Animals on Campus

Environmental Health and Safety manages live animal issues on campus, including policy matters and the Feral Cat Program. Please refer to the University's Animal Policy.

Feral Cats at Sonoma State University

Sonoma State University has an ongoing feral cat problem. This is an unfortunate situation for the campus community and the cats themselves. The Sonoma State University has developed a humane and responsible approach for managing this issue. Below is an explanation of why our University environment is not an appropriate habitat for feral cats and what the ongoing process is for managing the situation.

What are feral cats?

Feral cats are originally domesticated cats that have become de-domesticated or wild because they were abandoned or the owner did not take steps to ensure that their cat did not breed uncontrolled. This creates colonies of elusive cats that are untrusting of humans and cannot be handled. University residents add to this problem by violating campus policy by keeping pet cats in residence halls and occasionally abandoning them at the end of the semester.

Why are feral cats a problem?

Feral cats and sympathetic cat feeders cause serious problems. Feral cats pose a very real threat to children and adults if the cat feels threatened or cornered. Feral cats that live on campus appear to be cute fuzzy little creatures and are very enticing to children. SSU has many programs such as Excel and on-campus childcare, which continuously brings children onto campus who should not be exposed to this hazard. Further, the cats defecate and mark territories on campus including the children's playground, which introduces more hazards. The cats are also predators and have had a devastating impact on the native upland bird population which was once abundant on campus.

Feeding of cats causes a number of additional problems.

Food left out by sympathetic cat feeders attracts other feral and domestic cats onto campus. The feeding also attracts other creatures such as raccoons, possums, skunks, insects, and rodents. The rodents (specifically rats) will collect food and stockpile it inside campus buildings. Once the rats inhabit a building they cause numerous health problems and safety problems for the building occupants which often include our students. Unfortunately, the existing cat colonies have had no notable impact on the rat population because the rats are difficult and even dangerous targets, which the cats usually avoid.

How are they managed?

The University is sensitive to the plight of these animals, however we must consider the greater impact to the health and safety of the campus community. Feral cats are humanely trapped and transported to Sonoma County Animal Care and Control Center.

SSU has analyzed many different alternatives and believes that the current approach is the best way to address the feral cat population. If you truly care about the feral cats, please do not feed them and help them proliferate in a habitat that cannot support them, but rather help to educate others and even adopt one of your own to care for it responsibly.

For more information, please contact Environmental Health & Safety at 707-664-2932.