Aggie feral cat program seeks volunteers, donations
By Kelly Greenwood
February 20, 2009 | LOGAN -- Lyle was once homeless.
He was old, arthritic, and he wandered Utah State University
housing areas in search of food. That is, until he encountered
a feeding station provided by a USU organization.
The orange-and-white tabby cat was one of the first
feral cats cared for by USU's Aggie Cat Services (ACS),
an on-campus, non-profit organization that works to
control the feral cat population on USU's campus.
According to Whitney Milligan, one of the founders
of ACS and director of USU Residential Life, ACS originated
about four years ago when pre-veterinary students began
spay-and-neuter training with a feral cat colony that
lived around the Junction dining hall on campus. Eventually,
a staff assistant invited No More Homeless Pets and presented the Trap-Neuter-Return
program to USU, and the shift toward Aggie Cat Services
began, Milligan said.
Through the Trap-Neuter-Return-Maintain program, ACS
has implemented a "method of managing and controlling
the feral cat population on campus," Milligan said.
As the first step of the program, ACS sets up feeding
stations at predetermined locations around the USU campus
and establishes a feeding pattern with the cats over
several weeks, Milligan said. ACS then removes the food
and sets up live traps at the stations, which are monitored
by trained volunteers, according to the ACS Web
When the cats are trapped, they are taken to Cache
Meadow Veterinary Clinic where they are vaccinated for
rabies and spayed or neutered. Their ears are tipped
to indicate they have been treated, and they are released
back to their original location, Milligan said. The
colonies are then monitored for any changes in health
or behavior, the ACS Web site states.
Through the TNRM program, stronger colonies develop,
which prevents more cats from coming in, since colonies
are very territorial, Milligan said. Also, the cats
no longer reproduce, which reduces the feral cat population
and over time, the cats naturally die off, she said.
The program is a much more efficient than the catching-and-killing
method, which is less practical and more expensive,
she said. The ACS Web site states it is inhumane to
catch and kill feral cats because humans are responsible
for their neglect.
"We have a responsibility for them," Milligan said.
ACS currently manages four feeding stations, and according
to Milligan, is "looking at the possibility of two more."
The past year was the first time ACS saw response from
volunteers and now has approximately 30 of them-- 12
of which are actively participating, she said.
According to Alyssa Walker, member of the ACS volunteer
coordinator council, the organization needs the most
help at the feeding stations. She said ACS has had a
harder time finding volunteers for the feeding stations
that are farther away on campus. Milligan said that
most people are interested in trapping the cats, while
they have only a few very committed people who monitor
the feeding stations.
In addition to volunteer help, monetary donations are
also welcome, as well as food donations, Walker said.
She mentioned some local animal control officers who
regularly donate damaged bags of cat food to the organization
and said that any donations are welcome.
"We need donations all the time," said Milligan. "We
are always looking for people who have access to resources."
Milligan said the organization is run entirely on donations
and doesn't receive state funding. She has spoken with
individuals to convert the trap-and-kill funds to ACS,
but in the meantime, ACS is "working on fund-raising
all the time," she said.
ACS doesn't release every cat they treat, however.
Though most cats are too feral to be adopted, the ACS
Web site states, some cats are friendly and healthy
enough to be put up for adoption.
Lyle, the aforementioned tabby, was put up for adoption,
but when he was diagnosed with arthritis and feline
AIDS, Milligan decided to take him in. Though she eventually
had to put him to sleep, the "very affectionate" cat
had a warm, comfortable place to spend his last days,
she said. Milligan also adopted a 3-week-old kitten
she found in Aggie Village who was diagnosed with cerebral
hyperplasia, a neurological disorder associated with
balance control. The cat is healthy now and his shaking
has stopped, she said.
But even though some feral cats are adoptable, people
should not try to pet them or trap them on their own.
If people see feral cats on campus, they should call
ACS, Walker said.
"People need to realize that feral cats aren't pet
cats," Walker said.
Even if they are as sweet as Lyle.