Campus Cat Conundrum Interview

Below is the interview between The Journal columnist Jaclyn Fabing and Sarah Moore, clinic manager at the Animal Protective League in Springfield. This interview was featured in Fabing’s opinion piece, Correcting the Campus Cat Conundrum, from Sept. 27, 2017.


Sarah Moore: So the teacher that did it, is she still is?

Interviewer: I’m not sure. I don’t think she is.*

Moore: Okay. That was before my time; I started out here in 2006. So, I don’t know how many cats we fixed out there, but I know there was a big problem.

I don’t know if we went and trapped out there, or if volunteers trapped, or if somebody at the school trapped — ah, I think her name is Normajean. I think she was sort of in charge of getting the cats trapped, and getting them out here and fixed.

And that was actually — they were probably fixed at Dr. Speck’s clinic when he did a free feral cat thing once a month on Sunday.

I was at UIS around 2004 to 2006, and then again from 2011 to 2014, and I didn’t see very many cats out there when I was there, but I know that they’ve always kind of been there.

Interviewer: Oh, yeah. Because people abandon them.

Moore: Yeah.

Interviewer: There’s a growing problem now. I think when I started a couple years ago, because I’m a senior now… there was two cats. There was two campus cats. And now there’s litters everywhere.

I know that last year, I was at Larkspur, and a cat had had a litter right in front of the buildings, and wouldn’t let you walk on the sidewalk because it was too close to her kittens.

Moore: [Laughs] Oh no!

Moore: Most of my classes were in the Public Affairs Center, and I would see a cat every once in a while, walking up from the parking lot. Or, I had a psychology class over in one of the old buildings, and I would see cats over there periodically when I was an undergrad. So… are you interested in getting them fixed? Like, do you have a…

Interviewer: Well, there’s nothing that I can do, I’m hoping that I pressure other people to get started on this, but maybe you can tell me about the benefits to doing this?

Moore: Sure. We recommend spay/neuter… like, trap/neuter/return (TNR) for the cats, as opposed to trap and remove, because of something called the Vacuum Effect.

Basically, the Vacuum Effect is where an ecosystem can sustain a certain number of cats. And if you remove a cat, or multiple cats, you create a vacuum, which means that the cats that are there, that remain, because it’s almost impossible to remove everybody, will go into hyper-reproduction.

So they’ll reproduce faster, they’ll reproduce more, and they’ll have stronger, healthier kittens. And so when you remove the cats, it doesn’t really do much good.

Also, if the cats aren’t friendly, the only option is to remove them and euthanize them because there’s nowhere — no one will adopt them.

So we recommend spay/neuter, because then the cats stay in the area, they’re fixed, so they’re not reproducing, so you won’t have more cats.

They’re healthier since they’re fixed, so you won’t have as much disease, and eventually the numbers will dwindle.

Interviewer: Mnhmn.

Moore: So, we do that here.

 We do TNR here, in our spay/neuter clinic, we’re here five days a week. So that’s why we recommend spay/neuter.

 And, you know, if — from the cats’ perspective, they would like to stay where they are. That’s their home, and they know their own territory.

 Interviewer: Yeah. So I’m hoping that, when I write this… I don’t know, someone will read it, and think that maybe we should deal with the little bit of a problem. Because I like seeing cats all the time, but I know it’s ultimately not really good for them. 

Moore: Yeah. You don’t want to have a million cats, and then they get sick…

I started out here in 2006. And in 2007, there were a couple of people who worked here who went to UIS, and they had started a little, like, Animal Welfare club, and the professor that had sort of helped them with that, and that had done TNR stuff before, tried to pass that on to them, where they could do TNR for some of the cats.

And then… I don’t think that any of them ended up graduating from UIS, and then the club fell apart… Because I know that they — I’m friends with them, so I know they didn’t graduate. And then after like a year, the club fell apart.

We would even be willing to do the surgeries for free, if somebody was willing to bring them in. We don’t have volunteers that like, go out and trap… in part because it’s just a liability issue… but we’re happy to neuter them if somebody can just get them here.

Interviewer: That’s good to know.

Moore: Yeah. So, we can loan traps, and really, you just need a couple people that are dedicated. And if [the cats] are friendly, you can just stuff them in a carrier and bring them in.

We do spay or neuter, we vaccinate, so they get rabies and distemper vaccines, so they’re not going to spread disease to other cats, or to people…

Interviewer: Yeah, especially since they’re on a campus.

Moore: Yeah. Yeah. And, we microchip them, so if they end up in animal control, they can be pulled instead of euthanized, and we know where they go.

Kittens can be done as early as 8 weeks old, so… I’ve never seen a kitten out there, it’s sad to hear that there’s…

Interviewer: Yeah. I took some pictures because they’re so cute, but at the same time, it’s like… there really shouldn’t be.

Moore: Yeah. The kittens are very adoptable. I mean, Animal Control is open admission and they can go to Animal Control to be adopted.

If Animal Control gets full, we pull — like, we took 23 cats from there today. So if anybody’s even willing to remove the kittens and get them out to like, the shelter, then they can be adopted. But the adult cats, it’s best to just fix them and put them back.


*Discussing Normajean Niebur, the original faculty member to begin the feral cat program in 2001. She is now the Department Secretary of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.