As a part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “What do the campus cats and squirrels eat?”
A bushy tail, beady eyes and a furry face are not typical ways to describe college students, except to Joshua Jolton. In his eyes, squirrels spend enough time on campus to be considered students. This is why Jolton said squirrels “should have all-access meal plans” to the dining halls of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“In a lot of ways, [squirrels] are just like college students in terms of their diet, eating basically snacks and garbage,” Jolton said.
Jolton, a sophomore neuroscience major, is the sultan of squirrel outreach for Nebraskans for the Upgraded Treatment of Squirrels, or NUTS — a club at UNL. The club strives to collect students who are “nuts” about squirrels in order to provide the squirrels with better conditions on campus.
“Squirrels are scavengers by nature,” Jolton said. “They survive mainly on nuts but resort to digging through garbage when they are not receiving enough protein.”
To correct this issue, NUTS is pressing Chancellor Ronnie Green to implement squirrel feed into the dining halls. “That way, people could feed the squirrels as part of their meal plan,” Jolton said.
However, even that would not be enough to end NUTS’ fight for squirrel equality.
“I think squirrels should be recognized as students,” Jolton said. “They should have access to health care. They should be granted NCards so they can identify as students.”
While they are a ways away from their goal, NUTS attempts to fill the squirrels with adequate nutrients. Jolton and other members of NUTS nourish the squirrels with protein found in squirrel feed they sporadically lay out throughout the year.
On the other hand, the cats of campus have a very different story than campus squirrels. In the eyes of Jolton, a cat’s hunt for food is a threat to the wellbeing of a squirrel.
“[Cats] are causing harm to students on campus, the students being squirrels,” Jolton said. “You might think, ‘oh, you know, this is a cute little cat,’ but you are not realizing is that it’s a terrorist.”
While it is true the squirrels are a part of a cat’s diet, many students have a positive outlook towards the cats of campus.
One student goes out of her way to regularly feed the cats of campus. Syrah Andrews, a sophomore biology major, says the cats help her “miss home less.”
“When I’m at college I miss being surrounded by my animals,” Andrews said. “But the campus cats are approachable once you feed them.”
On multiple occasions, Andrews has laid out food for the cats, which led to the cats being comfortable enough to be around her.
“When I’m sitting in the Selleck courtyard, a certain cat usually swarms to me,” Andrews said. “I have never pet him, but I do love the company.”
As much as Andrews enjoys feeding the cats, she doesn't feel like it is her “job.”
“I think about the cats’ struggles to find food sometimes, but then I remember that this is a college campus, and kids are dropping food all over the place,” Andrews said. “Plus they are wild animals and can easily fend for themselves.”
This article was modified at 12:31 a.m. on Sept. 23rd to correct the spelling of Jolton's name.