The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

Here, Kitty Kitty

SMU students may be surprised to learn they are sharing their campus with more critters than just the infamous SMU squirrels. In fact, several colonies of feral cats have silently lived among us for years. While these cuddly quadrupeds may look like Fluffy, they certainly are not your average housecat. Years of surviving in harsh weather conditions, living on rodents and insects, and dodging coyote attacks have permanently hardened these kitties. However, even they need a helping hand now and then, and that’s where SMU’s Feral Cat Program–an organization that feeds and provides basic healthcare to these campus cats–steps in.

Mary Anne Rogers, SMU’s Associate University Secretary serves as the administration liaison for the group. She has been with the Feral Cat Program since its inception in the late 1990s.

“Whether SMU supports the feral cat colonies or not, the feral cats will live on campus,” she said, “The Program is a way of managing and controlling a healthy cat population.”

Before the birth of the Program, the only person attending to the cat population on campus was a kind-souled elderly lady living nearby. When the University became aware of her efforts, Leon Bennet, General Counsel of the University at the time, began discussions with the Summerlee Foundation—an animal rights focused grant organization founded by Dallas philanthropist Annie Lee Roberts—to gather financial support for a program to take care of the cats. According to Rogers, the foundation was the driving force behind the birth of the Feral Cat Program.

Recent SMU graduate Lauren Hadaway played an active role within the Feral Cat Program during her time in school. Every Wednesday for four years she happily rode her bike around campus toting bags of food to distribute to hungry cats. Now that her days at SMU are over, she works as a sound editor for an entertainment company in sunny Los Angeles.

“I’ve always loved animals, I grew up with every pet you could think of—cats, dogs, parakeets, chickens, turtles, fish, bunnies, hamsters”, she said in an email interview with me. “Living in the dorm was like a shock to my system so when I started to notice all these cats hanging out on campus I did a little research and joined the team.”

According to the program’s website,, roughly 60 cats in 13 colonies live throughout campus. The organization utilizes the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) system recommended by veterinarians and feral cat experts to keep the feral population under control. The objective is to spay or neuter every cat on campus so that more kittens aren’t born into feral life. Spaying and neutering also diminishes the behaviors and stressors associated with mating such as yowling and fighting.

“It’s like comparing your pet dog to a wolf,” said Hadaway.

The TNR method, said Hadaway, is not only the most humane, but also the most effective solution to handling cats on campus. Due to cat’s territorial nature, the only thing stopping more felines from moving onto campus are the current ones. Merely removing them would create a vacuum, causing more animals to move in. Unlike domesticated cats, feral cats are not socialized to be around humans and will hiss, hide, and fight if brought into a home.

Dr. Geoff Bratton, a veterinarian at The Holt Clinic near SMU, believes it’s of the utmost importance to manage Feral cat colonies on campuses using the TNR method. He also notes that the upside of having feral cats on campus is that the pint-sized hunters are great at controlling unwanted rodent infestations.

“A female cat can have up to 4 or 5 litters per year and each litter could have as many as 6-8 kittens. You can see how quickly the number of cats can multiply,” he said, “These litters can be prevented by spaying and neutering.”

Elizabeth Putsche is an employee at Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. From headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the kitty crusaders at ACA use education, hands-on-activism and progressive policies to help protect cats’ lives. She believes that not only do TNR programs make for a healthier cat population, but also unite communities toward a common cause.

“No matter how large the campus, TNR programs unite students, staff, faculty, and local residents in a unique way” she said. “It can foster a sense of compassion and cooperation that enriches campus culture.”

SMU senior film student Rachel Wilson, who’s been around cats her whole life at her mother’s shelter, says the Program is the only organization on campus she’s ever donated to.

“I’ve always had such a connection with cats and when I see them wandering around campus it’s really comforting to know that they’re being looked after,” she said.

To become a full-time or part-time kitty feeder with the Feral Cat Program, contact Susan Underwood at 214-769-3617 or email [email protected]. They are currently seeking cat-loving volunteers to help fill the 15 feeders located around campus. (Dogs need not apply.)

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