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NMSU staffer volunteers to help campus kitties

If you've ever met Patti Benzie, you probably noticed she likes cats. And, like many cat lovers, she keeps pictures of her pets (past and present) at her desk as the secretary for the Department of Accounting and Information Systems in the New Mexico State University College of Business. She even has a cat pin on her jacket and keeps a toy stuffed cat within arm's reach of her chair.



NMSU's Feral Cat Management Program makes sure between 110 and 150 feral cats on campus are fed, neutered and up-to-date with their shots. (NMSU Photo by Darren Phillips)

Unlike many animal lovers, Benzie takes her commitment a step further, volunteering her time with NMSU's FCaMP (Feral Cat Management Program.) FCaMP started in 2002 as a resource to help manage the cat population on campus - then estimated to be between 200 and 250. Today the population is between 110 and 150, thanks in large part to the efforts of FCaMP volunteers who make sure every cat on campus is neutered and up-to-date on their shots. Volunteers also provide food and water for the cats and make some available for home adoption.

FCaMP is a recognized campus organization, but not funded by the university. Benzie is one of more than a dozen volunteers with the group.

"Cats have been on campus forever. And they will always be here, no matter what anyone does," Benzie said, noting that universities across the country have cat colonies.

She attributes some of the cats to students who keep them as pets and later abandon them. Others might be strays that find a good food source on campus. Before FCaMP, the cats were trapped and taken to the pound where they were euthanized - a strategy Benzie said wasn't working because the cat population never shrank.

As part of her work, Benzie manages one of the several feeding stations around campus. She also keeps a look out for new cats that may need to be taken in to be fixed and to have their shots.

She said some of the largest cat populations are around the NMSU libraries, where they can be seen either in the early evening or early morning. She said the cats also come in handy for keeping down the university's rodent population.