November 3, 2011 in Washington Voices

Stray cat finds friend near Gonzaga

Local agencies help temporary caregiver
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Pia Hallenberg photo

Don Winant, who lives near Gonzaga University, started feeding a cat that showed up at his doorstep about a month ago. He’s trying to find a new home for the cat, named Tiger Woods, because he’s leaving for a doctoral program in Australia.
(Full-size photo)

Stray or feral?

 A stray cat is one that is lost or abandoned. Strays are used to people and somewhat tame.

 Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats. Feral cats are often too fearful and wild to be handled.

 Female feral cats may reproduce two or three times a year and can become pregnant as early as 5 months old. The kittens will become feral, too, without early contact with people.

 It’s a myth that feral cats can be “starved out” of their territory. The hungrier they get, the more likely they are to move closer to people and domestic cats, and the more likely they are to get sick.

 Trapping, neutering and returning feral cats is often the best solution to reduce the number of feral cats in an area.

 SpokAnimal has a TNR program in conjunction with a program that aims to place feral cats at farms where they can help with pest control.

Sources: www.humanesociety.org and www.spokanimal.org

Don Winant said he’s not an animal rights activist, but when a personable little tuxedo cat showed up at his door about a month ago he did exactly what “they” say he shouldn’t have done: He fed it.

“I started to feed him tuna. We were sharing. He’d get half a can and I’d get half a can,” said Winant, who’s a physiologist and lives just north of the Gonzaga University campus. “I know; if you feed them you own them.” Soon Winant had set up a cardboard box with a cozy blanket in it on his front porch, and the cat began hanging out there.

Winant lives in a neighborhood with many rental houses and apartments occupied by Gonzaga students, and initially he thought a student had left the cat behind.

“Now I feel bad blaming it on Gonzaga,” he said. “I just know that people do that. They move and leave the cats and dogs behind.”

Winant emailed Gonzaga and suggested someone there perhaps needed a mascot.

By then he’d named the cat Tiger Woods – TW for short.

“And I don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl – I can’t get that close,” Winant said.

He also emailed SpokAnimal and the Spokane Humane Society, and both organizations responded by donating cat food.

“I rode my bike out to the Humane Society and picked up this huge bag of cat food,” said Winant, who runs and bikes a lot. “When I got home, SpokAnimal had dropped off a bag, too.”

Gonzaga University does not allow pets in its housing facilities, except fish in tanks no bigger than 10 gallons.

“We are not familiar with students leaving pets behind, and we have not had pets left behind on campus,” said Mary Joan Hahn, director of communications and public relations at Gonzaga University. “In the very rare instance where a student brings a pet on campus, we work with the student to figure things out.”

Allison Fina is the president of Gonzaga’s Man’s Best Friend Club, which connects students with volunteer opportunities at local animal shelters. In just one year the club has gained more than 100 members.

“It goes to show you how much students miss their own pets at home,” said Fina, a sophomore from Seattle. “We go months without seeing our own pets. This is a way to get a little dog and cat time in.”

Fina said she’d like to see the club put together an awareness event for students and Gonzaga neighbors to address any issues of pets being left behind.

So why doesn’t Winant just keep Tiger Woods?

He can’t because he’s leaving soon for a doctoral program in Australia.

On Wednesday he planned to take TW to SpokAnimal for a checkup and a possible spay or neuter procedure. TW will also be checked for a microchip to make sure he’s no one else’s cat.

“If he doesn’t belong to anyone else, SpokAnimal will take him in and put him up for adoption,” said Winant. “He will not be euthanized.”

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