Coalition Created to Care for Cats: Students and Faculty Organize Aid for Feral Felines on Campus

by   Posted on November 12th, 2009 in Uncategorized

Matthew Harrison, Broadside Correspondent

Two feral cats sit outside Thompson Hall in a parking spot waiting for love and human attention. It is early in the morning so the cats feel more comfortable showing their presence. And of course, it is almost feeding time.

Students move slowly along the walkways of George Mason University’s Fairfax campus, never really noticing the cats that hide among them.

One cat straightens its back, perks its ears and focuses on the car slowly rolling into the empty reserved spot. Food and love could not have come at a better time.

They could not be happier.

“At first I didn’t want to tell the police where the cats where hiding,” says Colleen Bauer, one of several faculty and volunteer workers who take care of the feral cats. “But the police said if I didn’t say where they were hiding, they would catch every cat on campus and have them all tested for rabies.”

Bauer was first introduced to Mason’s feral cat community nine years ago when she was working in Krug Hall. She noticed a mother cat and her babies in a window well. Attempting to help the mother and her babies, Bauer was bit and later went to Student Health Services. Hesitant at first, Bauer later would identify where the cats where located. Police apprehended the feral cats and transported them to a veterinarian.

“After about a week, I called Animal Control to check up on the cats, finding out that the family had been killed without even being tested for rabies,” she replied.

Bauer felt horrible and made it a goal to join the Mason Cat Coalition.

Joan Ziemba, former director of University Publications, formed the Mason Cat Coalition in December 1994. Noticing an increase in feral cats located in Fairfax, Ziemba thought it was time Mason had its own cat organization. She got the idea from Stanford University’s Cat Network, which helps feral cats that were abandoned by students to live a more protective life.

Mason’s administration supports the group because it not only helps keep mice and other rodent populations down, but also offers these abandoned cats a safe haven, according to Becky Nemeth, a member of University Information on campus.

Policies at Mason prohibit pets, such as cats, in dorms, but some students continue to purchase animals, unaware of the responsibilities that follow.

“We try to feed and regulate the cats’ food every day because among the feral cats, other animals, like raccoons, steal food,” said Nemeth, a dedicated faculty member working every day for the cats.

Nine coalition members, including Nemeth, and eight other volunteers spend weekends and holidays volunteering time to take care of the feral cats.

“Our goal is not to have more feral cats on campus, but to control the population that has grown,” Nemeth explained.

In addition to feeding the cats, the organization traps, neuters and sterilizes the cats.

“Some of the cats are shy, but others, like Bert and Ernie, are usually friendly,” Nemeth said of the two cats that live behind Thompson Hall.

Currently, the Mason Cat Coalition takes care of 10 cats. They are all sterilized, healthy and very loving. Bert, the black cat, along with his companion Ernie, a white and black cat, are likely to be spotted stalking around Thompson Hall early in the morning.

The Mason Cat Coalition builds shelters that are safe, warm and protective. Members of the organization change hay, provide food and replace structural deformities to keep the houses neat and clean.

Nemeth has been working with the cats for more than eight years, making sure that every cat is tended to.
“Bert and Ernie always emerge from the woods once they hear my voice,” Nemeth said.

With more support, the group would be able to distribute volunteer time among more people, ultimately relieving overworked members.

“The more students that volunteer, the easier it will be to take care of the cats, giving each of the faculty members a bit of a break,” Bauer said.

Because the Mason Cat Coalition currently has no student volunteers, coalition members are working overtime to keep the cats happy and well fed.

“The Mason Cat Coalition is an important group of individuals,” said Keith Foederl, an undeclared sophomore.

Foederl owns one cat and believes students should be more active with helping the cats on campus.

“They have volunteered their time to increase the awareness of feral cats in our local ecosystem,” Foederl said of the group.

The Mason Cat Coalition website can give students more information at Students or faculty members can give donations that directly fund veterinarian services, testing and sterilization.
Instructors can make donations through payroll deduction, or make payments toward the University Foundation account located on the website.

The Mason Cat Coalition accepts information on the population of cats or injured animals. With the help of students and volunteers, the Mason Cat Coalition can continue to help feral cats that were abandoned.

This organization does not provide services regarding adoption but uses other clinics like Alley Cat, which can be found at, and Pender Veterinary at

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