Have you ever been strolling through campus on your way to class and felt like something was watching you from the shadows? Don’t worry because it was probably one of the campus cats. Some of them have been here as long as 15 years controlling the rodent population and charming the cat lovers of the Auburn faithful on a daily basis.
You may think that they are strays roaming around Auburn’s campus, but they have been fixed, had their shots and are looked after closely. Some have even had their own Twitter account. Dr. Maria Witte is a professor in Adult Education who has overseen the Campus Cat Project for nearly 12 years.
“On average, I pick up at least eight cats or kittens per year,” said Witte. Even when there is no funding, Witte counts her care for the furry friends as community service.
Over 15 years ago there was a program called “Cat Nap” that caught the campus cats to have them fixed and released back to campus. If Facilities Management could have it their way then there wouldn’t be cats living on campus. Whether they get released by students who can’t keep them or they wander here, the reality is that there will always be cats around campus. The goal is to manage and protect them.
You can spot the named felines around campus in the following areas:
- Big Red – Storm drain near Tichenor Hall
- Smitty – M. White Smith Hall
- Callie – Bushes on Haley Concourse
- Cater – Cater Lawn
- John Luke – Helen Keller Hall
Cody Bass, an Auburn native who studies in the College of Liberal Arts, accepted the responsibility of feeding the cats whenever Witte is away. “Dr. Witte approached me about taking care of the cats when one of her helpers couldn’t take care of them anymore,” said Bass. So for the past year, he has been on call in case Witte needs help.
Bass begins his duties around 7 a.m. by picking up a bag of food and bowls at Dr. Witte’s office and starts his route. His first stop is M. White Smith Hall, located on Mell Street, then he walks to central campus to visit the rest of the locations. Bass is so dedicated that he even brings his own bottles of water to help them wash down their meals. And when the work day is over, he makes his rounds again to give them their second serving of the day.
All of the cats are unique and require different care than others. Several of the cats have access to box-shaped houses around campus. Witte does take food donations, but she encourages people to contribute to the Lee County Humane Society.