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Free Roaming Cats Coalition takes action on campus

Two feral cats near Rothwell building (Lauren Sliter).

Cats on campus will have a new lease on life thanks to the Free Roaming Cat Coalition, a new program designed to help monitor and maintain a healthy feral feline population at Mills.

The program’s founding members include Christina McWhorter, the Botanic Gardens coordinator, Linda Zitzner, assistant vice president of facilities, auxiliaries and campus planning and Ileen Erickson, MBA career service director.

“We want to provide a healthy environment on campus for the cat population,” McWhorter said.

A group of volunteers consisting mainly of faculty and staff will put out food containing flea control at designated feeding stations between Reinhardt Hall and Underwood Apartments each morning and the food containers will be picked up the following night. Cats who need medical attention will be trapped, taken to the vet and re-released.

“If any cats start to look like they have an eye infection or they’re sick, then we will go in, trap them and take them to the vet,” McWhorter said.

While current program volunteers are Mills faculty, McWhorter said that the group is “in the process of engaging the student population,” as well.

“Everyone on campus is going to be part of this program just by making observations and reporting to the program manager,” said McWhorter.

One area of concern is the possibility that the feral cat population might multiply. Currently, there are between 12 and 15 cats on campus.

“We’re not looking to expand our population, we just want to make sure our population that we have is healthy for the environment and the cats are healthy,” Zitzner said.

The group also expressed concern about students bringing cats into the residence halls.
“As cute and cuddly as they are, you really do need to surrender them up to us so that we can make sure they get placed in caring homes,” said Zitzner.

The program will be funded largely by donations – partnering with the local non-profit organization Fix Our Ferals.

“They’re actually helping us with some of the funding and some of the key management,” Zitzner said.

The trial length of the program is one year.

“If at the end of 12 months we can’t identify that we did anything and that we improved the cat population and our understanding of it, then won’t make any sense to continue investing in it,” McWhorter said.