In the weeds between the Red Hawk Diner and University Hall, a tuxedo cat greets students on their daily commute to class. With its green eyes and friendly behavior, this feline is claimed to be Montclair State University’s unofficial mascot.
This cat has been given many names by several students — Arthur, Jaspers, Red and Kitty are a few of them. The cat is photogenic, as it intentionally poses for students passing by with their smartphones and cameras. Sometimes out of curiosity, the cat has been known to slowly approach students but it has not come close enough to be petted.
Many students are infatuated with the sweetness of this cat. Students, like junior fashion studies major Cassidy Lunney, have expressed their desire to adopt the cat, shield it from fierce winters and keep it off of the streets.
“That is the sweetest kitty in the world,” Lunney said. “He or she will literally pose for pictures and roll around in the grass and just look all cute and stuff. I wanna take it inside and not leave it in the cold.”
Alison Nicole, a film studies sophomore, often notices the cat during the midday and late evenings. She assumed the cat was a female.
“She is so sweet,” Nicole said. “I click my tongue and she curiously looks over before rolling onto the ground on her back, and then she stands up and comes closer. She gets just out of my reach but doesn’t come any closer than that.”
Although there have been a number of students who have shown concern for the cat, sophomore family and child studies major Kristin Geiger knows its personality. As an owner of two cats herself, Geiger was quick to note the campus cat’s survival skills.
“He’s pretty shy. He doesn’t like to be touched,” Geiger said. “He’s an outdoor cat and [Montclair State students] leave warm areas open for him. Cats are pretty independent so no one should feel bad for him.”
Geiger has fed the feline canned cat food on occasion.
Students, like theater production and design sophomore Nicole Belenski, have claimed that he or she is an emotional support animal because interacting with the cat is a “purrfect” stress reliever.
Despite an obsession with dogs, Belenski owns two cats along with a dog. Belenski considers the cat to be a “true mascot” and refers to it as her emotional support animal.
A woman who does not wish to be named on the record assumed the role of the cat’s caretaker providing food and shelter for all of the cats on campus. The gender of the cat has been a constant guessing game among the community. However, to clear the air, she said that the cat is a feral female named Misty and to not refer to her as a stray.
She clarified that a stray cat most likely does not have an owner or home, while a feral one has been domesticated by people but has fully adapted to outdoor living.
According to the woman, Misty was born in July 2015 and has been “eartipped,” meaning she has been trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned by the Montclair Township Animal Shelter. She said that Misty cannot be adopted after being outdoors for so long. If she was a kitten, she could have grown to be domesticated; however, Misty is an older cat. It is impossible for her to fully adapt to humans now.
The woman indicated that Misty and all cats on campus have fresh food and water daily. She warns other students to not feed Misty or the other campus cats as it attracts more wildlife. There is a flyer located at the entrance of Misty’s house with a point of contact and instructions on how to help take care of the cats:
If you want to help the cats on campus, please text their caretaker at ***-***-****. Do not leave food, clothing, or shelter. The cats have protected places from the cold and they get fresh food and water everyday. Text us if you want to help. We need to make sure this area is kept clean. Thank you very much.
Within the past two years, the woman stated that 10 kittens were removed from campus and found homes. Adults that could not be adopted were spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Unfortunately this past September in 2017, a cat named Stormy was run over near Car Parc Diem.
Julie Hamer, one of the animal control officers at the Montclair Township Animal Shelter, clarifies that Misty is considered a community cat where she can tolerate some human contact. Hamer has confirmed that the colony has been well managed at Montclair State in terms of shots and nourishment.
“The housing may not always be visible, but they are there,” Hamer said. “All of the cats are a part of the TNR (trapped, neuter and returned) program. If students are looking to help cats like Misty, there is always room to volunteer at shelters.”