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Oviatt Spotlight: CSUN Cat People

Contributed by Shanee Fischer

Since 2001, the CSUN Cat People have dedicated their time to taking care of the campus’ feral cat population. Feral cats are domestic cats born in the wild.  They are afraid of people and do not adapt well to life in captivity. The CSUN Cat People provide a variety of vital services for the animals, including spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and feeding and sheltering. There are several core members of the CSUN Cat People, including the group’s faculty advisor, Cultural Anthropology Professor Sabina Magliocco, and the group’s president, CSUN alumna Louise Adams. In addition, there are a number of student volunteers who participate in the program through service-learning classes each semester.

Sabina Magliocco

Sabina Magliocco

Magliocco explains how she first got involved with the CSUN Cat People. “When I started teaching at CSUN in 1997, I became aware of the cats on campus. I would see them at night when I taught evening classes,” says Magliocco. “I gradually realized that a few people were feeding these cats, but none of them seemed to know about each other.” In 2001, Magliocco started trapping and neutering feral cats around her home in Woodland Hills with the help of a local spay-neuter organization called Catnippers. It was through Catnippers that Magliocco learned that a number of people from CSUN had started to connect and form a group, which would eventually become the CSUN Cat People.

With the support of Campus Administration and the university’s Physical Plant Management (PPM) Department the group began the work of reducing the feral cat population, which was initially estimated to be 80-85 animals. This was done using the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Method. TNR involves feeding the cats to gain their trust, humanely trapping them, and then taking them to area vets where they are spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies. After a short recovery, the cats are rereleased in the location where they were trapped, and then maintained in colonies. “Stable colonies discourage other cats from establishing themselves by defending the territory,” says Magliocco. According to FixNation.org, TNR is a proven and humane solution. “TNR is the most efficient, and cost-effective, method of feral cat population control. Numerous campuses and municipalities nation-wide have used it successfully,” says Magliocco. After many years of work and care, the CSUN cat population is now down to 25.

Magliocco finds educating the community to be the most rewarding aspect of working with the CSUN Cat People. Feral cats exist because of the tremendous pet overpopulation problem. Every year, tens of thousands of unwanted animals are killed in shelters, and feral cats are the largest group euthanized because they are almost impossible to adopt. “Ideally, there would be no feral cats living on campus, although that goal may be unrealistic as urban campuses always attract feral cats.” Part of the CSUN Cat People’s mission is to educate the CSUN community on the benefits of TNR and responsible pet ownership. Cats live longer, safer lives if they are kept indoors. The average lifespan of a feral cat is only 3 years. “People can help by always spaying and neutering their pets, not adopting pets in university housing, and not abandoning unwanted animals on campus,” says Magliocco. “We can provide a list of local organizations that help find homes for unwanted pets, but most importantly we want people to realize that adopting is a serious commitment in time, money, and energy.”

Another way that the organization reaches out is through their annual CSUN Cat People Pet Food Drive. This year’s drive took place from November 1 through December 5. Collection boxes were placed around the campus – including several locations in the Library. Cat People volunteers used the Library’s electric-powered carts to help gather over 500 pounds in pet food donations. The group currently has a Facebook presence, but Magliocco hopes that eventually the CSUN Cat People will have a university website and be officially recognized as part of the campus community. The organization is currently working on creating a student group called CSUN Animal Advocates, which will have a larger focus on animal welfare and could help sponsor CSUN Cat People activities.

"I believe that to truly address the pet overpopulation problem and to achieve a more sustainable future with these animals, we need to make humane education a key part of college education," Magliocco says. "I also enjoy knowing that we help make our campus a safer, more hygienic and humane place to work and go to school, and that we provide a stable environment for those feral cats who have made their home here on campus."

Professor Magliocco would like to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of the CSUN Cat People volunteers. “I mostly do administrative and organizational tasks, but they are there every day, feeding, trapping, and caring for the colonies,” Magliocco says, “My hat is off to them; they rock the cat-box!”

Meet CSUN Cat People President Louise Adams, and get a close-up glimpse of a few our furry, four-legged neighbors by clicking on the video link in this article.