NORTH CAROLINA – After a wave of cold weather hit Duke just last week, students took it upon themselves to care for a calico cat who has been living on West Campus.
The cat, who is commonly known as Peaches, lives near to Few Quadrangle where students have provided makeshift shelters and food. Junior Anna Li, who is a Few Quad resident assistant, created a Facebook group called “Caretakers of Peaches (The Calico Cat)” after she wasn’t able to find Peaches during the winter storm and feared the cat was “either dead or just suffering out the night.”
“I’ve kind of thought we’ve needed a group like this for a while now,” Li stated. “I’ve noticed a lot of times people feed her and then other people feed her, and I wished there was a way for us to all connect with each other because I knew we all cared about her. Like what if she got sick?”
Since the page’s creation back on Jan. 8, the Facebook group has expanded in a way Li said she could never have imagined. The group had 243 members as of Monday.
“Previously, it had largely been guesstimating,” stated sophomore Anna Matthews, a member of the group. “There was a period [last year] where Peaches was gone for two weeks, and I was worried she had gotten stuck somewhere.”
Matthews went on to say that she was worried Peaches may have gotten locked in a “closet or garden shed” and explained that having a group in such a scenario would have been “extremely helpful.”
“Once the Facebook group was created, her location kept getting updated, so if you wanted to go see her, you could,” sophomore Alexandra Sánchez Rolón noted in an email. “There’s also a sense of moral responsibility now, because if we know where she is, we have the ability to choose whether to help her if she needs it or not.”
Just last Wednesday, Li and Matthews created a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising a good $300 toward providing veterinary treatment to “a general campus cats fund with a focus on Peaches,” Li stated. As of Monday, the campaign had raised about $47.
After Peaches re-appeared following the snowstorm, Li said she noticed the cat was moving much slower, had gastrointestinal distress and was communicating with a “raspier meow.” Matthews noted that some funds will be used for deworming Peaches and MamaBean, who is another calico cat that lives near Wannamaker dormitory.
“What you end up worrying about is an amalgamation of factors—cold weather, disease, worms, other animals—and if the cats eat rotting food, they can get parasites,” Matthews stated, recalling that a cat died last year “probably due to a mix of disease and worms and just stress of cold weather.”
Matthews went on to note that even if they do not reach the $300 goal, she and Li intend to bring Peaches and MamaBean to a veterinarian.
“We know that they’re spayed, but we don’t know if they have their rabies shots,” Matthews stated. “A couple weeks ago in the ‘All Duke’ [Facebook] page, people were like ‘I saw a fox on campus, and I think it might be rabid’ because you don’t normally see wildlife unless it’s rabid.”
Li mentioned that Peaches has hunted rodents and birds in the past, increasing the cat’s risk of becoming rabid.
The success of the GoFundMe campaign will be what determines the extent of treatment, Li stated. Getting Peaches vaccinated for rabies is the students’ first priority.
However, Sánchez Rolón is suggesting that other community issues should receive attention as well.
“If we can afford to GoFundMe about $300 for one of our cats, can we also afford to GoFundMe similar amounts for homelessness in Durham?” she went on to write. “It’d be nice to extend our generosity to more people and beings. That’s not to knock what we’re doing, but more to question that if we’re able to do this, can we do more?”
Matthews acknowledged that there are other cats on campus—such as ones living near Old Chemistry, the Allen Building or the Bryan Center—but said that it was not feasible to give them veterinary treatment because they were a lot more skittish and would likely require a cage to capture.
“Peaches is the only one I would be concerned about transmitting [rabies] to people, to be honest,” Li explained. “The other cats are more feral. They are kind of aloof. MamaBean is the only one that comes close to interacting with people besides Peaches. We were hoping to get her rabies vaccinated too.”
Due to the sociability of Peaches, MamaBean and Bootsie—a gray cat who lives near the Allen Building—Matthews believes they can be homed.
“Though people like to argue it’s mean to keep cats locked up, it’s really not,” she stated. “As long as you play with them, they’re much more comfortable [and] live much longer if they live indoors.”
Although most of the cats on the campus have been spayed and neutered—leading to a “dwindling” cat population—Matthews did note that Duke is considered a “dumping ground,” so a colony of kittens may arise if outside individuals released more un-neutered cats on campus.
With posts already reporting that Peaches has appeared quite “sluggish” recently, Matthews explained that she hopes that the community can continue to grow and report troubles for all the cats on campus.
“If anything happens to the cats, they kind of have all these adoring Duke students as their backup,” Li stated. “I think if there was some sort of big medical need, I’m sure we would all chip in enough to get that taken care of—it’s kind of like a Peaches fan club.”
If you are interested in helping Peaches, click here!