If you were to walk on the William Paterson University campus, you would find a diverse array of wildlife, from geese and deer, to groundhogs and even the occasional bear. But one member of the William Paterson wildlife stands out among the rest: the cats.
Cats have lived on the William Paterson campus for decades, but five years ago, the population was out of control. There were over 100 feral cats that were not cared for properly. Piles of food, paths of litter and a stench from male cats spraying plagued the campus.
These conditions improved drastically when William Paterson partnered with Only Kindness Rescue, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that focuses on overlooked, underserved and at-risk animals.
Founder and executive director of Only Kindness Rescue, Mary Linn Lombardo, wanted a year to show the university how to fix the problem through the implementation of a trap-neuter-return program and proper colony management. These steps aimed to improve the cats’ lives, cut down the population and address complaints from the William Paterson community.
After making these changes, as well as implementing sanctuary placements, socialization and facilitating 52 adoptions, there are now 38 feral cats who call William Paterson University home.
All the cats on campus are now cataloged with picture ID, medical charts and spay, neuter and vaccination certificates. There have been no new kittens born within the cat colonies since August of 2019.
“William Paterson University is very fortunate to have a Director of Physical Plant Operations and many executive staff members who are animal lovers and supportive of our efforts,” Lombardo said.
To help care for the cats on campus, Only Kindness Rescue has student volunteers who feed them. The university has stressed that only volunteers for the rescue are allowed to assist in care for them.
“The funniest way I’ve gotten students involved is by approaching them and talking to them when I see them stop and look at the cats,” Lombardo explained. “I educate them about what we do and ask if they want to volunteer. The more kids on campus are aware of the cats, the more they will be protected.”
Over the past year Only Kindness Rescue has been developing a New Animal Welfare Program for William Paterson University to bring together students who have a love for animals and are interested in learning more about the welfare of companion, homeless, farm and wildlife animals.
“It is important to us that this program helps students discover how to enrich their own lives and make a difference in the lives of others from what they learn by providing kindness and compassion to animals,” Lombardo said.
This spring the rescue hosted three “Zoom Paw Calls,” two of which had guest speakers who discussed their field and different experiences with animals. The first guest was Carlyn Montes De Oca, author of “Dogs as My Doctor, Cat as My Nurse” and the second was Erin Earley, Director of Community Engagement for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
The program will be more developed in the fall, with more “Zoom Paw Calls” and opportunities for humane education. Students interested in getting involved can email [email protected].
While the cats on campus are cared for, it is important to note that they are feral and do not choose to live in the wild. Feral cats learn to survive, and it is much more difficult for companion animals to adapt. The feral cats are territorial and a cat that is a pet may not survive if abandoned.