Volunteers help control campus cat population

Cats -- a whole lot of them -- roam the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

They might look cute, but officials say these feral cats may carry disease and that the cat population will grow if they don't step in.

So they're working with Friends of Feral Felines, a local nonprofit group that uses volunteers to humanely capture, treat and reduce feral cat colonies in Charlotte.

The group will take the cats to local veterinarians, who will check them for feline leukemia and feline AIDS.

If they are healthy, the cats will be sterilized, vaccinated against rabies and put up for adoption.

But some of them will be allowed to come back to campus -- the ones that are healthy but don't like people.

Diseased cats will be euthanized, said Marlene Hall, director of campus police and public safety.

Nobody knows how many cats roam the campus, but they are a noticeable presence. A similar roundup between 2001 and 2003 nabbed about 100 cats, according to Ann Gross of the feline group. Some of those were returned to campus and may still be roaming, but officials expect that they'll see many new felines.

Junior Ian Moyer said he's seen more than a dozen cats near dorms on Mary Alexander Road and others near the Crossroads cafeteria, where he said students feed them.

"They're all over campus," Moyer said. "They're pretty hard to miss."

Graduating senior Juan Euvin said he's seen an elderly man feed cats in the mornings near the Fretwell Building.

"I think it's a good idea to get the cats neutered," Euvin said. "Otherwise, the cats will continue to reproduce and in the long run, it is the cats who will suffer because they may not always have a steady source of food."

On a visit to campus last week, five cats lingered near a food and water dish someone left for them near the West Parking Deck. Two of them meowed loudly as one longhaired cat attacked a tabby in the bushes.

UNCC will reimburse Friends of Feral Felines up to $80 per cat for treatment, Hall said. Cats that have been captured and treated in the past have had their ears clipped. If any of those cats are recaptured, they will get a rabies booster, and UNCC will pay up to $12 per cat for the boosters.

Hall's staff will verify each capture, by accompanying the Friends of Feral Felines volunteers checking the traps. Gross said she didn't know how long the group would come to campus this time.

Many students like the presence of the cats.

"I thought they were here to control the rodent population," Moyer said.