Stray cats find their way to campus, lead to concerns


One of several stray cats spotted near Passan Hall, seen under a car when a bowl of food was nearby.

Christine Lee, News Editor

When Megan Valkenburg noticed a kitten near Passan Hall in the rain a few years ago, her heart went out to her.

“She was abandoned and alone and it was raining and she was crying, so I rescued her,” Valkenburg said.

The kitten, renamed Dixie and adopted by career services coordinator Lisa Mulvey, is one of a group of stray cats that have taken up refuge on the edges of campus around Passan Hall.

Valkenburg, the community service coordinator and one of several faculty and staff trying to help the cats, said in addition to Passan, the cats used to live around a building located at 225 S. Franklin St. between Fortinsky and Passan halls which was torn down.

“They used to live sort of in (that house) and they would live in the woods that separate the parking lot from all the buildings there,” Valkenburg said.

Valkenburg explained the cats have also been known to frequent the Creative Printing office and it has been unclear as to who is responsible for them.

“They’re not really anybody’s and it just seems like they’re not really anyone’s responsibility to take care of,” Valkenburg said.

She describes the cats as being “frightened” and will run away at the first sight of a human.

“Any and all of the cats that I’ve experienced, they’re non-aggressive. They’re more frightened than anything else, so they’ll allow you within a certain distance and then run,” Valkenburg said.

Valkenburg said although the cats aren’t aggressive, they aren’t the most welcoming.

“They’re not friendly, so you can’t really approach them to pet them,” Valkenburg said. “The only reason why I was able to rescue the kitten that I gave to Lisa was that she was just tiny and scared and abandoned.”

She explained the cats have started to get older and the longer they are not socialized, the harder it is for them to accept humans.

She suggests students not try to feed or capture the cats due to issues with disease and trying to get them to move away from the parking lot.

“If you have pets already in your home you don’t want to introduce another animal that may or may not have diseases that your current pets could catch,” Valkenburg said. “We don’t want them to stay in that one spot, so if we do feed them they’re going to keep coming back. It’s an active parking lot and I would be worried that on their way to find some food they might get hit by a car.”

Facilities manager Lee Plank, who contacts pest and wildlife control services when animals are reported on campus, said he was not aware of any issues involving cats on campus.

“I’m not aware of any problems with cats at Passan,” Plank said.

Valkenburg said she and others interested in helping the cats have contacted several animal rescue organizations, including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Luzerne County; however those organizations would trap the cats and take them to be euthanized, which they aren’t interested in. She is hoping to find rescue organizations that would trap the cats and give them suitable homes.

“We’re trying to work with someone, anyone, who could either just capture them and spay or neuter them and let them be cats as they will or someone who would be able to capture them and take them to a shelter location that would not euthanize them,” Valkenburg said.

Some of the organizations they have contacted include Valley Cat Rescue and Blue Chip Farms Animal Rescue. However she said many places are full and not accepting anymore cats. Another option they are looking into is having the cats go to farms to live out their lives.

“At this point, just a lot of places are full with cats. Cats seem to be the one thing that shelters have quite a number of,” Valkenburg said. “Our last option is to see if there are any farms or any type of sanctuary for them. I have not explored that option yet but I think it would be worthwhile.”

Ted Kross, the director of health for the City of Wilkes-Barre, explained that no animals are allowed on the streets.

“We’ll trap a cat and remove it to the SPCA,” Kross said. “The SPCA will harbor a cat if they have room, if they do not have room, unfortunately, they have the right to euthanize a cat because they’re considered a kill shelter.”

Kross explained that in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, cats aren’t given licenses and there are no cat wardens to make sure they are in line.

He said the city only allows residents to own four dogs or cats and no more than seven four-legged animals.

“So you could have three dogs and four cats but once it gets over seven, it’s illegal,” Kross said.

He said if owners have more than seven animals and over four dogs or cats, they are sent a Notice of Obate, which is a letter informing the owner of the issue with the animals and they have five days to respond to the notice. If they don’t respond to the notice after five days, they can be fined anywhere between $300 to $1,000 depending on the number of offenses committed.

Mulvey hopes if students adopt cats, they will not let it roam free when they leave after graduating or over the summer as it happens a lot and contributes to the population around campus.

Valkenburg said Wilkes is aware of the cats and there are people on campus interested in doing something about them.

“It is an issue that the school is cognizant of and there are people on campus that are trying very hard to find a solution; we see these stray creatures in our neighborhood and want to help them.”