SLU Campus Cat Coalition (CCC) was formed by a small group of students in October 2014 on the Southeastern Louisiana University campus. Comprised mostly of student volunteers and club members, they are a TNR group (Trap-Neuter-Return) focusing on ferals on campus and in the surrounding area. There are also a few faculty and community members involved. The group has performed rescues outside the city of Hammond, where the university is located, when a special situation arises. The CCC is currently in the process of becoming an official Southeastern Louisiana University campus organization.
Leyna W., one of the student founders of the CCC and the current president, says the group consists of individuals with different majors and interests, but “our love and compassion for the kitties is what we have in common.”
A Conversation with Leyna
Why was the organization formed?
All of us met by pure coincidence one day between classes. I was reading on a bench in an alleyway on campus when I noticed a few students poking around in the bushes. Turns out there was a litter of white kittens hidden back there. That’s how we all met. The next day, the idea was brought up about creating our own campus organization because we realized that this litter of kittens wasn’t going to be a one time thing.
Do all of the cats remain TNR kitties or do you ever rescue/foster/adopt them out?
We started as a TNR organization, and that is still our main focus. But with TNR comes kittens! We fully vet, socialize, and adopt out any kittens (and the rare friendly adult) we find, usually with the help of other local rescue organizations simply due to the expense of getting them ready for adoption.
About how many have you found homes for?
Including ones that we have found but were adopted out through other organizations, we have found homes for 78 cats and kittens. We relatively recently started doing our own adoptions and have independently adopted out or otherwise placed (some cats are relocated as barn cats) 27 cats and kittens. Between our group’s own fosters and the kittens placed with other rescue organizations, we currently have 23 cats and kittens looking for homes.
What is the hardest part about TNR?
Definitely the funding. We’re all just college students here, but a lot of what we do is paid for by us. We’ve had some successful online fundraisers, but the money is quickly used up by special medical cases. When we started, a local organization (Tangi Animal Friends) had grant money that enabled us to fix and vaccinate feral cats for free. Since that money ran out, we occasionally get help from another organization (Feral Cat Coalition of Baton Rouge), but otherwise pay for the surgeries out of pocket. Then you have to consider the cost of food and all of the supplies and extra vet care needed for our fosters.
What is the best part about TNR?
I’d say just knowing that we are making a difference. Seeing the happy, healthy cats that we have fixed and released is so rewarding. The lack of kittens being born in colonies that we have TNR’d is such a relief!
What would you say is the most common misconception about TNR?
Critics of TNR think that we release these cats just to live out a miserable, sickly existence. This is far from the truth. We make sure the cats are healthy when we trap them; we get them vaccinated and treated for fleas and intestinal parasites, and once we release them, we feed and monitor the colony. We’ve sadly had to have a few ferals euthanized due to severe health issues, and we’ve also had to re-trap and euthanize a cat that we had neutered and released because he became very ill. We would never allow these cats to suffer.
How many cats has your group TNR’d?
We’ve trapped, spayed/neutered, and released 71 cats.
What is the environment like around SLU? Do the students/faculty find the cats a nuisance or do they embrace them?
The cats manage to hide themselves during the day, so most students don’t realize just how many cats live on and around campus! The students and faculty generally embrace the cats, including the maintenance crew, but we do have a few critics. We have run into a few people that don’t approve of what we do. They believe that the cats should be trapped and killed.
Do you tip the ears of the cats?
Yes, the cats’ ears are tipped when they are spayed and neutered. A small piece of the ear is cut off while the cat is under anesthesia for their surgery. This enables trappers (from our organization or others) to recognize from a distance that a cat has been fixed. This saves the cat from the stress of an unnecessary re-trap, and in the case of a female, another trip to the vet to be anesthetized and cut open.
Approximately how much money does it take to operate your organization each month?
Our month-to-month expenses vary greatly. Some months we TNR dozens of cats, some months only a few. We have the same variance with our foster kittens, too. Our most expensive month was last September, when we spent $850 in vet bills alone. Luckily, we did get enough money donated to cover nearly half of that. In addition to the normal vet work, we’ve gotten medical care for cats with wounds, severe upper respiratory infections, eye injuries, trauma from being hit by a car, wolf worms, ear infections, and more.
Do you take other donations besides money? If so, what do you need most?
We take any type of cat food to feed the ferals. We borrow all of our traps at this point, and would love to have a few of our own, especially TruCatch traps.
Is your group currently looking for volunteers or foster homes?
We can definitely always use foster homes! Right now, it’s just a few of our founding members that foster all of our adoptable kittens and cats. Once we get our organization official and can start with fundraisers, there will be a greater need for volunteers.
Have you ever adopted one of the cats that came through your group?
Yes! I’ve actually adopted three. The first was Phoebe, a friendly kitten from campus. There was just something about her that made me fall in love. Her two sisters were much too feral and had to be released on campus, but Phoebe warmed up to human contact quickly. The next was Liza. She isn’t from campus, but I came across her while transporting campus cats to be spayed/neutered. She was born without her back feet, and I knew the second that I caught her that she wouldn’t be just a foster cat! You can learn more about her on Instagram. And finally, I adopted Simon, a kitten born without eyes that was found in a nearby city, and I helped rescue him and his litter. I’m a sucker for the special ones!
Are there any resources you can recommend about TNR?
We’ve learned almost everything we know from talking to other TNR organizations and cat rescues! Besides that, another really great resource is the Alley Cat Allies website. It’s definitely a great place to start if you’re interested in starting your own organization! Their website has so much great information and advice!
What is the TNR process you take with the cats?
Here’s how the CCC does it! We first plan which cats we are going to trap and make appointments at a low-cost clinic. Then, we trap the cats during the two days/nights prior to the appointments. They remain in the traps with small litter boxes, food, and water until they are transported to the clinic. They are fixed and vaccinated. We pick them up, hold them for a night or two to recover, then release them back to their colony!
And just for fun…
What is your major?
I’m a biology major in my junior year. I hope to go to vet school once I graduate!
Do you have any pets or fosters at home?
I have 4 cats, a dog, and 5 foster cats. I typically keep my pets and fosters separate to keep things from being too hectic.
Do you have any pet peeves?
It really bothers me when an upside down M is used as a W (and vice versa) on marquee signs.
Do you have any hobbies or interests?
I’m interested in photography, but nothing too serious. Between cats and classes, I don’t have much time for anything else!
What is your spirit animal?
Silly question! A cat, of course!
Do you have a favorite rescue organization or charity you’d like to give a shout out to?
Purrs of Hope Rescue and Rescutopia are two of the many great organizations that have helped us accomplish what we have!
You have two weeks off from school (TNR included). What’s your ideal way of spending those two weeks?
That’s a tough one. I honestly don’t know! Sleep?
A big thank you to Leyna and the group for sharing the SLU Campus Cat Coalition with us! Ferals and community cats around SLU are in good hands!
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