Animal lovers: there are cats on campus that need your help!
A colony of about 75 cats calls CSUN home, and has been lucky enough to have people on campus help them out. The Cat People of CSUN is a group with big hearts but dwindling numbers.
“There’s not too many of us now,” said Dee Stockmon, international evaluator/adviser and cat person. The president, Louise Adams, graduated last June but still remains active. Kathleen Anderson, the treasurer, is the only other student member.
Sabina Magliocco, anthropology professor and faculty adviser to the group, confirmed that many of the original members are either graduating or retiring in the near future.
“We have a lot of room in our organization for people that are interested in all kinds of things,” she said.
The group needs feeders to tend the 18 feeding stations around campus. They need trappers to collect the cats and take them to veterinarians to be spayed and neutered. They need educators to spread the word about the organization and the cats they care for, and have a power point presentation readily available.
They need people to help raise donated funds, even though they do receive some support from Associated Students. The Cat People were allocated $1,400 from the 2006-07 budget for contracted services (such as veterinarians), food and other supplies. Members purchase the food on their own and are then reimbursed, Anderson said.
“The university administration’s not really paying for this,” Magliocco said. “But they’re definitely getting their money’s worth. They don’t have to worry about controlling the cat population.”
The Cat People also get a helping hand from Physical Plant Management. Tom Brown, executive director of PPM, was one of the people contacted when the club was formed.
“It’s really a worthwhile program,” Brown said. He noticed individuals feeding the cats since he started at CSUN 25 years ago, and supported the creation of a managed group.
Brown also designed the feeding stations that are placed around campus. They are plastic “rocks” with two holes drilled in so that the cats can come in and out without feeling trapped. The rocks are hinged to concrete slabs for stability and accessibility. Other institutions, such as UCLA, have been interested in the stations, Brown said.
Stockmon praised the design. She noted that the fact that the food and water are covered helps keep birds and larger animals out, and gives the cats a place to go when it rains. The stations also blend into their environment so that the cats are more comfortable and people, who don’t always have the best intentions, don’t investigate.
PPM also shares their traps, which they use for errant creatures such as skunks and possums.
“We work with them to provide havahart traps,” said Ben Elisondo, operations/safety/training manager at PPM. “With havahart traps, the animals are not injured in any way.” The mesh traps simply have doors that shut when the animal enters.
Other than providing material assistance, PPM alerts the club when they notice new cats, and help members actually get to some of the cats.
“We provide access whenever a cat is endangered, access with security oversight,” said Elisondo. He and Brown recalled the days after the Northridge earthquake when the campus was filled with trailers and dome tents, which provided plenty of places for the cats to rest, play, and occasionally get stuck or pass away.
“I just want to say how appreciative I am of how the university has supported the cats and been very receptive to what we’ve asked for in order to help the cats,” Adams said.
The Cat People practice the idea of trap-neuter-return. The idea is to trap the cats and take them to vets where they are spayed or neutered, receive vaccinations and evaluated for adoptability.
Feral cats are wild, and cannot be socialized and kept as pets. Strays, however, were once pets and can be so again as long as too much time has not passed. For kittens, there are a few crucial weeks that determine whether they will become pets or feral. Yesterday was National Feral Cat Day.
The cats are then adopted out to new homes or returned to where they were captured. This humane approach hasn’t always been followed. In the past, feral cats were trapped and euthanized.
“In the long run that doesn’t work, because new cats move in and take the place of the cats that were killed,” Magliocco said. “TNR has been shown nationally to be the most effective and cost-effective method of control.” She estimated that trapping and euthanizing a cat costs $90 to $120 per cat, while TNR ranges from $40 to $80.
Feral cats are also eartipped, which means that the tip of their left ear is removed.