Kittie-gate 2022, the saga continues

Melissa Kassens, Staff Reporter

Lakeland is home to a number of feral cats that are lovingly referred to as “dumpster kitties” for their love of leftover campus food. In 2015, to help with the cat population on campus, Dean, J. Garland Schilcutt School of Business, Science, & Technology professor, Paul Pickhardt and his honors student at the time, coordinated a ‘trap-neuter/spay-return’ (TNR) project. This was in hopes of helping lower the cat population on the Lakeland campus. Pickhardt said, “As you, and everyone else on campus can see, the project didn’t work in reducing the free ranging/feral cat problem we have on campus. TNR projects don’t work as it is pragmatically impossible to catch all fertile cats in a free-ranging cat colony. Removing/eliminating the cats from the wild is a more effective solution, but expensive and sociologically difficult.”

The free-ranging cats on campus are of concern to most because of the poor lives they lead, the disease they carry which can be transmitted to humans and the devastating effects the cats have on the bird population. There are varying differences of opinion between everyone at Lakeland. While some see the cats as a biological and environmentally invasive creature, others are not bothered and often snap the rare photo opportunity.

Parker Brasch, a current Muskie said, “I know lots of students joke about stealing one because they are all so cute, but they definitely don’t interact with people.” The cats are on their own schedule at Lakeland and are responsible in nature by avoiding the roads, coming out to dine at the dumpsters by moonlight and are socially aware to avoid large crowds when students are moving through campus.

The consensus on campus, although the cats are destructive by nature while ripping through the dumpsters, is that they are cute to look at, from afar. The question now, how long will the campus cohabit with the growing community of cats before intervening again and will it be Lakeland’s responsibility?

An article from 2017 can be found in The Mirror archives with in-depth research and the impact of feral cats by Pete Marr, Professor and Director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative, Laudato Si’ Professor of Biology and the Environment, Emeritus Senior Scientist Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.