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

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Pussyfooting around campus

Stray, feral cats find home on the Hilltop
 Pussyfooting around campus
Pussyfooting around campus

Pussyfooting around campus

Walking down dark sidewalks, you cannot help but notice eyesglowing at you from the bushes. The stealthy creatures dart outwhen they hear you approach. You turn the corner to find onesitting on a window ledge. They are orange, brown or evenmulticolored. Big and small. They dart out from under cars and cutyou off in an instant. Where do these cats come from?

Feral and stray cats have long been a concern on collegecampuses. According to the Humane Society of the United States,feral cats migrate to where there is a transient population:college campuses, military bases, apartment complexes —places where they can find shelter and get food.

A stray, according to Alley Cat Allies (www.alleycat.org) is”a domestic cat that has been abandoned or has strayed fromhome.” Recaptured, strays can usually be successfully placedinto adoptive homes. A feral cat, in contrast, is a domestic catthat lives the lifestyle of a wild animal. Feral literally means”gone wild.” These cats do not easily return todomestic life .

For years, universities trapped these cats and turned them overto local animal shelters. Since these cats are feral, in mostcases, they could not be adopted and would be euthanized. This didnot alleviate the problem. Rather, it just opened up the area forother cats to migrate and take over. The only way to reduce the catpopulation is through sterilization.

SMU is no different when it comes to cats. They areeverywhere.

For around 25 years, an elderly woman took care of feeding thecats until she became incapacitated. In 1998, KittiCo cat rescuewas contacted by the Summerlee Foundation to initiate atrap-neuter-release program.

That program, as described by Alley Cat Allies, is a fullmanagement plan in which stray and feral cats already livingoutdoors are humanely trapped, evaluated, vaccinated and sterilizedby veterinarians. Kittens and tame cats are put up for adoption.Healthy adult cats too wild to be adopted are returned to theirfamiliar habitat under the care of volunteers. To prevent cats fromrepeatedly being trapped and removed from their home, one of theirears is clipped to mark that they have been sterilized.

Summerlee Foundation, a private, non-profit charitablefoundation, has continued to award money to the SMU Feral Catprogram through its grant program for the past three years, hopingthat students would get involved.

This has yet to happen at the level the Summerlee Foundationwould like.

Katherine Hall, a Dedman School of Law graduate, took on thetask of being the cat caretaker while she was still attendingschool. Even though she graduated in 2001, she continues to come tocampus to feed and monitor the cats. Soon Hall will be leaving theprogram, and the university will need to find a replacement.

Other universities have instituted university-sponsoredprograms.

The University of Texas at Austin has the Campus Cat Coalition,which is made

up of university staff volunteers. After one of theuniversity’s unannounced sweeps to trap the cats, a staffmember convinced administrators that there was a more humane way.With the help of the Austin Humane Society/SPCA, the Coalition wasable to start a trap-neuter-release program.

Texas A&M University has Aggie Feral Cat Alliance of Texas.AFCAT is a volunteer group of students, faculty and staff thatparticipate in its TNR program. In addition to the TNR program,they are active in educating their community on theresponsibilities of animal ownership.

Instead of being a nuisance on campus, SMU students and staffalike find them a comfort.

“I think the cats on campus make us all feel like a closecommunity, even though we come from all over,” said LisaBishop, a part-time MBA student. “They kind of make me feellike I’m at home.”

For more information or to volunteer with the SMU Feral Catprogram, contact Hall at (469) 964-5843. To report an injured cat,contact the SMU Police Department at (214) 768-3388.

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