By Francisco Piedra
Love cats? There is a student club for that.
The San Antonio College Community Cats club was started fall 2016 and provides care and refuge for cats calling this college home.
Before the club was started, staff and faculty primarily cared for feral and stray cats.
Despite the staff’s efforts, a need for a dedicated student organization was essential to give better attention to them, said Michelle Tippit, club cosponsor and client support specialist in the mega lab, in an interview Feb. 28.
“It’s important to share a coexistence and educate the student body about our cat colony,” Tippit said.
The club has taken on responsibility for giving the felines a safe place to stay and providing some stress relief for students.
The cats can be seen in the early and late hours of the day when student traffic is slow.
They generally hide in quieter areas out of public view, such as the area between the center for academic enrichment and the chemistry and geology building.
Food and water bowls are safely tucked away behind bushes and in less populated areas around campus, such as the lower level of Fletcher Administration Center and around the visual arts center.
“There are four cats that hang around the VATC building that I feed,” said Qing Liu, club cosponsor and communication design professor.
“In between classes, I’ll run out and refill their bowls,” Lui said.“My students all know how much I care for them.”
In addition to feeding the felines, the club has partnered with the San Antonio Feral Cats Coalition to assist in the trap-neuter-release program, or TNR, to stop growth and regulate safety.
According to the coalition’s website, trap-neuter-release is a program through which free-roaming cats are trapped, sterilized and returned to outdoor locations where they were found.
Donations from organizations such as the San Antonio Vegetarian Society, the San Antonio Humane Society and individuals cover most of the costs associated with sterilization procedures.
The coalition charges a $20 fee to those who use the trap-neuter-release program.
Information on the program schedule is available on the organization’s website at www.sanantonioferalcats.org.
All free-roaming cats are clipped a quarter of an inch in a straight line at the tip of their left ear after a sterilization procedure.
This is done while the cat is anesthetized for spaying or neutering and is fast-healing.
Ear clipping is a universal sign of identifying free-roaming cats.
While most of the cats are feral, some are strays that have separated from their owners.
“Feral cats are born in the wild and haven’t had much human contact, if any, so they run away most of the time when being approached,” said Monica Caballero, vice president of the San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition. “Strays once had a home and are more receptive to human contact.”
She praised the club’s efforts in bringing attention to the growing number of free-roaming cats in San Antonio, which she estimates to be about 300,000.
“What these students do with managing the colonies, feeding them, looking after them, and getting them fixed is a morally responsible duty,” Caballero said.
“Not only do they help prevent populations from growing, they are ensuring that the cats don’t mate if they are carrying diseases like feline leukemia and AIDS,” she said.
“Cats are prone to spreading diseases.
“We aren’t keeping the cats without thought,” Tippit said.
“We are not only feeding them. We are also helping control the numbers, and, hopefully, this helps our students and faculty see that. They also help keep the rodent numbers down and overall, they create a welcome environment.”
Some are tame enough to be approached and given flea and heartworm medications.
“We want them to be healthy and not have complications,” Liu said.
Safety is a concern when there is no permanent housing.
The club has discussed plans with architecture students on effective ways to provide shelters.
“Until this happens, the cats will hide under buildings through openings like over at Chance, under staircases, and out in the parking garage to escape any inclement weather,” Liu said.
“There are times when dogs run through and threaten the safety of the cats, so they would have to be sheltered in high places where they can’t be reached,” Tippit said.
With freshmen learning their surroundings and the college being a two-year institution, there isn’t much continuity for providing shelters, Tippit said.
She thinks students and faculty taking care of the cats is positive.
“When there are school breaks, a group of staff and students will work out a schedule and will show up on designated days or weekends to make sure there is food and water,” Tippit said.
“Many times, all we ask for is time. We can provide most of the food, but everyone is welcome to bring their own.”
An official adoption program could be in the works soon.
“We don’t currently have a way to screen individuals who want to adopt a cat,” Tippit said.
“We need to make sure anyone that wants to adopt is responsible enough to do so.”
An exception is made for newly welcomed cats.
“If there is a new cat that wanders onto the campus, individuals are welcome to take them home. Otherwise, many of them have formed an attachment and simply call this place home,” Liu said.
Other schools with cat clubs are St. Mary’s University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Trinity University.
This college’s student organization does not have any meetings scheduled.
Students wanting to join the club can contact Tippit at firstname.lastname@example.org or Liu at email@example.com, sign up through OrgSync or visit the club’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SACCCATS.