As part of our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, Kat Woerner, a junior economics, natural resources and environmental economics and environmental studies triple major asked The Daily Nebraskan, “How are the campus cats doing during the pandemic? Are they still being fed?”
Jill Flagel, director of Faculty/Staff Disability Services at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Husker Cats volunteer, said a group of volunteer feeders live in the surrounding area year round and continue to look after the feral cats on campus each day.
“Never a day goes by that the cats don’t get looked after and kind of taken care of,” she said.
Community members and people remaining on campus continue to keep an eye out for the cats, which all appear to be safe and accounted for, according to Flagel.
Marilyn Fenton, a business systems analyst at UNL and Husker Cats volunteer, helps coordinate feeding and said the feeding schedule has switched to what it would be during holiday breaks, with one volunteer delivering food to each of the 8 or 9 feeding stations around campus early in the morning so it will be gone by nightfall and not attract other wildlife such as raccoons or opossums.
During the regular school year, volunteers are assigned to a singular house, but Fenton, who lives out of town, said she could not travel to campus each day to set out food for the cats. When she realized that workers may be asked to stay home and volunteers may become unavailable, Fenton said she reached out to the volunteers to coordinate the feeding schedule.
“What I did was, when I saw the writing on the wall that we were going to be sent home, I contacted all of the regular feeders and asked people to volunteer to do all of the feeders, one day a week,” she said.
Between Monday and Friday, four feeders deliver food to each of the houses, with one feeder volunteering to deliver two days each week, according to Fenton. A fifth volunteer, who has been volunteering since before Husker Cats was created in 2008, covers the weekends.
Every once in a while, Fenton said she will send an update to the volunteers to check in as the situation with the pandemic evolves and UNL employees are asked to remain at home, but the volunteers say they are still good to help.
People are always willing to step up and assist, Flagel said, and as a result, the Husker Cats have not been impacted much and the cats are left to do their own thing.
Woerner said she is an animal lover and a cat lover, and when she studies in the library or in the Nebraska Union she can look out and see the cats. Because many people are no longer on campus, she said she wanted to know what was happening with the cats.
“They’re still Huskers, they’re still there and everybody knows them, everybody sees them,” Woerner said.
Flagel said she appreciates knowing that people are concerned about the cats, who may be missing seeing people on campus as well.
“I know students ask this all the time, you know, ‘Are the kitties OK? Is somebody looking after them or are they just forgotten?’” Flagel said. “That’s a big ‘No,’ they’re not forgotten at all — there’s always a group of us.”