In February, Florida Southern College’s shelters for feral cats known as “Cat Cafés” will be set up around campus, along with traps to spay, neuter and administer vaccines to FSC’s feral cat colony.
The Cat Cafés and traps will be put in place by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Florida and maintained by the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
“They’re going to be in areas where the cats are, obviously very populated,” Larissa Town, vice president of Alpha Chi Omega, said. “Alpha Chi is going to be taking care of that from the future on. Once they are spayed or neutered we’re going to continue daily feedings, casual clean-ups.”
Roughly three months ago, Sean Hawkins, executive director of SPCA Florida, took over.
Hawkins had success in using the Cat Cafés in the past and, after contacting the college, decided to use them at FSC.
“This will be the first one for SPCA Florida to implement, but Sean has been instrumental in multiple ones in this country and abroad,” Patt Glenn, director of animal care at SPCA Florida, said.
Glenn describes the Cat Cafés as a “safe harbor” for the cats.
“They’ve been very successful where [Sean] implemented them,” Randa Richter, manager of good deeds and community involvement and volunteer manager at SPCA Florida, said.
Alpha Chi Omega members will leave food for the cats at selected locations around campus. After a while the cats will know to return to the locations for shelter and food.
SPCA and domestic violence are the sorority’s philanthropies. Town said that they had been trying to figure out what to do about the cats for a long time.
“It’s been in the works for a while, but it’s starting to come into place,” Town said.
The sorority welcomes donations to collect food for the cats and has volunteers from the safety department to maintain the shelters during the summer.
Town said that the feedings should start “as soon as it is approved.”
It is hoped that the cats will acclimatize to the new stations soon, learning that there is food to be had there.
“It’s really important that the rest of the student body knows that these are the only places that we want these cats fed,” Glenn said.
The Cat Cafés are being specially designed so that they fit in with FSC’s architecture. Once a design has been decided on and built, the Cat Cafés are proposed to be placed in six different locations around campus.
However, before the Cat Cafés arrive, food will be left at the selected locations for the cats. Later, traps will be set up so that SPCA Florida can give the cats medical treatment.
“We’ll be doing the rabies vaccination, the de-worming, they’ll get ear-tipped, they’ll get their FVRCP vaccine…” Adam Lamb, director of medical services at SPCA Florida, said.
Ear-tipping, a small cut into the cat’s ear, signifies that the cat has been spayed or neutered, and, with microchips, will allow the cats on campus to be monitored.
The goal is to give medical services, as well as identify FSC’s feral cat colony during the course of around 24-48 hours.
Cats will be taken to SPCA Florida’s mobile unit for treatment. Sorority members will then stay overnight, along with a vet tech, to watch the cats while they recover.
Once the cats are ready, they will be released back onto campus.
The year before, FSC also had traps set up for the same reasons, but by Feral Fanciers instead of SPCA Florida. When Feral Fanciers became part of SPCA Florida, the college turned to the company.
Nan Holleyman, an FSC campus safety dispatcher who was instrumental in making the program happen, worked with Feral Fanciers last year before they partnered with SPCA Florida.
“They’re still doing the same activities,” Holleyman said. “They’re trapping, they’re neutering, spaying, giving them rabies shots and then relocating them back on campus.”
Signs will mark the locations of the traps around campus.
“If anyone sees a trap, please stay away from it,” Holleyman said.
SPCA Florida trappers will also be near each trap, monitoring them. After the cats have been treated and released, SPCA Florida will continue to monitor the feral cat colony.
Glenn hopes that FSC “will be the model” for future Cat Cafés.
“The SPCA Florida vision is healthy animals, humane communities, and this program takes care of that whole vision,” Glenn said.