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For years, the UWC Feral Cat Project (TUFCAT ) has been taking care of the University’s feral cats, and providing the campus community with entertaining reads through its weekly fundraising book sales. And now, TUFCAT finally has a permanent retail space on campus, so lovers of cats and literature can get their fix anytime.
TUFCAT was initiated by animal-loving UWC staff who could not ignore the plight of the literally hundreds of sick, unsterilised and starving cats. Lecturer Sharyn Spicer (Department of Anthropology & Sociology) and the late Andre Oppelt (former Operations Manager) initiated a TNR (trap-neuter-release) and feeding programme in 1996.
“Soon after starting work at UWC, I found that there were literally hundreds of cats all over campus and the off-campus residences,” says Spicer. “Since the cats were mating and hungry, they started becoming a serious nuisance and potential health risk – they were going into the Reserve to hunt, scratching in bins, entering residences, and causing a nuisance.
Since 2000, the initiative has ensured that the cats have food every single day, including during university holidays. It also help workers at UWC and students with sterilising and emergency veterinary assistance for their pets.
Overall, the feeding and sterilisation project, along with the extremely popular book sales, have drastically improved the situation – not only are the cats declining in number, but they are also healthier and seen as less of a nuisance.
Help a Cat, Help Yourself
The cats give back to the campus as well – the (sterilised) core cat colonies on campus prevent any potential rodent problems from emerging. They’re so good at it that they formed one of the “green innovations” that’s earned UWC the title of Africa’s Greenest Campus more than once.
And by making books available to students at affordable prices, TUFCAT also contributes towards creating a culture of reading on campus.
“Every week, students come and talk to me about books they bought from TUFCAT and loved,” says Spicer. “Some students have built up libraries – and for many it’s the first book they have ever read!”
Helping feral cats is time consuming and can be frustrating, emotionally draining and very expensive. It can also be extremely rewarding, and each situation presents new learning experiences. It is through people’s love and active involvement that further suffering and unwanted litters are prevented.
“Animal and human welfare is inextricably linked,” says Spicer. “By helping cats, we are helping students, too – and in the process teaching them the importance of humane solutions and interventions.”
Lend a Hand!
Of course, launching a bookshop isn’t a simple process. So to get the ball rolling and launch the official TUFCAT Bookshop, the following is needed:
- Books, books and more books,
- A cash register,
- A sponsor for signage,
- Posters and flyers,
- Paint to spruce things up,
- UWC staff to volunteer work a lunchtime shift,
- People to collect books for us.
The bookshop will open for business in the fourth term – emails will be sent out and notices posted regarding opening times.
The TUFCAT Bookshop will be based at The Old Nursery – a small face-brick building (visible from the road) across the road from the EMS Faculty and next to Facilities Management (Technical Services).
And feel free to follow TUFCAT on Facebook to keep up to date.