• In September, a flurry of reports of cat and kitten sightings rolled in to Cat Partners of Southwestern University by text and email.

In September, a flurry of reports of cat and kitten sightings rolled in to Cat Partners of Southwestern University by text and email:

Message 1: “I was told…to reach out to you regarding a roaming cat over by DLC Building 1.  The other day Socks came by for attention…and there was another cat with him. I’ve attached a picture. It wouldn’t let me get close and didn’t hang around for long. It might be the cat that belongs to the people (on 8th Street), close to SU…”

Message 2: “I heard that y’all were looking for a mom cat and her kittens that had been spotted on campus. Earlier tonight (around 8 pm) I was walking through the parking lot between DLC and the ceramics/sculpture studio and I saw two very young looking kittens (a black one with a white chest and an orange one) running and playing in the parking lot together. I tried getting closer but they disappeared, I guess under a car or something. They were pretty small and ran kind of wobbly, like how they do when they’ve just recently learned to walk.”

Message 3: “I was just wanting to let Cat Partners know that I have seen a mom and her kittens around Lords Building 6. The mom looks like a dark tabby.  Some of the kittens are the same coloring and some are orange, they look like they’re at least several weeks old, they can run and stuff already. I don’t know if they are staying in this general area or if they’ve been passing through. Just wanted to make sure y’all know about them and can do what you need to!”

These cat sighting reports are invaluable to the work of Cat Partners.  They enable us to take action quickly. First we determine if the reported cat is a member of our campus cat colonies.  If it is not one of our own, we trap. We own multiple TrueCatch traps, which enable us to humanely trap. Once we trap the cat it is sheltered in a safe place until it can be taken to the Georgetown City Animal Shelter to be scanned for a microchip and examined for medical conditions or injuries.  Sometimes the conclusion is a lost pet reunited with its owner. Other times the cat is surrendered to the shelter for care and adoption.  Occasionally, the cat is surrendered to a rescue group, such as Georgetown Animal Outreach.

In September 2019 Cat Partners responded quickly to the reports of cats and kittens on campus. However, not quick enough to prevent the unfortunate incident of one kitten getting into the engine compartment of a student’s automobile late at night.  The student was bitten by the frightened kitten when reaching in to get it.  

Lesson Learned: Do not risk getting rabies. If you find a kitten under the hood of your car, do not attempt to remove it yourself.  Call Georgetown City Animal Control and an officer will come to assist. ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS ARE DISPATCHED THROUGH THE NON-EMERGENCY POLICE NUMBER: 512-930-3510 X 6

The kitten was feisty, but the student prevailed and immediately contacted Cat Partners, who sheltered the kitten that night and the following morning took it to the Georgetown City Animal Shelter.  The shelter determined the kitten did not have rabies, which was good for the student, but did have ringworm, which was bad for the kitten.  Ringworm is a highly contagious condition, spreadable to pets and humans, that requires a 30-day quarantine and intensive treatment program for contagious pets.  Neither the shelter, nor Cat Partners, could provide the quarantine for the kitten, and, unfortunately, the kitten was euthanized.   

After the traumatic experience of euthanizing the kitten, Cat Partners was feeling quite low.  There were more kittens to catch and a Mama cat to have spayed. The kittens and Mama cat could possibly all be infected with ringworm.  Cat Partners students were not prepared to euthanize more kittens, and were at an impasse as to what action to take next. Then, like a miracle, Caitlin Babb, a SU student, volunteered to find a solution to the problem.  

Caitlin, an animal lover with rescue experience, dropped everything to attend meetings with Physical Plant and Cat Partners.  She worked diligently and identified a ringworm treatment program in Austin for the kittens. Caitlin, along with the Cat Partners executive team, Physical Plant, the Safety Office, and Student Life staff, quickly worked up a risk management plan for trapping the kittens and Mama cat and handling the potential ringworm situation.

Cat Partners worked quickly to secure funding to pay for the spay of the Mama cat.  The call for funds went out and many angel donations were received. Two local non-profits, Georgetown Animal Outreach and Shadow Cats, donated generously.

To donate to Cat Partners go to the Southwestern University giving page.  You must specifically designate the money to go to “Cat Partners” by selecting “other” as the designation, and “Cat Partners” as the additional designation.

Once a risk management plan was formulated and approved, Cat Partners trapped the remaining kittens and Mama cat.  Trapping took a couple of nights, and the help of homeowners on 8th Street, who graciously let us set up traps on their property. The kittens did have ringworm, as suspected.  They were surrendered to Austin Pets Alive to be treated by their ringworm program and eventually put up for adoption.  The Mama cat, we named “Patches”, was spayed at a local veterinary hospital. We kept her indoors for a one-week recovery following surgery.  We hoped to socialize her, but she did not like being indoors. At the end of the one week recovery she was returned to where she was trapped on 8th Street, to live out her life as a feral cat.  That is the essence of what Trap-Neuter-Release is all about.

It all started with a flurry of emails about kittens spotted on campus.  It ended with lessons learned (don’t reach for a kitten under your car hood), new partnerships formed (Austin Pets Alive and Shadow Cats), a cat spayed (preventing many more feral cats on 8th Street and campus), funds secured for future work (angel donors) and new friends made (homeowner’s on 8th Street and Caitlin Babb).  Lessons in safety protocol were learned by all.  

It is of the utmost importance to keep both people and animals safe when there are stray or wild animals on campus. A situation like this requires communicating with all appropriate personnel, including Physical Plant, Student Life, Residence Life, Safety Office, Cat Partners, and Animal Control (if necessary).  It takes a team of department and many volunteers coming together quickly to formulate a plan, raise money, and communicate with all appropriate people/departments. 

What should you do if you see kittens or unidentified cats on campus? 

Report it to the Cat Partners student organization!  Take a picture, if you can, and give the exact location.  Cat Partners knows what to do and can take it from there. We have the connections and resources to help any cat that appears on campus. And, of course, you are always welcome to become a member of the organization, or work beside us, as in the case of Caitlin.  Students, faculty, staff, and alumni / friends can join.

Cat Partners President: Sam Buehler, buehlers@southwestern.edu
Cat Partners Advisor: Kelly Lessard, lessardk@southwestern.edu
Cat Partners Emergency Cell Number: 512-289-0960 (text or call)
Georgetown Animal Control Officer: ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS ARE DISPATCHED THROUGH THE NON-EMERGENCY POLICE NUMBER: 512-930-3510 X 6