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A lot can change for feral cats

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Everyone knew about the colony of cats living outside the “judge’s house” on our residential mall. My freshman year I lived in a dorm where I walked past the cats for almost every class. My sophomore year, my suitemates and I put food outside for a friendly campus cat who liked hanging around our apartment. In our last week before graduation, my best friend and I made a point of stopping by the judge’s house to see the cats and say goodbye to the colony. This was before I knew anything about TNR or feral cats in general. None of the cats were eartipped and there were always dozens of them.

This summer I returned to campus. I went to Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. It’s a great place, but a bit of a hike from Washington, DC where I now live. Before this summer, I’d only been back twice in the half decade since I graduated. One of those times was in the middle of a snowstorm so I didn’t exactly explore my old stomping grounds. This time, the weather was perfect for showing my boyfriend the sites of the stories he’d heard — including the judge’s house.

I’d often wondered about those cats since I started learning about the plight of feral cats and the need for TNR. I wondered if anything was being done to help the colony we’d all known. When I took my boyfriend to the judge’s house, I couldn’t believe my eyes — not only were there far fewer cats than I remembered, but almost all the ones I saw were eartipped, with about 3/8 of an inch removed from one of each of their ears. Someone was trapping, neutering and returning the cats. The colony was being responsibly managed!

Two campus cats on Xavier University's campus in Cincinnati, OH

I was so thrilled to see that both of these cats had been eartipped that I had to take a photo!

With some encouragement from Susan in Shelter Outreach and a little bit of google, I tracked down a professor I thought might be doing the trapping. Dr. Johnson from the math department was associated with a local Petfinder group, Ohio Alleycat Resource & Spay/Neuter Clinic. I contacted Dr. Johnson who confirmed that she was doing the trapping. I even learned that our Provost is a cat lover!

It’s normal to think that the problems we face are too big for us to fix or even affect. It can feel like there is always more to be done, another animal to save. Seeing a smaller colony managed by TNR inspired me. We are making impressive progress — each one of us, in our own way. Dr. Johnson is saving lives by trapping those cats at Xavier University and then spaying and neutering them to prevent the colony’s numbers from growing. Each of us has a way we can help. If you’d like to learn more about feral cats, please explore our feral cat articles.

October 16 is National Feral Cat Day, a day to focus on responsible, humane ways to help feral cats. For information on how to help stray and feral cats in your area, check out our articles "Helping Abandoned, Stray Cats and Kittens" and "Feral Cat Care and TNR: A Beginner's Guide."

Tell us: Have you ever participated in TNR? Do you know a community or school who deserves kudos for supporting humane practices?

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