In the early 1990s, feral cats had taken over George Mason University, with over one hundred cats roaming around the Fairfax campus. Today, no cats remain on the main Fairfax campus thanks to the Mason Cat Coalition (MCC) who have treated or found homes for over 300 cats since its founding in 1994.
“[MCC] was founded because either some people dumped cats on campus or either some students let some cats go on campus and […] quickly, just a few cats became hundreds of cats,” said Coalition Board Member Kristen Jennette.
The group slowly stabilized the number of cats by setting up feeding and housing stations around campus. Four feeding stations and a few shelters are still in use, and only four cats with names are now in the area: one at the Student Townhouses and three at the Field House. Board Member Terry Mancini says that the reduced number of cats could also be attributed to the university tightening their regulations on pets in the residence halls.
MCC usually feeds only during the day to avoid attracting other animals, and once they know that there are no more cats at a station, they stop feeding. The feeding stations are also typically in wooded areas and away from the general area. When MCC finds a cat, they determine whether they must simply be treated, fed and released, or if they are friendly enough to be taken in. To identify which cats are under their watch, the Coalition clips a small piece of each cat’s left ear.
“It’s something called ear tipping, and it’s not something that everybody agrees with,” Mancini said. “If there’s light colored cats, there’s some views that that could cause skin issues but we’ve never [seen that].”
The group is registered as a 501(c) charity through the George Mason Foundation. According to Jennette, much of this recognition is due to the work of former Coalition Presidents Rebecca Nemeth and Colleen Bauer who retired in June. They created a stable relationship with many people and departments throughout Mason.
MCC also funds veterinary services for the cats through fundraising and with support from Crosspointe Animal Hospital, which is one of the only veterinary clinics that will care for feral cats. Now with the population reduced, the Coalition Board has agreed to focus their funds on feral cats in the area and turn some attention to the other Mason campuses.
“We’re starting to, because our cat population on campus is dwindling and stable, we have started looking at the satellite campuses,” Jennette said.