February 14, 2024 (7:12 PM)

8 min read


Graphic by James Realuyo and Mariz Cenojas

If you enter the Jacinto campus through the CCFC building, chances are you’ll see a cat sleeping on the black mat right in front of the entrance. You may think, how bold of this cat to sleep where it can be trampled on. It is not easily startled, even as you step over it while making your way to the guard–it keeps its eyes closed despite the crowd of students. Later that day, you go to the Arrupe Hall to hang out with your friends and see two cute kittens playing. You can’t help but smile–and then you frown: is that the smell of cat droppings near your grassbed? The source of this mysterious odor eludes you. Is it above, under, or (God forbid) on the grassbed? Leaving nothing to chance, you and your friends decide to move, but not before you steal one last glance at the kittens. They’re adorable, as always. You might just forgive them for using the place as a toilet–almost!

Indeed, cats are the quiet, chill guardians of the University. These felines have roamed the campus grounds freely ever since anyone can remember. Their presence is felt throughout the whole campus in small yet memorable encounters. Cats’ aloof and solitary personalities can be precisely what we need when we’re looking for someone to listen to. Opening up to a cat doesn’t get you an earful of scolding or backhanded advice–we can’t understand their purring and meowing, but they’re all comforting just the same. 

“I think the reason why students love cats is the energy they bring us. Mura gud siya replenisher sa mga nawala nato na energy throughout the day, maka pa good mood siya in a way,” International Studies student Ethan Pagaduan shared. Despite not having cats at home, he is still fond of interacting with them whenever he sees them.

Accountancy student Chandrika Abdulgani remembers her encounter with a cat inside the campus by the Roxas gate. She had locked eyes with the stray cat on the campus, inquisitively looking at her. For some reason, the cat walked towards her and rubbed itself on her legs–a touching show of affection that showed pure trust. “At the time, I was going through a lot, especially because I have subjects that are giving me a hard time. And it’s not really common for cats to be that kind to humans,” she recalled. 

Even the school guards show our cats lots of love. One of the campus guards stationed by the CCFC building entrance, Agnes Carin, was more than happy to share her cat-related story. She recalled adopting a cat into her household with the help of the University Chaplain. 

“Si Fr. Charlie nag pa dala ana [the adopted cat].. Luoy kaayo kay awayon man sa mga dagko. Na lingaw si Fr. Charlie ato kay mu kaon siyag cat food. Maskin gamay kaayo siya, gina kaon jud niya,” Carin said. She had taken sympathy on the small cat after witnessing how its fellow cats  bullied it. Now, she and her husband have given the cat a loving home. 

The explicitly warm and loving relationship between the Ateneo students and staff and the cats has caught the attention of Fr. Carlos Cenzon, Jr., SJ, more known to the student body as Fr. Charlie. “Here in AdDU, I noticed that for the first time in my life, I saw students, faculty, and staff…they’re kinder to animals, especially cats.”

A nuisance or a blessing?

Underneath this evident love of the Ateneo community towards our feline partners is not only a deep-rooted passion for their protection but a problem that seems to hide behind the happiness that these cats give to whomever they meet on campus.

Being a university that welcomes all, including cats, these strays have generally been met with warmth from everyone. Still, there have been complaints regarding cleanliness on campus. Their presence also raises serious health concerns: some students may be allergic to their fur, and stray cats are notorious for being carriers of rabies, fleas, and ticks. Cats can also be particularly noisy, especially during mating season.

There are also instances where the cats tend to be intrusive, disrupting the time of students during their breaks especially during their meal time. In one scenario, student Errol Vistal Tampepe, also an Accountancy student, was casually eating with his friends when cats stole their food from the table. “Nagakain kami ng friends ko ng Jollibee sa gazebo. Out of nowhere, nagdating ang cats tapos nisaka dyud sila sa table habang gakain kami. Even if gibigyan na namin sila ng buto sa floor, naga akyat pa rin sila sa table para kunin ang food namin, kahit yung spaghetti,” Tampepe told Atenews.

Despite this encounter, he still noted that not all cats he met on campus were hostile, some were well-behaved and would wait patiently to be given food and attention.

Fr. Charlie also recalled a case regarding a law student: “Di ko alam if kinagat siya or na scratch siya some time last year. I wasn’t part of the meeting but there was a meeting late last year about that case nga tapos parang ‘Anong kailangan nating gawin?’. 

To address these encounters and other cat-related issues, various stakeholders of AdDU held a coordination meeting last November 2023.

“The main issue was the rise of animal bite cases of our students. These cases were either while petting the cats or accidentally stepping on them,” student body representative Clair Clarde revealed in an interview with Atenews. “We were also made aware of how [majority of] the student insurance fund is spent on these cases.”

When asked about progress regarding cat protection on campus, Clarde explained that the most feasible solutions agreed on were information dissemination through SAMAHAN, the allocation of cat areas on campus with big cages separating males and females, and the establishment of a cat feeding or adoption program. “These solutions have been planned out last year and are scheduled to be implemented this second semester to the next academic year.”

She hopes that considering our safety and the cats’, students will be cautious in areas where they roam (i.e., Arrupe Hall and Rod. Hall) to avoid unintentionally hurting them. As much as possible, students should exercise caution and avoid touching them to prevent getting bites or scratches.

However, Fr. Charlie does not think caging the cats will work as a long-term solution. It overlooks the root of the problem; their population will continue to grow as other stray cats enter the campus and more cat litters are born. He also added, “Kapag kinage mo sila, parang you’re limiting their freedom na hindi sila sanay na nakakulong ng ganon. Basically, made-depress lang sila.”

What to do for enhanced student and cat care?

As a fruit of the collective love of the Ateneans towards cats, many students have suggested establishing a cat organization in the University, hinting at a start for a more inclusive movement towards the cats around campus. With a cat-oriented organization, there can be a safe space for each cat in the university to be given proper attention and care, along with safety measures for the students on the campus. 

Several students showed enthusiasm in supporting said organization if pushed through. “I would love an organization that solely focuses on our stray cats! We usually feed the stray cats in my hometown whenever they visit our house, so taking care of them wouldn’t be totally new to me,” Psychology student Geor Lawag shared, openly supportive of the cats on campus.

Fr. Charlie also expressed his thoughts on how a cat organization can help and how there can be solutions that would help cats without the need to compromise their security as well as the students.

“If there can be an organization to have them neutered. Para hindi sila dadami. Kase kung hindi sila dadami, we maintain the population.”

He also reiterated that caging the cats will not do much in the long run. “I’ve been to so many campuses. I’ve been here, in Naga, in XU. Almost everywhere, you will have stray cats. Even La Salle in Manila has stray cats and they’re taking good care of them.” Furthermore, he expressed willingness to support a student-led organization assisted by faculty and staff committed to caring for the cats. A similar program providing free vaccination, deworming, and neutering for these strays is already on the Junior High School campus. 

From students, security guards, faculty members, and even the Jesuits, there are countless heartwarming stories of wholesome interactions with these cats. Now that the University has acknowledged the presence of these Cateneans, it is more than ready to start a lasting initiative for them. With the support of every person on campus towards their protection, more peaceful coexistence with AdDU’s cats is within our reach.

End the silence of the gagged!

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