration, you’ll be on the way to learning how to read your cat’s moods more more completely!




-Olga S.

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Pollyanna – Fluffy, Petite and Easy to Love

With her long hair and fluffy mane, Pollyanna looks more like a tiny lion than a tabby cat. But this gentle girl’s disposition tells you everything you need to know about her. She loves people and greets everyone by rubbing against their legs and purring. And Pollyanna has good reason to be happy. Her life has improved immensely since she has come to live at Tree House.

She was found on the street this past October with a flea collar fastened around her neck, with her right front leg stuck through it. She had a deep laceration on her right shoulder due to the collar digging into her skin. The people who found her took the collar off and brought her to Tree House, where she was given a course of oral and topical antibiotics to help heal the wound.

Luckily, Pollyanna healed quickly and was moved to the adoption floor where she has made friends with the other cats and loves the attention she gets from people who visit her. This sweet, petite girl loves to be brushed and cuddled and would especially love a home of her own.

posted by Keli T.

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Chase Away Winter Blahs with Kitty Companionship

Now that the festivity of winter holidays have passed and giddy New Years champagne toast fade to memory, many begin to feel oppressed by the long dark days ahead. Seasonal Affective Disorder is believed to affect thousands of people to varying degrees and has not been diagnosed in non-human animals, however some researchers suspect pets too may experience some SAD related symptoms.

I began to wonder if cats experience changes in mood as season’s shift earlier this winter as several people mentioned that they had noticed that their own pets seemed gloomy and lacked energy of late. I can’t say I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my feline household, but after consideration my cats do seem more reluctant to leave bed in the morning and their strict routine of meeting me at the front door has been less than choreographed on a couple of occasions.

Suggestions to counteract winter blahs in house cats include leaving blinds open so kitty can soak up spirit lifting sunlight and leaving a cat safe light source on if you know you’ll be out of the house well into the evening hours. It is also recommended to engage pets in extra playtime. I find rousing their natural curiosity by encouraging them to “help” with activities such as watering plants and making the bed brighten my cat’s day. While it has not been proven that cats experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, it never hurts to try new ways to enrich their lives.

I also can’t help to wonder if some house pets may seem a little out of sorts during long winter months because their people may be weary and blue. Animals are thought to be very intuitive at reading emotion, I can’t even count how many heartbreaks and arguments with my family my cats have comforted me through over the years. It makes perfect sense that cats would be effected by their persons mood and or become bored if depression is causing their person to interact and play with them less.

According to an article by W. Gifford-Jones, M.D. published in the journal, Veterinary Economics, cats may be a cure for SAD. According to the article, the cat owners studied experienced far fewer related symptoms such as lethargy and depression than cat-less individuals. It has long been suspected that a correlation exist between pet ownership and health benefits such as lower blood pressure making it very plausible that cuddling with kitty may help combat SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is well documented as a serious illness plaguing thousands and there is certainly not enough evidence to support caring for a cat being curative, but honestly, do we really need a reason to love cats? So bundle up and take the dog out for a walk in the snow and let the cats chase the laser light up the walls and maybe we’ll all make it through the winter a little merrier.

posted by Gwen M.

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Invisible Cats: Kush and Kodi Journey from Uptown to Bucktown

As wonderful as Tree House is and as great as cageless environments can be for cats, an adoption center is still very stressful for animals. It’s important to bear this in mind when trying to better understand the health and well-being of our resident cats and meet their needs.
Many of the rescued cats who come to us, presumably for a period of time that spans from weeks to months depending on their health, end up staying in our care much longer. It may be that the sheer number of cats that a potential adopter considers is overwhelming, but certain cats seem to stay with Tree House for many months and sometimes, years. It seems like these wonderful cats are practically invisible.

Kush was living in the Palm Room at Tree House’s Uptown location, staying up high in cat trees and accepting pets on the forehead, but not for very long and not from everyone. She would become agitated easily and showed this by slapping away a friendly hand and retreating ever-higher in order to feel safe. She was moved to our Bucktown branch in September of 2011 to see if the smaller population of cats there would help ease her stress, and she has been doing magnificently!

Kush is a domestic short haired brown tabby born approximately in 1999. She was admitted to Tree House with kittens in March of 2001 and had a rough go of it at first. She was moved around a lot for a variety of reasons, from weight loss to a demolition project. Her weight continued to fluctuate for months, possibly due to stress.

Kush Enjoying the Outdoor Enclosure at Tree House's Bucktown Branch

Kush was finally adopted in May of 2003 along with another Tree House cat, Olive. But, Kush was returned to us in August that year when her home  situation deteriorated. She began to vomit on a regular basis in the Palm Room at Uptown and was clearly feeling stressed. Currently, Kush takes ¼ tab of Pepcid daily and receives a B12 shot monthly. She is suspected to have inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatitis. Kush does not have any teeth.

Kush is a new cat since her move to Bucktown! We have not witnessed any vomiting and her behavior is open, playful and friendlier than ever. It brings tears to my eyes almost every time I see her engage in play or jump down to approach someone for affection. Clearly, Kush would blossom even further in the right home environment filled with love, care and affection.

Kodi Relaxing at Tree House's Bucktown Branch

Kodi is another cat who lived in the Palm Room at our Uptown location and was sent to live at Bucktown in May of 2011 to see if it would benefit her well-being. She is doing great and seems much happier now! Her story is very similar to Kush’s in some ways. Kodi is a DSH Calico born approximately in 2005 who is considered to be an over-stim cat. She was admitted with her kittens in May of 2007. She was impossible to work with; very fractious and uncooperative.  Kodi’s weight fluctuated a lot for many months, probably due to the stress of life in an adoption center.  She was often found swiping at people who tried to give her affection and they would sometimes mistake her agitation for play which only encouraged the behavior.

Since her move to Bucktown, Kodi does accept more affection and she seems to feel more at ease. She may always be over-stim, but if her future adopter understands this behavior and doesn’t have a need to pet her constantly, Kodi will make a wonderful addition to a home of her own.

Interested in seeing these girls in action? Watch this video of Kush approaching me for interaction, with Kodi sneaking in for affection near the end: Kush and Kodi at Tree House’s Bucktown Branch 

Posted by Brenda W.

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December Adoptions, Ringing in the New Year with Heart

2011 has been a wonderful year at Tree House. I count myself fortunate to have helped match countless loving cats with caring adopters. Among the most memorable months of 2011, December surpassed adoption rates in recent years and many special needs cats will embark on new adventures in the New Year.

Delbert Spending the Holidays in His New Home

Delbert, perhaps more than any other cat has touched hearts this year with his soulful stare, willingness to trust and develop friendships with people despite being fearful for so long. Delbert was brought into our spay/neuter clinic in a trap to be neutered and released, but was admitted after inspection because clinic staff worried he was in serious need of medical care. Delbert was initially very afraid, often reacting defensively by growling or striking with his paw at anyone attempting to pet or medicate him. No matter how feral Delbert seemed a certain sad, far away gaze made him look as if he were thinking about his family and a home that he missed very much. Delbert continued to mistrust unfamiliar people, but became very attached to the humans he trusted and relied on for scratches under the chin and yummy treats. But one volunteer in particular brightened Delbert’s days and the feeling was mutual. Even though Delbert is a senior cat with many health issues, his favorite person decided to take him home this December and she reports that he is already a transformed cat and wishes she had adopted him months ago. I look forward to hearing about Delbert’s amazing progress in his home in 2012.

We mourned the passing of beautiful Moonchild in 2011 who passed away from complications related to diabetes, but I can’t think of anything that would please her as best as knowing that both of her fellow diabetic roommates, Gentle Ben and Butch Cassidy were adopted in December by a staff member. Butch Cassidy and Gentle Ben are the best of buddies and have been vying for a place in Kady’s household for some time now. We are so grateful to Kady for giving the boys the loving home they deserve. For many Tree House volunteers it won’t be the same checking in and out for their shifts without the ritualistic visit with our diabetic residents, but new cats with special dietary restrictions will be moving into the office soon.

Best wishes to all creatures great and small in the New Year and thank you for helping to make 2011 such a wonderful year at Tree House.

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A Day in the Life of a New Tree House TNR Volunteer

On Tuesday, 11/29/11, I was driving a staff member from an animal rescue group back to Chicago from dropping off three fostered rescue cats for medical/dental care in the western suburbs.  We were driving east on Augusta Blvd through the Austin neighborhood when we saw two cats run out of the open door of a convenience store in a heated fight while a couple of idle men stood there looking on and laughing.

