Georgie de Mattos/Mustang News

Hundreds of feral cats used to run across campus, eating rodents and anything else they could scavenge from the agriculture department. By 1992, animal science senior Garret Quindimil used the overpopulation problem to fuel his senior project. This project became the Cal Poly Cat Program.

The program started off with 10 feeding stations for the feral cats. It then blossomed into a fully functional shelter located near the agriculture fields. Now, these cats get the help they need to find a good home, while the Cal Poly veterinarian program puts this facility to use on a different level.

Cal Poly locksmith and co-director of the shelter Edie Griffin-Shaw has volunteered there since it opened. She reached out to the school’s veterinary program in 2014 to begin the lasting working relationship these two programs have.

“Students benefit by having hands-on experience with all types of cats, from tame to feral, with medical and behavioral issues,” Shaw said. “The program benefits by having extra shelter help, gaining new volunteers, but most important is the enthusiasm, fresh ideas and knowledge gained from students, Dr. Staniec and the vet science staff and faculty.”

Animal science lecturer Jennifer Staniec uses the cats to give her students hands-on experience that coincides with Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto. Whether the cats are healthy or sick, students can practice anything from vaccinations to treating wounds.

The class sometimes performs their work at the shelter. But when a more serious problem is presented, the Cal Poly Veterinary Clinic is right across the street.

A few months ago, there was a ringworm outbreak among the cats at the shelter. This provided a perfect opportunity for students to learn how to treat this illness. It also allowed students to learn about shelter medicine and how to manage sick animals in a populated environment.

“I think the main goal is understanding that this has been not only a resource for the students, but also the cat shelter,” Staniec said. “We’ve found it as a mutual collaborative relationship between the two.”

The amount of feral cats that wander through campus and around San Luis Obispo has significantly decreased, according to Cat Program volunteer Ellen Notermann.  

“The community doesn’t realize how bad the cat problem would be if we hadn’t started to spay and neuter these cats we get,” Notermann said. “All cats deserve a good home.”

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