Q: How did all these cats get here?
A: Feral cats are common in areas with transient populations, like apartment complexes and universities. Feral cats are the generational offspring of local unsterilized family pets abandoned and left to reproduce in the wild. The ecosystem of a university environment supports their proliferation: lots of food trash=rodents=cats.
Q: Why don't you just call the SPCA to come and get these cats?
A: The SPCA deals with adoptable, socialized animals. Feral cats are not house cats; they are wild cats. They do not tolerate being in enclosed environments, they do not tolerate the proximity of humans, they seldom learn to use a litter box. These cats are not candidates for SPCA adoption programs.
Q: I've seen some pretty friendly ones. What about them?
A: Because some of these cats have lived around students for so long, some of them do become "socialized ferals." The ones we evaluate as being adoptable, we try to put into homes. But we make that judgment very carefully, as the operative word is always "feral." Some may be friendly in the wild, but ultimately not an appropriate house cat.
Q: Why don't you just exterminate them?
A: As you can imagine, extermination has been tried by a few other campuses and apartment complexes, and it just never proves to be a cost-effective long-term solution. Not only is it inhumane, but extermination creates the "vacuum effect," where once you move out sterilized animals, unsterilized animals just move in to fill the gap and start the process all over again. A TNR program in a feral cat colony halts that process. It is also important to note that it is illegal to harm a cat -- any outside cat -- that is under someone's care. Besides, we definitely appreciate the rodent control.
Q: Do they all really have names?
A: Yes, the vast majority of the cats have names and their own unique little personalities.
Q: How many cats do we have on campus?
A: The woman who singlehandedly began the TNR process on campus, vetted over 100 cats. Since the organized volunteer program began in 2005, we held steady at about 62 cats. The 2009 census registers approximately 50 cats. Our goal is to manage the numbers through natural attrition and maintain as healthy an ecosystem as possible.
Q: Who takes care of them?
A: SMU has a team of volunteers who feed, monitor, and provide veterinary care for the campus cats, 365 days a year.
Q: How can I become a volunteer?
A: Check out our volunteer link on the webpage. The best volunteers are ones who live close to campus and who, for the most part, remain in the SMU area during holidays and breaks.