Post Classifieds

Program aims to control campus cat population

By Jared Watson
On September 14, 2010

A&M-Commerce faculty and members of the Commerce community continue to work to reestablish the Feral Cat Program on campus.

"A feral cat is a kitten that is not socialized by humans," English professor Dr. Robin Reid said. "They have the same response to humans that a wild animal would, which is to run away and hide. They won't come to you, and they don't look on humans as friendly."

The program, which involves trapping stray and feral cats on campus, spaying or neutering and vaccinating them, releasing them back onto campus, and then installing feeding stations, was discontinued during fall 2007. As reported by The East Texan in October 2009, Reid submitted an initial proposal to restart the program last fall.

"When [former A&M-Commerce president Keith] McFarland ended the feral cat program," Reid said, "he was doing it under the impression that by not having feeding stations, we would not have stray cats on campus. However, if you look around on campus, you will see the stray cats are back [and] the kittens are back, especially by the library."

President of the Commerce Humane Association Jody McIntier thinks the program would have substantial benefits for the university.

"You will have healthy cats that are being fed at no cost to the university, vaccinated, not reproducing and helping to control the rodent population," she said. "The feral cat program is really a no-brainer."

According to McIntier, there are approximately 30 feral cat colonies in the Commerce area, with each consisting of about 25 to 30 cats. Reid said that feral cat colonies will always exist in cities and towns, largely because of human waste.

"Any place where you have a lot of food being dumped, you will have ferals," she said. "There is no way to keep them away."

Reid said the problem is exacerbated by people's sympathetic but misguided attempts to help.

"It is a habit of human beings to feed stray cats," she said, "and I know of some illicit feeding on campus."

According to McIntier, such gestures often do more harm than good.

"You may decide, ‘Hey, I'm going to start feeding these cats,'" she said. "Well, if you do that for two weeks, the cat becomes dependent on that food, and will come back looking for more. So if you decide you don't have the time, the cat will be forced to eat whatever else is available, and that can make them sick."

Approval of the initial proposal has been delayed because the Animal Care and Use Committee, which has been designated as the oversight group for the project, was not able to give final approval by the end of the fall 2009 semester. Reid is working on a new version of the proposal to resubmit.

"It takes time to get things done in academia," Reid said.

This version of the Feral Cat Program will also serve as a grant-funded research project, by continuing work on reducing and stabilizing cat populations begun by the veterinary school of Texas A&M University in College Station. It is the research aspect of the project that interested Provost Larry Lemanski most, according to Reid, as it would support his plan to shift the university's focus to research.

"Dr. Lemanski approved and would support the program if it was done in the context of the scholarship part of the issue," Reid said.

McIntier would like to see veterinary students at A&M-Commerce get involved in the project as well.

"We wanted to do the spaying and neutering on campus and have the pre-vet students assist," she said. "It would allow them to get hands-on experience without having to wait for an internship to do it."

Reid also adds that there are benefits to having a stable, controlled cat population on campus, such as reducing the number of rodents in university buildings.

"It was ironic that once the Feral Cat Program was shut down on campus, [the Hall of Languages] had an invasion; a plague of rats," Reid said. "We're talking about dropping out of the ceiling onto secretaries' desks. So the ferals do help keep the rats back, not necessarily by hunting them, but just by being present. Smart rats do not hang around where there is a colony of cats."

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