Q: How do I know if this is really what I want to do, or 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 few times just to be sure you know what's involved and if you think it's a fit for you. If you like feeding, we'll continue to take you around on training rounds until you are comfortable enough to feed on your own.
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 take each night. Food is paid for through the Office of the President. All you need to do is pick up your bag plus water, a feeding form and a few more handy supplies for the night.
Q: When can I feed?
A: While we’ll work with individual schedules as needed, feeding ideally should be done after dark. If you start at dusk, you 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 rhythms, rather than forcing them to adjust to ours.
If food is put out too early, the more extroverted cats will come out to eat. But then food would likely be gone when the more introverted cats come out, at the more natural time. Daytime feeding also attracts birds and insects, rather than cats.
When trapping must be done for a vet visit ‒ and this is rare except for spay-neuter ‒ it is almost impossible to trap a cat that is not expecting food at a prescribed time and place.
In colder weather, cats will stay warmer during the coldest part of the day (late night) if they have a full tummy.
The majority of the cats will not come out during the day when there is heavy foot traffic.
We try to keep our feeding locations inconspicuous and the cats as low-profile as possible.
We need a team of feeders to cover the feeding rounds each night. We feed every weeknight and once over the weekend. If you have a scheduling conflict, other volunteers will step up to trade or substitute.
Q: What do I do if the feeding station has been disturbed in some way?
A: We simply empty the feeders of foreign objects - carefully if it’s something like a possum! - and set them back to rights. Feeders bring hand towels with them to wipe out food and water dishes as needed. That said, we also report disturbances on the feeder form, as sometimes overzealous dogs out for a walk with their owners on campus will knock them over. One rare occasions, if stations are continually disturbed, we use a wildlife camera to figure out what’s going on.
Q: What do I do if I find a feeder or feeding dish with soggy, disgusting food in it?
A: Dump it! Wipe the dish with a towel you bring along. Refill with fresh food.
Q: What about water?
A: Feeding stations have bottles of water inside or nearby. It’s typical to dump, wipe and refill water bowls. Full water bottles are usually carried by feeders and empty ones brought back to be refilled. We keep track of water on the feeder form you fill out as you feed.
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. You may walk to all the stops, drive, bicycle – whatever’s best for you. Some volunteers walk and pull the wagon with them, especially in nice weather.
Some volunteers alternate weeks with another, and some might "share" their night - one person doing the south area, while another person does the north route (according to preferences).
Q: Can I bring a friend with me?
A: All volunteers must sign a consent release form. Your friend would need to sign one, too. That said, the cats will develop a bond with you, but most will not come out for strangers. Moreover, we try to keep a low profile. We do have several partners who feed with volunteers on their night. Volunteers must be 18 or older.
Q: What if I have to miss a night?
A: No problem. We communicate through a Google group, and if you need a sub, that’s where you make the connection. You can also contact other volunteers directly if you’re friends or know their number. In rare cases such as severe weather, it may be possible to feed extra the night before or even skip a feeding, but among us we can find a way to deal with it. In severe weather, we do not expect you put yourself in danger.