By Ray Duffy
The apparent removal of food bowls and a shelter intended for the population of stray and feral cats on the Saint Vincent campus, a shelter which has existed for around 40 years, prompted concern from multiple locals.
Helen Toy, a member of a group of concerned citizens called the Cat Crusaders, and Robin Patton, who has aided in both trapping strays and assisting in their transportation to be neutered, shared their worries with The Review.
Both were concerned the cats were removed from their home and stopped being fed, with Patton indicating particular concern about the cats' well-being during the upcoming winter.
Fr. Anthony Grossi, O.S.B., who has been feeding and taking care of the cats, indicated that the bowls and shelter were moved from the highly trafficked area behind Placid Hall to a more secluded, undisclosed location.
"They have their own little protected place, and it's good, because it gives the cats some privacy," stated Dr. Veronica Ent, whose office looked out onto the area where most of the cats lived.
According to Ent, associate professor of education and chair of the education department, and Grossi, manager of the SVC bookstore, the cats have been around at least since the 1980s - back when Saint Vincent was still home to a congregation of Benedictine nuns.
"[The cats] were fed by the nuns, and [were] potentially descendants of cats that were dropped off [at Saint Vincent]," said Ent.
Grossi explained that the campus then became overpopulated with cats since the abandoned animals were not spayed and neutered and therefore still able to reproduce.
"Last fall, we had upwards of 20 cats," stated Grossi.
Ent saw this uptick in population. Realizing winter was coming, she reached out to friends who rescue feral cats, and with the assistance of Grossi and others, humanely trapped the cats.
They were all spayed and neutered, vaccinated, and over half were re-homed.
"I actually took two of them, and they're living a great life," Ent stated.
However, not all the cats were able to be adopted due to their feral condition. According to Ent, the difficult feral cats were adults and "are very hard to re-home."
"You can't touch them," Ent said. "We brought them to continue living here."
The remaining cats are given food and water and provided with shelter. Ent said they also have all their vaccinations, have been given flea and tick protection, have been checked over by a licensed veterinarian, are healthy, and will continue to be taken care of.
While concerns have been raised about possible cross-contamination of rabies or other diseases between the campus skunks and the cats, there is no safety concern in this regard.
The cats are vaccinated for rabies and distemper regularly, and they seldom interact with the skunks.
Additionally, the cats are fed in the morning and the bowls are empty by nightfall, meaning that nocturnal skunks are not attracted by the presence of cat food, according to information from Ent and Grossi.
Additionally, Ent said, the cats keep the rodent population down.
"Just the small of cats keep the mice away, which keeps other diseases away -- they serve a purpose, in a good way," Ent stated.