There is a strange sound coming from under the porch steps — should you be scared or nervous that something is living down there? No, it is probably just one of your friendly, neighborhood feral cats.
As a student who lives off campus, I have at least one encounter a day with the feral cats of Kirksville. If it is a good encounter, they run away or stand their ground as I walk past. A bad encounter involves hissing and unnecessary aggression.
Despite being wild, I find the feral cats becoming my outdoor pets. I name them and sometimes leave little offerings just off my porch. Mulaney, named after comedian John Mulaney, is my favorite. Sometimes I will come home to find him waiting for me outside my door. He even has attempted to get inside the apartment.
Two others, Salem and Jinx, are far less friendly. They are more comfortable lying on the sidewalk outside my door, but run away if I start to leave my porch.
Among Truman students, the topic of feral cats can become an incredibly heated debate. I have a friend who used to bring the cats into West Campus Suites in his jacket during winter. He kept a bag of cat food under his bed to feed them and allowed them to cuddle up in a special drawer to sleep.
Eventually, he would let them free only to pick them up again for the next snowstorm.
I have other friends who have not been so lucky. A group of friends, also living off campus, used to hear cats fighting under their floorboards. If that wasn’t alarming enough, kittens were born under their home. Sometimes one of the girls would wake up to the mother cat angrily defending her kittens under her bedroom floor.
After a long battle with Animal Control and the Kirksville Police Department, the cats living under their house were caught in carriers only to be released near The Square.
While these feral cats can cause countless issues for off-campus residents, they are part of the odd charm of Kirksville. There is a joy in explaining to friends back home that gangs of cats run wild through the town where you go to school. For students on and off Truman’s campus who are not allowed to have pets, these animals offer an alternative.
While I know I cannot cuddle Mulaney or bring him inside to watch videos of his namesake with me, my feral cat makes life in Kirksville just a little bit happier and more fun.