By Sofia Aparicio
Stray cats have made The University of Tampa their home as they roam around the campus. Some students delighted by their presence have fed and cared for the animals. This love and determination to help the wild cats has turned into theUT Campus Cat Club. The service group began last March with Kathy Lockwood as the faculty advisor and Gianna Walsh as the President.
The club was created because of the large population of stray and unvaccinated cats being found on campus. When cats are not neutered/spayed they spray to mark their tertiary, in addition, they are more violent towards other cats and people. Prior to the club being official, students and faculty would try and help the cats by feeding them, verifying they weren’t injured or sick, and attempting to trap the cats.
Kathy Lockwood is a Communication and Center for Public Speaking Staff Assistant. She pushed for the club to be official with the school so as a community everyone could live on campus together. With 84 current members, people are joining every day.
“I was involved with a number of people on campus who trapped the cats, and when I started working to feed and trap the kittens under the trailers outside my office, I met a lot of students who were really into the cats. I found out that some of them had tried to get a group made official and it never came together. And so I decided I’d give it a try, and it worked,” said Lockwood.
The UT Campus Cat Club has been in communication and worked with Tampa Bay’s Humane Society, specifically the Trap, Neature, Vaciante, and Return (TNRV) program. Elizabeth Colley, the Community Outreach and TNRV supervisor, spoke with the club members during a meeting last semester. She organizes appointments for cats to go through the process along with renting cat traps.
“Stray cats can either go to intake or they can come here to the animal hospital. The TNVR program. They get spayed and neutered and both vaccines, rabies, and FVRCP, as well as an ear tip,” said Colley.
The entire process for stray cats costs $30 which covers the materials from the surgery and vaccinations. The University of Tampa has used this program as a resource and plans to take the remaining cats to the animal hospital after they are trapped.
The program prevents overpopulation because the cats are not able to reproduce. Keeping cats in the same location stops other animals from looking for a living space because it has already been marked. The traps are rented to bring the cats to The Humane Society safely. Typically large trappings are more effective and help the community. Colley goes into the community and drops off the traps or helps capture the cats if someone needs assistance, has a disability, or is older.
The President and Vice President of the UT Campus Cat Club have many aspirations for the future. They have started an Instagram account @utcampus.straycatclub and a Facebook account UT Campus Cats, to inform the public.
The organization requires donations. Currently, the members are paying for the food and vaccinations out of pocket. Bags of cat food can cost up to $8 and wet food is 75 cents per can. The cats are fed every day by either faculty advisors or members of the club.
“I have definitely spent around $300 so far,” said Walsh.
To get donations students and the Tampa community need to be aware of the club’s purpose and objectives. The student body can be educated on proper cat care and learn how to act around the campus cats. Olivia Dargatz, the Vice President, feels very passionate about bringing awareness to the cats and keeping them safe.
“My advice is to leave the cats alone, the best thing to do is watch from afar and check their ears. If their ear isn’t clipped, those are the ones we are trying to catch,” said Dargatz.
University of Tampa students are more than welcome to join the club and help create change for the cats. This semester a Zoom meeting and tabling event have piqued students’ interest. More meetings will be held next month for students to attend. Students can join via Involve UT. Guidance on animal adoption is spoken about during the meetings, so students looking to adopt are fully informed about the responsibility of pet ownership.