Campus cats, caring students: purr-fect match

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Two tabby cats eat their dinner around 5:15 p.m. Oct. 13 east of Chance by the original garage. Michele Tippit, client support specialist in the office of technology services, fed them. Tippit also feeds cats before 8 a.m. She has been helping feed and take care of campus cats for about three years.  Photo by Aly Miranda

Two tabby cats eat their dinner around 5:15 p.m. Oct. 13 east of Chance by the original garage. Michele Tippit, client support specialist in the office of technology services, fed them. Tippit also feeds cats before 8 a.m. She has been helping feed and take care of campus cats for about three years. Photo by Aly Miranda

Student club aims for compassion toward feral felines at this college.

By Michelle Delgado

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

A new student club that started from scratch this semester has vowed to look after a colony of feral cats on campus. The San Antonio College Community Cats met for the first time Oct. 12.

Eight students became acquaintances when they shared personal experiences of caring for the cats and considered expectations for the new organization.

“I’m excited to see how much the club will grow,” said Bethany Garcia, American Sign Language freshman and club president. “Anybody who cares for living things and wants to make their lives better should join.”

Two tabby cats and one Siamese cat lie on the sidewalk after eating dinner.  Photo by Aly Miranda

Two tabby cats and one Siamese cat lie on the sidewalk after eating dinner. Photo by Aly Miranda

For years now, some faculty and staff have stepped in to provide food and water for the feral cats that call this campus home; however, the absence of a staff member has left the remaining faculty in need of some assistance.

Former financial aid specialist Maria da Silva was well-known as “a very effective staff member who used to take care of the cats all night, days and weekends,” said Beatrice Canales, academic unit assistant for early childhood studies.

The San Antonio College Community Cats Facebook page contains photos of the college cats and information about them.

The club is one of several student-led organizations that support feral cat colonies on higher-education campuses in San Antonio. Others include Trinity University and Our Lady of the Lake University.

“So we need your help,” Canales told the students at the meeting. “Those who are advocates for cats and want to help, this is a good first start.”

The club will focus on ensuring the cats have food and fresh water; members also discussed promotion and education.

“We might as well set an example that we can co-exist,” said Michele Tippit, client support specialist in the student mega lab. “We might as well just educate while we’re in the process of feeding them.”

There are more than 30 spayed or neutered feral cats at this college; the organization will also raise funds for veterinary attention.

One tabby cat lies in the dirt in the shade. Its left ear is clipped to show the cat has been fixed.  Photo by Aly Miranda

One tabby cat lies in the dirt in the shade. Its left ear is clipped to show the cat has been fixed. Photo by Aly Miranda

“We want to keep them healthy and keep them from multiplying as much as possible,” counselor and club adviser Melissa Sutherland said.

“We’re just trying to take care of them and make it more of a student effort,” she continued.

Sutherland said they asked President Robert Vela for permission to make it more official.

The faculty and staff who cared for the cats have been working on forming the cause into a student club.

“We wanted to take the correct steps to make this work,” Tippit said.

Students can join the student organization by signing up through OrgSync.

The club has taken actions to ensure the food and water bowls are not thrown away.

Joan Fabian, artist in residence in the department of creative multimedia, created official logos, which can be seen on the kitty feeding bowls for a more formal appearance.

“If all these cats weren’t here and being taken care of, where would they be?” Tippit said.

Most feral cats haven’t had human contact, said Monica Caballero, vice president of the San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition.

“They are born out in the wild,” Caballero said.

“Some cats will start to become more comfortable around humans or are used to human contact if they were once around people,” she said.

An orange tabby named Garfield is the friendliest of this college’s feral cats. He often approaches passersby for a scratch behind the ears or to rub against their legs

Garfield is an exception. He was once a house cat with a family, but once he found this college, it became his home, Fabian said.

The mere presence of the kitties can soothe a savage day for students, faculty and staff.

“That’s just something animals do,” Fabian said. “They help you relax; you have somebody to greet you when you come to school. Maybe you’re down and they’re sitting there in the bushes looking at you with their big eyes.”

Call Sutherland at 210-486-0397 for more information about the club or donations.

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