[Weekender] College students extend helping hands for feral cats

By Kim Hye-soo

University students steps up to take care of stray cats on campus to effectively coexist with students

  • Published : Oct 25, 2018 - 15:16
  • Updated : Nov 30, 2018 - 15:46

A stray kitten named “Popo” died after someone laced its food with rat poison and other chemicals.

Another cat hid after suffering in a similar way.

Last spring, there was even a couple trying to poach cats, dragging a bag around Ewha Womans University campus and asking where the strays were. They said they wanted to make “cat soup,” and that it was good for old people as it boosts cartilage.

Photo news card made explain about the incident of “cat soup” (Ewha Cats)

These are just some of the challenges faced by Ewha Cats, a student volunteer group working to protect the cats on campus.

“It is horrible to think about (the poaching) incident again,” said Park Soo-yeon, the president of Ewha Cats. “There are unbelievably many incorrect actions being taken when treating stray cats in South Korea. So we started our club not only to care for stray cats on campus but also to provide information about them to students.”

As cats become increasingly popular pets in South Korea, the number that end up abandoned is also on the rise. University students have formed clubs in response to protect stray cats within their campuses and provide them medical services and shelters. 
Ewha Cats members making the feed stops for the cats (Ewha Cats)

Ewha Cats and KMU-Cat are stray cat caring clubs at Ewha Womans University and Kookmin University, respectively. Both clubs’ main activities not only focus on feeding stray cats but also providing medical treatment to control numbers and educating other students to help them live alongside cats on campus.

Although people want to pet stray cats, give tuna to them and bring home the poor looking kitten sitting on the street alone, this might not be the right way to treat street cats.

“It is thankful that more people are supportive in caring for stray cats. However, to protect and coexist with them, please keep distance and look upon them with loving eyes,” said Shin Hee-dam, the president of KMU-Cat. 

Stray cats eating food provided by KMU-Cat (KMU-Cat)

Cats protected by KMU-Cat wears blue bibs (KMU-Cat)

KMU-Cat mentioned that because they aimed to care for stray cats on campus, which not only helps the cats but also gives solutions to complaints made because of the cats, they are getting lots of support from fellow students.

“When cats get to its mating season, they get a serious pain, often making loud noises that cause complaints from students,” said KMU-Cat’s member Kim Seung-ha. “That’s the reason why we think TNR is important.”

Ewha Cats made an online news card telling about TNR (Ewha Cats)

TNR is an abbreviation of the action – trap, neuter and return – the process needed to control the number of stray cats and prevent unnecessary diseases from occurring.

“At first, there were many students who did not understand the need to spend time and money on TNR. So we made news cards to story tell people about the need and got positive reactions, getting lots of funding from the students supporting the action,” added Kim.

“As stray cats not only include those who were originally brought up by humans getting the necessary medical care and later been strayed but also those who were born at streets, not only proper food but also some medical treatments are needed for the cats, such as TNR,” Park Soo-in of KMU-Cats said.

As there are diverse protection projects, clubs came up with fundraising events. 

Ewha-Cats selling diverse items to fund raise for diverse protection projects (Ewha Cats)

“We hold fundraising events twice a semester selling diverse souvenirs including bags, water bottles, stickers, badges and mirrors that has caricatures of cats on campus,” Lee Min-kyung of Ewha Cats said. “When we detail stories about the cats and tell the students how the money is used to protect them, students showed a lot of interest, making us feel hopeful since there are still many who think of stray cats as unhelpful.”

Although the society is getting more “Cat Moms,” a term used for people who take care of stray cats, some still oppose taking care of the stray cats.

“We do not want every details of the cats on campus and where their feed stops are to be made public, since there still are many people thinking negatively about the stray cats. They often get rid of the cat food and put trash or replace the food we give them with food that has been poisoned,” said Lee.

After such incidents happen, Ewha Cats members started a public relations campaign to improve cats’ image. 

Poster made by Ewha Cats to tell students to keep distance from the stray cats (Ewha Cats)

They mocked up a letter from the cats to the students asking the readers to keep their distance. If the cats get used to being close to humans, less benevolent people may exploit this to abuse them. 

KMU-Cat's poster made to inform students how to treat stray cats (KMU-Cat)

Ewha Cats’ poster made to inform students how to treat stray cats (Ewha Cats)

Another cartoon posted on the wall of the campus gently warns people to not bring home stray kittens if you are not sure that they are in danger or have lost their parents. According to Park Soo-yeon of Ewha Cats, this act links to number of abandoned cats racing up, speed as owners are less inhibited about release them, since they picked them up on the streets. 

“Love definitely is something that stray cats need,” said Shin Hee-dam of KMU-Cat. “However, some distance is needed for the cats to live on its safe life. We should help the street cats to train themselves to be alert about the strangers at the same time, providing them with clean food and care.”

By Kim Hye-soo(