Fattening the Canyon Cats

On a cold Thursday afternoon, in the small cavity underneath the facilities shed next to the amphitheater, a pair of bright yellow eyes widen at the sound of footsteps. It traces the shoes of passing students attentively and, only when their steps become echoes in the distance, does it blink and rest its gaze.

It was next to this shed that sophomore Ari Coester discovered a large feral cat — and then two more. It was Thanksgiving break, and one of them began to meow and inch towards Commons, eventually leading him to three small empty metal bowls.

“So [the cat] looked at me as if to say ‘It’s your job now. You have to feed us,’” says Ari. “So I grab them some kommie turkey and have been feeding them ever since.”

Knowing that he’s going to graduate at some point in time, Ari launched the Canyon Cat Club this semester so that other people can feed the cats once he cannot. He plans to set up either an Excel document or a SignUpGenius so that students can sign up to feed the cats during any of the two shifts every day.

Ari isn’t the first person to have noticed the cats, however. He’s seen a “really nice Commons worker” feed the cats when he doesn’t.

That someone turned out to be Carrie Simmons, who works for Bon Appétit in accounting and payroll. Simmons discovered the cats six years ago and has been feeding them twice a day, almost every day of the week, ever since.

“They do know me very well now. When they hear my keys jingle, they’ll scurry down to the bowls and wait for me to feed them,” laughs Carrie. “They even know what my car looks like.”

Last week, Ari coincidentally bumped into Carrie and officially introduced himself and his plans for Canyon Cat Club. He insisted he wasn’t trying to step on her toes, but Carrie only thanked him for feeding them when she could not.

“I work Mondays through Fridays. I’ve also been coming here every day during Winter Break to take care of them,” she says. “But what you’re doing is awesome — it’ll be great if other people can feed them when I’m not available so they don’t go hungry.”

As the two talk, Carrie opens a plastic jar filled with pet food that has been sitting next to the empty bowls. Taped onto the jar are two large pieces of paper that reads, in capital letters, “1 SCOOP PER BOWL: AM & PM” and “DO NOT OVER FEED!” The cats wait patiently for Carrie to scoop them their afternoon meal.

According to Carrie, all three of the remaining cats have been trapped by Conference and Events Planning (CEP) and fixed by the Feral Cat Coalition. These cats are the most recent descendants of a group fed by Reed Bookstore and Bon Appétit staff over the last decade that have since passed away.

The cats has also been given nicknames by staff members. “He’s Mikey,” says Carrie as she points to one with dark black stripes and a brown undercoat. “Somebody along the line … named him Mikey and it just stuck.” Ari recognized him as the “ringleader of the group” who occasionally lets Ari pet him. The black cat with green eyes is called Meowstophilles, while the one with a sandy coat has recently been named Cougar. Cougar, according to Ari, is the most timid one and “always trails a few steps behind the rest.”

Carrie has thought of taking the cats home, but has had difficulty catching them. Ari, too, has thought of trapping the cats and taking them to shelters eventually.

“It’s hard to trap them since they are so feral. But I would take them home … and I do love them,” says Carrie. “I’m glad to know there will be others taking care of them from now on.”

Email Ari Coester at aricoest@reed.edu to sign up or for any other inquiries.

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