University for Cats

Students that attend the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico city get something extra with their education, a free lesson in compassion courtesy of some four-legged friends.

The university, which is located in an old convent, is known as a university that helps teach students to respect cats.

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All images are from 3 Million dogs unless otherwise stated

Before the university was open the first cats on the property were thought to have belonged to the nuns who would have kept them as companions and to keep rodent populations down to help prevent plagues.

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After the convent was closed in the 19th century, many cat skeletons were found buried on the property during extensive renovations in 1976

In 1979 when the university officially opened it was decided to continue the tradition of having cats on the property, as people continued to abandon cats and kittens there and felines kept showing up on their own. The university decided to take steps to help control the population after it grew to over 100 cats in 10 years. They introduced  spay and neuter, adoption and a public education campaign to create awareness around the cats.

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The population slowly came under control and adoptions were monitored with background checks and follow-up, and according to 3 million dogs, there remain about 20 cats who currently live on the property. This successful TNR campaign is due to the humane treatment of the cats by the university as well as students who volunteer to help by being responsible for re-homing cats they have fixed and vaccinated.

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Donations cover the medical bills and the university pays for the food

The cats all have names, are known to be very friendly and can often be seen hanging out in the “Patio de los Gatos” or The Cats’ Yard. The university makes sure the cats have everything they need like food dispensers, water, beds, toys and even scratching posts, throughout the property.

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Some teachers even allow cats to attend class

Cats have become an integral part of life on campus and the relationship is clearly mutually beneficial making this an ideal university for cats, and people.

Eagle Scout

Eagle Scout Robbie Elliott of Norfolk, Virginia has become a local hero for community cats after he had to develop a leadership service project to earn his Eagle Scout honors in 2014. Initially he knew he wanted to do something to help pets and, after visiting the local Norfolk SPCA and learning about their TNR  program to help humanely reduce the number of community cats without resorting to killing them, Robbie decided where he would focus his attention.

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All Image via PetSmart Charities unless otherwise stated

TNR was a very new idea to the Norfolk community but, after PetSmart Charities granted the SPCA there a $62,000 grant in 2012 all that changed. The funds helped fix 1,200 cats and brought awareness to the practice and how it could help reduce the number of community cats by offering free spay and neuter services. Since then the program has grown.

Robbie’s visit to the SPCA made him realize that most people weren’t paying much attention to the cats and with food and shelter being the top two things needed, Robbie decided to focus on shelter.

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Robbie researched previous designs and what would best fulfill the needs of the cats enlisting the help of local architect Randy Lyall who donated his services. Together they included some unique elements on the wooden shelters like: a polycarbonate window for natural light, sheltered porch for food and water, a round hole for entry into the house, a one-way door in the back to give cats a quick getaway, and an inside wall to block the wind/rain. The design was also created with the caretakers in mind by ensuring two of the walls and roof were removable, making cleaning the structures easier.

Robbie raised $2,800 and he and his troop built a total of 10 houses, local business donated some of the materials which helped free up $820 which was then donated back to the program to buy food for the cats.

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Cat Shelter/Feeder built by Robbie Elliott

The Chesapeak Clipper reports that one of the local caretakers, Debbie DeMarco,  who was given two of the cat houses says they are a big hit with the cats and that Robbie ” has a good heart – and he did a really nice job.”  Rob Blizard, executive director of the Norfolk SPCA said he was amazed with the time and thought put into the project. “Robbie’s is the deluxe version – the Taj Mahal of feral cat houses.”

Robbie’s project has had a lasting, positive impact as more people have come forward wanting to help the cats. Some people who held negative views on the community cats prior to this project have now seen the benefits of TNR. All the support then allowed for an additional grant from PetSmart Charities of $79,000 to fix even more cats in 2015.

For anyone interested in building these houses, both the blueprints and instructions are available for free. Robbie and the Norfolk SPCA are encouraging everyone to share them to help community cats in all cities.

Helping Stray Cats With Photography

I recently came across this fantastic website called Photographers for Animals. Their mission is to ” Inspire positive change on behalf of animals; to support those helping animals; and to document animals and the efforts being made on their behalf.”

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Photo Credit: Jason and Elizabeth Putsche

Baltimore based Husband and Wife team Jason and Elizabeth Putsche have various projects on the go but their documentary, currently in production, called Community Cats was one that caught my eye. Through their work over the years the couple has documented the lives of feral cats, and with this film they will profile the people that care for them and the love hate relationship communities/cities have with stray cats.

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Photo Credit: Jason and Elizabeth Putsche

Beside photography being a great medium to capture the beauty of animals, it also speaks to people in ways which words cannot. For me it makes an emotional connection and when it’s an image of something that I love, in this case cats, the impact is often stronger and longer lasting.

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Photo Credit: Jason and Elizabeth Putsche

Sadly feral cats are heavily misunderstood and persecuted, so it always good to have them portrayed in a positive light along with individuals who are working to make their city a better place for these forgotten animals. It’s also wonderful to see the benefits of TNR, which is truly a humane way to help them, being profiled.

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Photo Credit: Jason and Elizabeth Putsche

If you are a photographer, professional or amateur, and would like to help out animals locally by volunteering your services you can register here to be included in their website directory. Connect with like minded people and combine your passion for animals and photography for a most worthy and excellent cause.

Wisdom Wednesday Quote

“You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats.” – Colonial proverb

Feral cats, friendly, TNR, Brooklyn, New York, Summer

Meeting a friendly, sweet stray cat in Brooklyn New York

I find cats everywhere I go, or is it they find me? 🐱