the day I met renegades.

A little over a week and our family of five is settling in well! Rawlings is enjoying retired life and the cats are happy enough to get a few extra pets to ensure we still love them too. It’s been a bit of a transition period as we figure out a new normal and new sleep schedule, but I feel incredibly lucky to have her. Anyways, enough gushing. As you may have seen, while I was in Charleston, I stopped by Pounce, a cat cafe. Shortly after that post, I received a message from Chicago Animal Advocates asking me if I wanted to learn more about their current TNR program. Uhhh duh.

Angelica is the founder of Chicago Animal Advocates, a three-year-old rescue organization that’s saved hundreds of animals in their short time. Autumn is the woman behind Castle Black Paw, an Instagram account dedicated to the feral cats on Chicago’s South Side. Not having any clue what to expect, I was eager to learn about TNR here in our city. I know we have feral cats in Chicago, but I’ve never seen them. Part of me enjoyed the ignorance but the other part of me knew I needed to learn more about what is actually going on with the feral cat population in this city.

Before I get into my specific experience with Angelica and Angela, let me take a step back and explain what TNR is. There are basically three types of cats: family pets, strays, and ferals. Feral cats are cats that are generally born outside with little human contact. They miss out on crucial socialization and in turn, actually do better outdoors and away from people than living in a home environment.

Most people in the rescue world believe that feral cats do better living on their own. They create colonies and very beneficial to the neighborhood they’re in as they help with rat control. The only problem with feral cats is that they can reproduce very quickly and soon there are too many cats in one area. Competition for resources becomes intense and the colony can’t be sustained. TNR solves that problem with the trap, neuter, and release of feral cats.

Cats are humanely trapped and then brought to a veterinarian who will vaccinate and spay/neuter the cat. If the kitty is a social cat (usually a stray) it’s sent to a rescue organization to find a home. True feral cats are released with a clean bill of health back in the environment where they thrive. TNR has been backed up with plenty of studies indicating its success and humane approach to population control.

I’ve known about TNR programs, we even have a few working cats in my neighborhood, but I’ve never experienced the process first hand. I met Angelica and Autumn behind the Save a Lot parking lot of 87th in South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. They had five cats in traps in their car ready to be released back to their homes. We set them all in a row and one-by-one let them out of their cages. It was a very different, but extremely satisfying moment. Knowing these kitties were getting the best shot at living a happy life outside.

Afterward, we spent about 45 minutes walking around the block looking for and feeding the cats. I felt like we were on a safari, trying to track and help the wild animals here in Chicago. While walking around, I was able to connect with both Angelica and Autumn, two women who simply want to save cats. Since April, they’ve TNR’d more than 25 cats in the South Shore area. No fancy charts or spreadsheets, they have every single name written down in a notepad and remember each cat. I am in awe of these two women… they saw something that needed to be done and they just did it.

In the rescue world, there can be a lot of red tape and it sometimes feels like running through wet cement to accomplish things. Not the case for Angelica and Autumn. Their biggest problem isn’t? Expenses. Like most rescue work, the cash is slow to come in but quick to go out. Most comes out of their pockets, with the occasional support from Chicago Animal Advocates. But it doesn’t stop them because they see a need and they’re doing what they can to help.

Autumn and Angelica are renegades in the rescue world. Doing things their way and getting the damn thing done. I only got experience the “release” portion of the work they do but I know I’ll be back to help trap cats and experience the process from beginning to happy end.

If you’d like to support their efforts, donations are greatly appreciated. Wet food, transport crates, and traps are high needs currently, monetary donations are accepted as well.


Some of the cats that they trap become available for adoption through Chicago Animal Advocates. To see a list of adoptable pets, click here. Also, they are really in need of foster homes, if you’re interested in fostering, click here.


This shirt is from Joriki and it’s pretty inline with what I believe. The shirt is available here and you can shop the rest of the look below.

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