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From feral to fine

Feral Cat groupIn late April, a stray cat and her four kittens were found at Kerr Hall. Thanks to the efforts of the UNT Feral Cat Rescue Group, the mother has since been taken care of by a local rescue group, one kitten has been adopted into a loving home and the other four kittens will be in foster care until they are adopted. This is the story for hundreds of cats and other stray animals found on UNT’s campus each year because of the work of volunteers in the group and the partnerships with local animal rescue organizations.

“Because UNT is surrounded by so many restaurants, apartments and houses there will always be cats on campus,” said Dallas Newell, founder of the UNT Feral Cat Rescue Group. “Some are abandoned and others are dumped, but they wander campus because of the many places they can find food.”

A domestic cat becomes feral when it is abandoned or lost and forced to look after itself. A feral cat’s offspring typically grow up with little human interaction, which makes it difficult to become a domestic cat. Without population control efforts of rescue groups, there would be many more cats wandering the streets.

Newell founded the rescue group in 1998 in response to staff’s, and then chancellor, Al Hurley’s concerns about the feral cats living on campus. After researching possible solutions, Newell trained the group about the Trap-Neuter-Return process to control the cat population, with both tame stray cats and feral cats being captured in humane steel traps and taken to veterinarians for sterilization and immunizations. After treatment, feral cats are returned to the location they were found with a notched ear to indicate the cat was given veterinary attention.  The tame stray cats are fostered until they are adopted, a process that can take anywhere from one week to six months.

“We receive two to four calls per day,” said Nancy Kelly, director of the UNT Feral Cat Rescue Group and an academic advisor of the College of Visual Arts and Design. “It’s time-consuming, but I don’t know what my life would be like if I didn’t have this group.”

Trained volunteers have trapped more than 317 cats since the group’s implementation. In addition to trapping and providing resources for the UNT community, the 20 volunteers in the group maintain up to 20 feeding stations and shelters for the feral cats in various locations around campus, including the art building, Mean Green Village and areas of campus bordering residential properties. Each shelter has towered food and water containers, which help gauge how many cats reside in each area based on how quickly they need to be filled again

The group doesn’t just serve cats. Members also have rescued dogs and birds and participated in service projects, such as providing bulletproof vests for the campus police dogs.  Outside of campus, the group manages the feral cat population for the Denton State Supported Living Center - formerly known as the Denton State School. The UNT Feral Cat Rescue Group has partnered with other organizations that help fulfill the nonprofit’s mission to provide education and promote responsible pet care in the community.

There are four ways you can help the UNT Feral Cat Rescue Group:

·       If you see a feral cat on campus, alert the group by calling 940-565-4206. A member will come make sure the cat has been neutered or spayed, and take further action as necessary. Helpful information about what to do when you find a cat can be found on the organization’s website.

·       Adopt a cat rescued by the organization. For updates on cats available, connect with the UNT Feral Cat Rescue group on Facebook, subscribe to recent news by sending an e-mail to listserv@unt.edu or view the organization’s petfinder.com account.

·       Donate online today. Donations are tax deductible.

·       Volunteer! This organization needs more volunteers to maintain its duties on campus. To volunteer on campus or foster recovering strays, email Nancy Kelly at nancy.kelly@unt.edu or call 940-565-4206.

“When you find a starving kitten and get to see it come back to health, it’s very rewarding,” said Kelly. “It will add a lot to your life.”

— Lauren Frock, student assistant, University Relations, Communications and Marketing

Above, Nancy Kelly, director of the UNT Feral Cat Rescue Group, and Dallas Newell, the group's founder are looking for help from students and faculty to fulfill their organization’s mission. (Photo by Ahna Hubnik/ URCM)

Posted on: Tue 03 June 2014

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