iCAT Committee Working to Keep Island Felines Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As the Island University continues many of its everyday operations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, life in the University’s well-known “Cat Alley” continues to thrive as the members of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Islander Cat Assistance Team (iCAT) maintain their unwavering efforts to secure the health and safety of their feline friends. Consolidating feeding schedules and routes, and with assistance from volunteers and community partners, iCAT remains steadfast in its mission to educate the campus and surrounding community on the best practices to care for the University’s favorite four-legged animals.

“When the pandemic struck, we quickly worked with our partners to find ways to ensure our adoption, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), and veterinary programs were able to continue in safe and socially distanced ways,” said Dr. Shane Gleason, Assistant Professor of Political Science, iCAT Chair and Cat Club Faculty Advisor.

Becoming a formal university committee in 2019, iCAT has worked to build relationships with Islander students, faculty, and staff to help reduce and/or maintain feline population growth on the Island campus. Working with organizations such as People Assisting Animal Control (PAAC), Windsor Park Animal Hospital, and The Cattery Cat Shelter, the committee has access to services such as reduced cost medical care including vaccinations, medications, microchipping, neuter and spaying, along with finding cats their forever homes through adoption.

“All the cats that have been brought to us by iCAT have been great cats and easy to place,” said Samantha Person, Cattery Co-Founder and Director. “For the shelter, partnering with another organization that has stepped up to be part of the solution is very rewarding. Many places with a population of cats expect us or someone else to solve the problem for them, but iCAT at TAMU-CC is preventing the problem of the cat population on campus getting bigger and they are taking care of the cats that call the University home.”

While the committee continues care for its feline friends during the ongoing pandemic, one concern that remains a constant is the misunderstanding that the University is a designated sanctuary for cats.

“We don’t want to encourage the public to add to the campus cat population by ‘dumping’ cats,” said Gleason. “It’s against the law and stressful for the cats – both existing and new.”

While students and visitors are encouraged to enjoy the cats’ company and even give them a rub or two, iCAT discourages visitors from feeding the cats or adopting them without going through the proper channels. While many have the best of intentions, feeding the cats or leaving out food for them in Cat Alley can often attract other wildlife to the area, endangering the cats and the environment around them. iCAT has designated volunteers who are tasked with feeding the cats 365-days-a year. Many of those volunteers are members of the Island University’s Student Cat Club.

“Since the stay at home order back in March, I couldn’t feed the cats as often as I used to, but since I’ve been back, it seems the cats have gotten used to their new schedule and they never miss a meal,” said Autumn Hutchins, graphic design major and Student Cat Club member. “The cats on campus are one of the key reasons of why this University is unique and special, and it’s important to have an organization to keep them taken care of. The best thing about working with iCAT is seeing all the cats I feed every day healthy and happy. It feels like I’m a part of a family.”

Making a difference to cats and kittens in need, iCAT relies on donations and volunteers to care for its more than 70 cats throughout the Island Campus. For more information on how you can help adopt/care for cats on campus, visit tamucc.edu/icat. To make a donation visit, tamucc.edu/icat/donate.html.