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Caring for campus cats benefits students’ emotional and social health, say club members, and keeps cats healthier

An illustration of a cat sleeping.

Among the struggles of school and being away from home, students of the BYU–Hawaii Campus Cats Club expressed how joy and reassurance come from caring for furry felines living on campus.

Campus Cats Club member Samson Wong, a senior from Hong Kong studying accounting, said when he feeds the campus cats, he feels uplifted and needed by something outside of himself.

“I think cats actually cure people’s hearts. When you are lonely and need someone to talk with, you can always chat with the cat.”

Campus Cats Club Secretary Aislinn Lawrence, a sophomore from Michigan studying graphic design, said caring for multiple cats helped her become more involved in campus activities and gave her comfort during hard times.

“With the cats, you can go and pet them. When you gain their trust, you can pet them more, they will cuddle with you, and you feel wanted by them. Part of it is the food, but they grow to recognize you … It’s nice to feel wanted by them.”

A sense of belonging

Lawrence shared she originally joined the club due to stress she was facing in her second semester, ranging from feelings of loneliness to a bad breakup. She said she wanted to find a place with similar people and, of course, spend time with some cats.

After joining the club and feeding several cats in different locations across campus, Lawrence said she found her favorite cat, Siren, who she affectionately referred to as her “baby.”

“Siren’s unique in that she used to be really shy and scared of people. She is still [scared] of most people, but for some reason, she is really attached to me. I am [one] of the only people she has let pet her.”

Wong shared a similar experience with a cat named Sesame, who he feeds outside of Hale 3. According to Wong, Sesame recognizes him and is always in the mood for affection. He described Sesame as a very docile and domestic cat used to being around people.

“You love them, and they love you back. If you hurt them, then they run away. It is that simple … They always come to be with you because they are true friends.”

Campus Cats Club mission

Wong explained the Campus Cats Club aims to spay and neuter all of the cats in its care by capturing them, neutering them, and releasing them back into their natural habitats. He said this process helps keep the cat population under control and healthy.

Likewise, Lawrence expressed caring for the cats around campus is a way to show love for animals, which has been rooted in her since she was young.

“I interact really well with animals … I’ve had cats around me my whole life. I fostered them, and I volunteered at an animal shelter when I was 13. It [is] a way for me to seek companionship, and it [is] easier than people.”

Emmalee Smith, a sophomore from Tennessee studying information technology, said the cats living on campus add a unique and inviting spirit to BYUH.

“They are an interesting part of campus because we are not allowed to have emotional support animals in on-campus housing.”

Wong said caring for Sesame helped him feel wanted because Sesame shows a particular interest in him. As long as the campus cats receive proper care, they can add a unique aspect to the culture of BYUH, said Wong.