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UTB volunteers care for campus’s feral cats

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

UTB volunteers care for campus’s feral cats
The Brownsville Herald

BROWNSVILLE — Caramel, Sunshine, Sylvester Girl, Sabrina, Houdini, Frankie and C.C. can often be seen roaming the grounds of the UTB-TSC campus.

About the same time every day, they congregate near South and North halls, peeking through bushes and trees.

When they hear the approaching footsteps of Alma Leal, they quickly but quietly make their way toward her.

They want to see what goodies she has for them.

Caramel, Sunshine, Sylvester Girl, Sabrina, Frankie, Houdini and C.C. are eight of 24 cats that have made their home at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

The furry felines are also unknowingly participants in a Cat Coalition Program at the university, which is aimed at controlling the feral cat population on campus.

The cats are humanely trapped and either neutered or spayed.

"Most people tend to be tolerable of other wild animals than they are of cats; that’s why we want to make sure that they don’t keep reproducing at an alarming rate where they become a nuisance," said Leal, committee member of the Cat Coalition Program and associate professor for school specialties at UTB-TSC.

The program, which is in its third month, is run strictly by volunteers. Although it had to be approved by the UTB-TSC Board, it receives no university funding. The spaying and neutering of the cats is paid out of pocket by Leal and other campus faculty.

"We do have our critics," Leal said. "My response is that the university is taking a proactive, humane and responsible approach to address the cat population on campus.

"We know eradication does not work. … Controlling and managing feral cat colonies has proven to be more effective," she said.

According to the Feral Cat Coalition in San Diego, Calif., a pair of breeding cats, which can produce two to three cat litters a year, can produce 420,000 offspring over a seven year-period.

Four wire traps are scattered around campus grounds. Once captured, the cats are checked for diseases, vaccinated and either spayed or neutered.

They are also tagged, which allows campus staff to keep track of them should they wander off or become injured.

Only the feral or wild cats are let back on campus. This is because they help keep small rodents from scurrying around university grounds, committee members said.

"I think it’s awesome," said biology major Evelyn Bueno, as she watched a group of cats scurrying around bushes at the campus Thursday afternoon.

"I often thought they were stranded little cats. For people to take time out of their day to do this, that really shows what can be done when we work together," she said.

Feeding sites for the cats are set up daily at specific locations.

The program started in November after officials began noticing more cats roaming around the campus.

A committee, composed of student government, staff and faculty, was formed during the fall to address the cat issue. It was at a committee meeting that the Cat Coalition Project was suggested.

Similar projects already existed at the University of Texas at Austin Campus and Texas A&M University at College Station, plus other major universities in the 50 states.

These projects were deemed successful.

Eddie Camarillo,president of the Student Government Association, said students were letting out the trapped cats when the program started. They thought the cats were going to be harmed, but eventually they learned differently.

At first, the committee was using small cages to trap the cats, but the felines wised up to the tactic. They would not completely step inside the cage to eat the food placed inside.

This gave them a chance to make a quick get-a-way if they spotted someone approaching the trap.

The group then started using the "old-fashion" way that was once used to catch birds: a stick, box and string.

It cost more than $60 to spay and neuter each cat. The committee hopes to hold fund-raisers to pay for the procedures.

"We are hoping for donations from other individuals," she said.

Anyone wishing to donate money to the project should call Leal at 983-7672.
post #2 of 4
That's so great to hear! I went to UTB for one summer session after high school before I moved out to Az to finish college. When I first saw the title I thought "there's no way that's the same UTB I went to", but I am so surprised and happy to hear that it is!
post #3 of 4
Hi, first-time poster here!

^ That article was soo good! I am a faculty at the University of the Philippines, College of Engineering, and since November I have started my own TNR program here. It all started when I was a student and I noticed how neglected these ferals are, so I came back after graduation and became a faculty so I could look after them "full-time". It started with an old red and white tabby female (Mamam) , then her son, pure white (Yellow-Eye-Blue-Eye), Mamam's very vocal grey boyfriend (Manliligaw -- this means Suitor in the local language) Mamam's kittens, and those are just the cats on the third floor, where my department is.

As a student I could not come into a head-on collision with the janitors, but now I have a little "power" and was able to persuade them to treat the cats more humanely. So far I have neutered two males, started regular feeding and watering, and raised a litter of four feral kittens. I am buying my colony a litterbox tomorrow so the janitors will be happy. It really costs a lot of money for cat food, Frontline, deworming, and litter, but I feel it is really worth it.

Sometimes I feel I am waging a lopsided war, since I have so many people against me -- well, against these cats: the janitors, the students, and even the administration people. The cats are very social to me, but unfortunately of those four feral kittens, yesterday two were thrown away by a student who did not like cats. I was socializing them, spending a lot of time so they would be adoptable but when they had just learned to trust people, that was when they were most vulnerable to students like that. The remaining two were not thrown out because they did not like people. Anyway I am waging my private war against that cat-hater now. He simply has to bring those kittens back, or he'll be really sorry.

I am still depressed, missing those kittens, but that story was a real boost. I hope that in the future we would be like that.
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
mamam....welcome to TCS!! WOW...what you are doing for these cats is incredible!! It truly amazes me what people do for the love of cats...bless you!!

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