Cats are the new rabbits

Story by Steven Matthews

A cat near Building P at LAC
A cat near Building P at LAC

Recent complaints from students about the smell of urine near the Journalism building and cafeteria at LAC have reopened the conversation regarding the feral cat population at both LBCC campuses.

On one side stands many school administrators stating that student safety is the highest priority, and that the cats present a health risk to students. Namely the aforementioned urine and feces smell suggests the presence of bacteria and disease, which brings pests that are attracted to the smell. Feral cats also are known to attract skunks and coyotes, both of which have seen a surge in population in Long Beach the last few years.

On the other side, advocates of the cat colonies believe that removing the cats could put them in danger if they try to return and become susceptible to motorists or other threats. The advocates believe that the best course of action would be to control the population through neutering them and keeping the colonies in check.

Communications student Francesca Luna Reyes, 21 voiced the common concern. “I don’t really see the harm off the top, but whose job does it become to take care of them?”

The feline colonies have only a couple dozen cats across both campuses, but their history is a little more complex.

A decade ago it wasn’t cats that lived on the LAC but abandoned rabbits instead. The rabbits found their way onto campus largely as abandoned pets from people who didn’t realize the work needed to foster rabbits. It was also believed that some of the rabbits were actually descended from rabbits that lived in the area when it wasn’t as developed. Either way, the population reached over 350 rabbits before a decision was made on what to do about them. It fell between extermination and TNR, which stands for Tap, Neuter and Release and the latter was chosen. Then thanks largely to the efforts of former faculty member Donna Prindle, and her Rabbit Population Relocation Task Force, they were able to neuter and find homes for virtually the entire population.

Then, with all the rabbits moved out, the cats moved in the very next year and with them the concern on how to deal with an entirely new problem.

A possum.

Both sides are dedicated to non-harmful methods of dealing with the situation, but administration has had to go to some extreme lengths to get all the faculty members on the same page. At the time some of the faculty was feeding the cat colonies which caused administration to put out a memo threatening termination to anyone that was caught feeding the animals. That policy has lapsed now as active attempts to help the population is in place in the small courtyard just north of the Journalism building. There are now shelters in place in the bushes there, placed in an attempt to control the health and placement of the cat colony.