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Free Roaming Cat Coalition builds feeding stations on campus

Pitch, one of the college resident cats, perches in one of the new feeding stations. (The Campanil)

Members of the Mills community have been reaching out to solve the campus-wide feral cat problem for some time now. Within the last year, a group of Mills staff and students created The Free Roaming Cat Coalition (FRCC), which has organized to trap, spay and neuter, and feed the feral cats on Mills campus.

The program’s managers, Linda Zitzner, Assistant Vice President of Facilities, Auxiliaries and Campus Planning, and Ileen Erickson, MBA Career Service Director, have recently designed and installed six feeding stations around campus. The stations are designed to both allow for cats on campus a safe eating area and to keep unwanted wild animals, such as raccoons, away from the cat food and campus buildings, according to Zitner and Erickson.

“We strategically placed the feeding stations,” Zitner said. “We wanted to move the cats away from natural habitats like Lake Aliso and away from Founders.”

Originally, 10 feeding stations were built, but Zitner and Erickson do not plan on having the remaining 4 stations installed in addition to the 6 already in place.

“We don’t want to encourage more of a population,” Zitner said about installing more feeding stations, fearing that too much food could invite other stray cats onto campus.

The FRCC relies solely on donations and volunteers to feed, medicate, trap and fix the cats on campus. Erickson and Zitner plan to keep the FRCC as a volunteer-based program.

“It gives it more heart and gives it more commitment when it is on a volunteer basis,” Zitner said.

The feeding stations are also still a work in progress, according to Zitner.

“Raccoons are still managing to hoist themselves up into the stations,” she said, even though the stations were designed to avoid the raccoons from jumping inside.

The primary goal of the FRCC is to reduce the number of newborn cats on campus, hopefully to zero, according to Erickson.

“No new babies,” she said. “We want to avoid kittens being born here. And if there are kittens being discovered, we need to be called immediately.”

The methods the FRCC is using at Mills, specifically the “trap, neuter, return” method, are widely used at other colleges around California and the country, including Stanford University, Saint Mary’s University and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, according to Erickson.

The “trap, neuter, return” method is lauded by Fix Our Ferals, a nonprofit in Berkeley specializing in controlling feral cat populations within Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

“It’s the most efficient way to control wild cats on campus,” Erickson said about the “trap, neuter, return” method.

The Mills FRCC has set up an intranet site in order to track campus cat populations and to educate the Mills community about them. The hope is that people on campus will get to know which cats have been trapped and neutered and which ones haven’t so that the FRCC can be quickly notified about any new feral cats on campus.

The site, which can only be accessed by people with Mills login names and passwords, shows a list of all the trapped cats, their names, genders, identifying traits, whether they are spayed or neutered and where they live on campus.

“Keep your eyes open,” Erickson said about tracking new cats on campus. “And no rogue feeding.”