When history sophomore Savannah Chatham was walking past the University Center in January, she spotted a tabby cat lurking in the corner.
He was a friendly kitty, Chatham said, and she left briefly to get him something to eat. The cat, commonly known as O’Malley, was waiting when she returned with a serving of tater tots.
From then on, Chatham said she quickly grew fond of the other cats on campus and jumped at the opportunity to join the Campus Cat Coalition.
The newly revived and improved coalition will provide food and medical care to the cats on campus and allow community cat lovers an outlet to connect.
Eryn Von Husen, biology junior and organization president, said the organization will use a custom Google map to keep track of the cats’ locations and Discord, a text and chat app, to coordinate feeding times and plan medical attention like spaying and neutering.
The coalition began in 2003, said Angie Barolet, Institutional Effectiveness and Reporting coordinator and member of the original coalition.
At the time, the cat population on campus was much larger, and feral cats would run loose on campus and congregate by the apartments, she said. Facilities Management began trapping the cats to control the population by euthanizing them.
Then various cat advocates, primarily faculty members and a few students, banded together to form the Campus Cat Coalition. Barolet said the organization’s goal was to spay or neuter the cats and help them find homes rather than put them down.
As the feline population dwindled, so did the organization’s activity. With fewer cats, there wasn’t much to do, and the coalition eventually fell apart.
Von Husen became interested in reviving the coalition in April when she noticed that one of the cats on campus had a deep wound on its head, according to a previous Shorthorn article.
She immediately started a GoFundMe to raise money to take the cat to a veterinary clinic.
The cat, named KC, was diagnosed with feline leukemia and euthanized.
After that, Von Husen began recruiting others to join the coalition, with the goal of spaying or neutering and vaccinating the other campus cats.
She said once she was sure the other cats were healthy, the main goal was to initiate TNR (trap-neuter-return) colonies, where the cats are humanely trapped, spayed/neutered, rehabilitated and safely returned to their outdoor habitats.
As the coalition spays and neuters the cats already on campus, more cats will inevitably migrate to UTA, Von Husen said. Owners frequently release their cats on the streets or dump their cats on college campuses.
“There’s always going to be cats,” she said.
Through the revamped club, Von Husen plans to educate the UTA community on proper ways to manage feral cats. Many people think the solution to the campus cat population is relocation, but she said this only confuses the cats.
“They have their own territory, and they know where to get their food,” she said. “If you just drop them off somewhere else, they’re going to starve.”
The club recently connected with the Feral Cat Condo Project, an organization that repurposes styrofoam coolers into shelters for feral cat communities. Von Husen said once Facilities Management approves the structures, the organization will set them up around campus to house the cats.
Danielle Ford, Campus Cat Coalition faculty adviser, said as an avid cat lover, the coalition was right up her alley.
Cats are often less loved than other animals like dogs, so it’s important to have an organization dedicated to their care, Ford said. While dogs are more likely to love everyone, a cat won’t jump into just anyone’s lap.
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They’ve gained a stigma of seeming evil or unlovable and, as a result, many people overlook cats and are less likely to extend care to a stray cat than they are to a stray dog, she said. Now, the felines will get the attention they deserve.
“Cats are a very misunderstood animal because they don’t outwardly show affection like dogs,” she said. “People think that cats are sneaky or evil or can’t be loving, but cats can be just as, if not more, loyal than dogs.”