NEWS AND COMMENT-FLORIDA, USA: As an employee of Nova Southeastern University (NSU) you can be terminated from your employment if you feed the stray cats on the campus. That is the directive as stated in an email issued by Vice President Daniel Alfonso with the approval of President George Hanbury. The report comes from the Sun Sentinel.
As usual, the feeding of stray and feral cats, which are better referred to as ‘community cats’ because they become domesticated, is contentious. This is not the first time that the managers of a university have been embroiled in arguments about feeding community cats who have made the campus their home.
Feeding or not feeding community cats polarises people. It happens all the time. In this instance, typically, the managers say that the cats attract wild critters who are a nuisance, they spread disease and urinate and defecate in and around university property. These are the three arguments that always pop up when discussing a ban on the presence of stray cats on private property. They don’t want to physically remove the cats but they want to stop university undergraduates feeding them. The reasons as stated are dubious. The ‘spreading disease’ argument particularly so. Humans spread more disease to humans than cats to humans so let’s stop feeding humans.
The problem is that the cats have become habituated to being fed. Their source of food is suddenly removed which can lead people to believe that they will starve. This is upsetting to many. Everyone should be upset. I’m not sure that they would starve but they would have to adjust and some may indeed starve or become ill because they are completely dependent upon being fed.
One student said that, “These cats have never provided for themselves. You can watch them currently losing weight and crying for food due to the lack of nutrition. The feedings are what they have relied upon for years.”
The email sent out to all concerned said: “The cat food attracts rats, raccoons, possums, the lovely Canadian geese and other wildlife. These animals carry diseases and may become aggressive when they encounter humans. Additionally, these critters use our doorsteps, staircases, and other common areas as their toilets. That is unsanitary!”
And the warning of potential sackings follows:
“Please, if you are feeding cats on our campus, STOP doing so. Failure to abide by this request, may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal (loss of employment) from Nova Southeastern University.”
NSU is a private university with about 21,000 students. They have several campuses in various locations in Florida. The ban on feeding cat applies to the Davie campus only.
So, there is a pushback from some employees. One said that they have been feeding the cats for 10 years. When they return to work the cats come to them for food. They said that they were upset but will continue feeding the cats because “You do what you have to do, and I do what I have to do.”
What will happen when the cats are no longer fed? Two people have weighed in to answer the question. The first is Dr. Kristy Lund, a vet with Lund Animal Hospital in Boca Raton. She says that cutting off the food supply will not make them leave and that they provide a service in keeping down the rodent population.
Becky Robinson, the president and founder of the national nonprofit group Alley Cat Allies has chipped in to say that it is a bad idea. She said that banning the feeding of stray cats has been tried in other places without success. The cats roam for food which makes them more visible which leads to more calls to animal control.
Also, these “punitive policies” are difficult if not impossible to enforce. They are cruel to cats and they punish the good people who are trying to do the right thing and make a difference.
The difficulty in enforcement is a major reason why this ban won’t work. For example, one university employee who feeds the cats does so for a fixed period of time and makes sure that no food is left behind. You can do it surreptitiously. If a regulation is unenforceable, it is not going to work. If it is not going to work it should not be in place. And it is also cruel. A good moral reason for the management to make a U-turn.
SOME MORE ON FEEDING FERAL CATS: