By Trent Ostrom
The University of Nebraska at Omaha is home to scholastic pursuits, arts, sciences — and even feral cats.
Weber Fine Arts building has seen the cats for years, and the animals have made a lasting connection with staff and students alike.
Thomas Lowe has been seeing the cats on campus since 2002. Lowe, a staff assistant at UNO, helped ensure the cats stay safe and have a sense of home. In 2012, Lowe was an owner of two of the cats. Each day as he walked toward the Weber Fine Arts building for work, a small kitten coming out of the bushes by the south entrance greeted him.
Over time, the kitten became friendlier and approached him to be pet.
“I thought someone has to adopt her,” Lowe said. “She’s tame and sweet and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to her.”
The kitten and the rest of the litter were later trapped, spayed and neutered, and prepared for adoption. After the cats were spayed and neutered, Lowe got a call from a colleague letting him know they were just going to let them remain feral cats.
Lowe disagreed with this notion and asked that he be called before this step was taken.
A common procedure when feral cats are fixed is ear tipping, which is where part of a cat’s ear is cut off on the left or right side depending if it’s a male or female. The very next day as Lowe discussed the situation with his co-worker, the kitten ran down the hill to greet him and had blood running down its ear.
“Her ear was a bloody mess and I was horrified,” Lowe said. “I was shocked to see this cute little kitten having blood dripping down her ear, so I took her home right then and there and had her adopted.”
The cat he now calls Lucy is one of the many stories that has spawned from the feral cat population at UNO. According to UNO staff, a cat called “mama” gave birth to three litters of feral cats on UNO’s campus. Lucy wasn’t the only adopted cat from these litters.
Deb Challman, an academic advisor for mathematics department, assisted in getting feral cats at UNO spayed and neutered through the Humane Society and put up for adoption. After getting a few cats adopted through the Humane Society, she decided she wanted to adopt two for herself.
“I had every intention of giving the two kittens to the Humane Society for adoption after they were fixed,” Challman said. “But, I couldn’t resist.”
The Weber Fine Arts building is now inhabited by three cats: Ringo, George and Blackie. Lowe still sees the feral cats as he walks into work each morning. Susan Kurtz, a staff assistant at UNO, has developed a relationship with the cats that took years for him to build.
“George, the black and white one, was so hesitant to let me greet him,” Kurtz said. “But after a couple of years, he now greets me as I walk into work in the morning.”
Kurtz says many students try to feed, pet or play with the cats and don’t understand that they’re feral and trust has to be built.
“As I walk in in the morning, George will come up to me and students ask if they can pet him,” said Kurtz. “I say no you can’t, this relationship took years to build.”