As most animal advocates do, we felt the need to investigate this situation so we stopped the car in front of the store and the rescue worker went inside to see what was going on.  As she opened the door to walk in, one of the cats ran past her and into a small, dingy store that was illuminated by bright fluorescent lights.  In the store, the rescue worker talked to various people until she was introduced to the storeowner and inquired about the cats.   The owner said the cat that ran into the store was his and was pregnant, and that he wanted her but not any babies.  The rescue worker explained that she would arrange for his cat to be fixed, vaccinated and returned.  The owner liked this idea but the pregnant cat had already run and hid in the basement and he was unwilling to go after her.  While the rescue worker was in the store, the cat that had been fighting with the pregnant cat was pawing at the door to get inside.   The storeowner claimed this cat was not his and didn’t care if we took it.   So we picked her up and planned to get her vetted and put up for adoption.

Continuing our investigation into the extent of stray cats in the area, we asked a number of people in and around the store if there were any kittens on the property.  Everyone said no until one man described a grey kitten that he had recently seen hanging around the fenced-in back lot.  There were a number of vehicles packed into the secured lot obscuring our view, but even after the guys to let us in to explore the area, we saw no other cats or kittens and assumed the kitten had taken off down the alley.

My friend the rescue worker knew of a Tree House TNR program in this area, and knows the woman who runs it, so we reached out to her for help to fix and vaccinate the cat we rescued as well as launch a TNR project on this block.  The very next day, Kari came to my home to show me how to TNR in my neighborhood and we returned to the convenience store together to gather more information about the stray cat situation, canvass the area with information about the free sterilization/vaccination services available, and perform a site evaluation for our trapping project.  Kari and I spoke with a variety of people in the store and the surrounding area regarding our mission of TNR through Tree House and the Petsmart Charities grant supporting the project.  We discovered dozens of free-roaming cats in the blocks adjacent to the convenience store.

Kari taught me how and where to set up traps, how to secure the traps with locks to prevent theft, and how to talk to area residents to get their cooperation and assistance in finding and trapping the breeding cats.  Kari also demonstrated the best way to approach the community’s residents to find out where non-sterilized cats live, and to offer help in their area.  On this day, we were able to get the storeowner to agree to get his cat fixed and vaccinated.   We also picked up a young grey kitten, who was believed to be the son of the cat we picked up the day before.

We continued the day by setting up traps in the alley behind the convenience store and promoting the program to the neighbors.  During the three hours we were in the area we trapped a total of 10 cats, only stopping at 10 because we ran out of traps.  With the car jam packed full of cats to transport to the clinic, we headed off feeling excited and successful after an afternoon well spent in the mission of reducing the stray cat population.  Our excitement was quickly quelled when we turned the corner and saw a newly run-over kitten in the middle of the street, which had not been there when we arrived on the scene to begin our trapping project.  We were full of sorrow as we lamented the loss of life, but this sad situation reaffirmed our mission to reduce the stray cat population and gave us the impetus to return the next week to continue working on TNR so that more kittens would not be born to suffer such a fate.

When Kari took me back home, we found one feral cat in a trap under my front porch.  He is a big beautiful brown tabby who was very aggressive but healthy looking when we peeked under the sheet covering the trap.  Kari took him along with the others to get examined, sterilized, vaccinated, and microchipped the next day.

A few days later, Kari called me to let me know she was returning the feral tabby to my yard.  I met her when she arrived and I saw her release him under my front porch looking spunky and healthy.  Kari then took me to her car and showed me three tiny baby kittens in a box on her front passenger seat.  She had just picked them up from the guys at the convenience store when she stopped by to return the other sterilized cats.  The guys had found them alone and crying in the back car lot.

For anyone who wants to feel joyous at this or any other time of the year, working on a TNR project is the way to do it.   It is uplifting to know that you have assisted helpless creatures like these and the people who care for them but lack the knowledge and/or resources to help them.  I intend to assist Kari and Tree House in returning to the Austin area to continue their wonderful TNR mission.  To me, this is what this season is about: opening your heart and mind to creating a better world for people and animals.  I feel blessed to be part of such good work.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and please continue to support Tree House and its missions in any way you can.

Submitted by Carol L.

Edited by Kari J.

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