Feeder FAQs

Q: How do I know if this is really what I want to do/if I'm capable of doing it?

A: We never ask you to make a commitment until you've made the rounds with us a couple of times just to be sure you know what's involved and if you think it's a right fit for you. After that, you can decide if perhaps you should volunteer in the program in some other capacity, or if you like feeding, we'll continue to take you around on training rounds until you are comfortable enough to feed on your own. You won't know until you get out there if this is your calling or not.

Q: Where do I get the food?

A: The food for the night has already been bagged up and is waiting in the campus holding area for volunteers to pick up each night. Food is financed by a grant from the Summerlee Foundation. All you need do is pick up your bag.

Q: When can I feed?

A: While we try to work with individual schedules as much as possible, feeding should be done after dark. We try to feed as close to 8 or 9 p.m. as possible. Start at dusk, finish after dark. We try to maintain this schedule for several important reasons:

  • This is when cats in the wild would normally hunt and eat, and we want to work with the cats' natural circadian rhythms, rather than forcing them to adjust to ours.
  • For the past several years, the cats have been fed between 9-11pm, and that is what they expect. We try not to disturb established routines too much.
  • If food is put out too early, the more extroverted cats will probably come out to eat, but then food would likely be gone when the more introverted cats come out to eat later, at the usual time. Day time feeding also attracts several birds and insects, rather than cats.
  • When trapping must be done for a vet visit, it is almost impossible to trap a cat that is not out expecting food at a prescribed time & place.
  • In colder weather, cats will stay warmer during the coldest part of the day (late night) if they have a full tummy.
  • Foot traffic on campus must slow down for successful feeding. The majority of the cats will not come out during heavy foot traffic, and part of a feeder's job is to monitor and evaluate cats for any illness or injury, which requires the cat coming out to greet you.
  • We want to feed at a time when we are less likely to be noticed. Because crazy people are everywhere, we try to keep our feeding locations hidden and the cats as low-profile as possible.
  • As much administrative support as we enjoy, we also have our detractors. These are the faculty/staff people who complain if they see cats about or, worse, see food left out. ("It draws ants and roaches!" "It's polluting the environment!" -- all true.) It's best to feed when the complainers have left for the day and the cats are out to quickly eat what we serve.

We need an unlimited number of feeders who can work in these guidelines. Many volunteers are willing, even eager, to substitute any night you may have a scheduling conflict. If this works with your lifestyle and interests, please contact us!

Q: What do I do if the feeder has been disturbed in some way?

A: We simply empty the feeders of the foreign objects and set them back upright. If the feeding pan has gotten wet, you may not be able to put dry food into it until it dries. Improvise until it dries (usually by the next night). Leave a pile of food in a dry spot nearby.

Q: What do I do if I find a feeder or feeding pan with soggy, disgusting food in it?

A: This often happens after a rainy night. I look for a stick or leaf to scrape out the ruined food -- leave it for the birds or other critters -- as putting fresh food on top of it would just ruin more food. After scraping out the yucky stuff, if the pan is relatively dry, I refill it with fresh dry food. 

Q: What about waterers?

A: Most waterers have jugs of water nearby. Full jugs are usually put out on Sundays.

Q: How do I remember where all the feeding stations are located?

A: Before you begin feeding on your own, you train with another volunteer for several evenings before we put you out solo. In fact, no one is asked to feed solo until they are completely comfortable. "The rounds" include about 20 stops, from one end of campus to the other. Some people will be able to "share" their night -- one person doing the outer loop, while another person does the inner loop.

Q: Can I bring a friend with me?

A: Basically, yes. But keep in mind that the cats will be reluctant to come out if you bring several new smells people with you. : ) The cats will develop a bond with you, but will not like strangers. Moreover, we try to keep a low profile. We do not want the location of the feeders to become common knowledge on campus. So it's best to keep random visitors to a minimum. Of course, two people can be the regular feeders for any particular night, just regularly working together to do the rounds. For example, we do have husband/wife teams who feed together on their night.

Q: What if I have to miss a night?

A: No problem. Each feeder is given a contact list with all of our email addresses and phone numbers. And we currently have one person who acts as permanent substitute for the program. There has never been a problem with getting someone to cover.

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