By Jessika Harkay | Reporter
Castellaw Communications Center has a special four-legged friend who has taken over a corner of one of the building’s back entrances and has since become a personal greeter.
Journalism senior lecturer Maxey Parrish said the black cat named Shadow first appeared three or four years ago. After the cat’s countless appearances at the building, different staff members began to leave out food and water. Now the space is occupied with a bed, blanket and occasional students stopping by between classes to say hello.
“She’s been adopted, essentially. It’s interesting because she will not come inside. She just got her space and she occupies it, and she’s happy to share with people and other animals,” Parrish said.
Although her friendliness shocked Parrish, who said he’s never seen or heard about a similar situation in other departments, feral cats in the area are not uncommon. The Humane Society of Central Texas, which covers a 20-mile radius around Waco, identified 131 stray cats in July 2019.
Emily Hunter, a Waco native and administrative assistant at Fuzzy Friends Rescue, said the problem is not tied necessarily to Baylor or Waco, but homeless animals are an issue at most college campuses.
“There’s often an issue with new students coming in, and they miss their pets at home so they get a pet, then they come to the end of the semester,” Hunter said. “They realize they’re going home and they don’t have a way to transport the pet. Sometimes the thinking is that it’s kinder to let the pet go instead of taking them to a shelter.”
Hunter continued explaining that throughout years of students letting pets go, the animals begin to breed with one another. After a few generations, the once household animals become feral and unsocialized.
The solution isn’t to get rid of the furry friends, Hunter said, but instead stabilize the population through trap, neuter and release (TNR) programs.
“One thing you can tell is if the kitty has the tip of its ear clipped off it’s usually the left ear. But sometimes they’ll do the right ear, that’s a sign that it’s part of a TNR program,” Hunter said.
A popular Waco resource is the Animal Birth Control Clinic, which allows individuals to put down a deposit for a trap to bring the stray pet in to receive same-day reproductive surgery. Afterwards the deposit is returned and the animal is released.
Shadow is one of the cats who has gone through the process and has proven she’s “here for a reason,” Parrish said.
Going forward, the biggest thing now is to encourage awareness.
“Even as a part of freshman orientation, or something, just talking to students if they’re thinking about getting a pet, all the responsibility and all the stuff they need to think about beforehand,” Hunter said.
As for Shadow, she has found her place.
“She does some good. She probably catches some mice. You know…it’s going to be a sad day when she’s not there,” Parrish said. “I think she’s kind of nice to have around, to kind of shows a little bit more of a human side of what we’re doing here and that’s a good thing.”