The warble of a cat wasn’t what Jordan Warnement was expecting to hear as she walked past the construction area next to the library.
“I turned to the guy behind me and said, ‘Do you hear that cat,?’” the senior movement science major said.
Steven Fodemski, a first-year pre-business major, said he was on his way to class in the Tucker Technology Center and stopped. The pair looked through the construction fence for the cat and saw a week old kitten instead.
“The kitten was climbing up the fence toward us,” Fodemski said. “We pulled it through a hole in the netting.”
The kitten had been left behind earlier in the day when Cari Alexander staged a rescue. A TCU librarian and founder of Frogs and Cats Together, Alexander said construction workers called FACT after seeing the kittens.
“They said, ‘Hey, we’ve got the kittens down here,’” Alexander said, “so we went down there and were able to grab three, and we grabbed Momma. Then, Jordan got the fourth one later.”
Although Warnement said she was surprised to find kittens on campus, TCU is home to four colonies of feral cats. The felines in the colonies have been spayed or neutered, but cats from the surrounding area wander onto campus and increase in the feral population with incidences like this new litter of kittens.
10 years earlier
Frogs and Cats Together has been keeping up with TCU’s feral cat population for 10 years.
Alexander learned of an alumna living close to campus, she said, who had a niece living in the Worth Hills area. The niece told the alumna about a group of cats living there as well.
“She loves cats, so she started feeding down there, but she was doing it incorrectly with canned cat food and leaving the cans,” Alexander said. “She just didn’t know.”
The physical plant responded to complaints from some of the residents by trapping the cats and calling animal control.
Alexander said animal control came to pick up the trapped cats and take them to a Fort Worth shelter, but some of the animals didn’t make it there alive.
“They trapped 34 cats and kittens in Worth Hills alone, and some of them didn’t make it to animal control,” Alexander said. “It really didn’t matter, because the problem with taking ferals from their location is that they’re unadoptable. If they wind up in an animal shelter, they’re done.”
Alexander made it her mission to raise awareness of the feral cat population around TCU. She said she spent two months walking campus, setting out food around potentially feral cat populated areas and taking pictures of the cats she found.
“Once I had photographed 30 different cats on campus,” Alexander said. “Then I just stopped.”
Frogs and Cats Together
Realizing the need for education on feral cats and stabilization for the colonies on campus through spaying, neutering and vaccination, Alexander said she made three proposals to TCU for trap-neuter-release initiatives and feeding stations on campus.
The maintenance portion of her proposals, Alexander said, was not accepted, but the TNR program was initiated.
This was the birth of the Frogs and Cats Together (FACT) organization.
“The Chancellor was like, ‘This sounds like a good idea. Let’s go ahead and do this and see where it goes,’” Alexander said.
FACT, however, is not a typical organization on campus.
“Our group is really interesting,” Alexander said. “We’re not a student group.”
The organization is made of five staff volunteers who act as caregivers for four feral cat colonies on campus. They set out dry food and clean water every day and look the cats over to make sure they are staying healthy.
“If I didn’t have them helping me, this would be long gone,” Alexander said.
But FACT is far from gone. Alexander said the nine-year-old organization has gone from trapping cats every day to only having 14 to 15 stabilized feral cats on campus.
FACT has not only made an impact on TCU’s campus, but it helped changed the approach to TNR programs in the entire Fort Worth community as well.
The group succeeded last year in changing a city ordinance in order to make TNR an accepted practice in Fort Worth, and it worked. Caregivers must now go through a training process, register their colonies and maintain them.
“So we are registered,” Alexander said. “We’ve TNRed 86 on campus, and that’ll go up another five, six, maybe seven when we get through catching everybody in the construction site.”
Where are the kittens now?
Alexander said the kittens found in the construction area are now in her foster shed at home.
“We’ve named them Reese and Jones because of the building, and one is Mary Couts Burnett,” Alexander said. “Jordan had named the little one she found Oliver, so we let that stick.”
The fully vetted kittens, Alexander said, will be adopted at a huge cost bargain compared to kittens in most shelters.
A problem beyond TCU
Peggy Brown, director of humane education and community outreach at the Humane Society of North Texas, said TCU is not the only area home to feral cat colonies.
She said there is a significant feral cat population in the Fort Worth area because they continue to reproduce without regulation. She said the Humane Society already has too many domesticated cats and does not have the resources to care for the overpopulation of feral cats as well.
“We have 100 to 200 animals brought in daily,” Brown said.
Brown said students who find feral cats should bring them to the Human Society of North Texas on the first and last Tuesday of every month for the Trap-Neuter-Return Program. The cats are neutered at a discount rate and released back into colonies around Fort Worth where they can return to normal life without the threat of reproducing.
Students can also contact the Texas Coalition for Animal Protection for additional resources and another option for a feral fix program at a discount price, she said.
A representative from Fort Worth Animal Care and Control, Hollie Arnold, said these TNR programs are the most effective ways to control the feral cat population.
“It’s a matter of public health,” Arnold said. “Feral cats can carry feline diseases, and most TNR programs will vaccinate for those.”
Arnold said the feral cats that are not young enough to be tamed and domesticated are most likely euthanized in shelters.
National Feral Cat Day
Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats, wrote on their website that nearly 100 percent of feral cats are killed in shelters in the United States. The organization started National Feral Cat Day ten years ago to raise awareness about this statistic and feral cats.
Alexander said Frogs and Cats Together is celebrating National Feral Cat Day Oct. 16 with an information table outside of the library.
“We’ll have a book out there, newspaper articles and all kinds of information,” Alexander said. “This year, I’ll bring the babies out there, so everybody can look at the babies.”
And maybe Warnement can see Oliver again too.
“Jordan, she was awesome,” Alexander said. “She knew what to do to help the kitten.”