Image description: Eight colorful campus cats nap in various poses, with little pink hearts floating in the background. End ID.
Image description: Eight colorful campus cats nap in various poses, with little pink hearts floating in the background. End ID.

Illustration by Milena Bisenic

Campus Cats 101: Do’s and Don'ts

The Gazelle recently sat down with Mayada Oudah for an introduction to the lore of NYU Abu Dhabi’s favorite residents, how to keep them safe, and available volunteering opportunities.

Oct 15, 2023

NYU Abu Dhabi’s beloved campus cats, adorned with dignified names such as StreetCat and tasked with the upkeep of the entire student population’s mental wellbeing, may sometimes lead you to believe that they are self-sufficient beings who can take care of themselves. However, unbeknownst to them, their sovereignty over campus grounds relies on a few do’s and don’ts the community should follow in order to sustain their safety and secure their rule for decades to come. This article will navigate through such concerns, starting with the history behind the UAE academia’s favorite felines.
Where did these guys come from?
Street cats are a staple part of the UAE, and so inevitably, they found their way towards NYUAD grounds as well, starting with the previous campus in downtown Abu Dhabi. A remnant of this history lies in the aforementioned Streetcat, also known as Boss or Emilu, who was moved from the old campus by community members after the opening of the Saadiyat campus.
“She’s a very special cat,” says Mayada Oudah, a postdoctoral associate at NYUAD’s Social Science Experimental Laboratory, primarily responsible for the care and related costs of the cats since joining in 2018 and up until January 2023. “She’s a very senior cat, I think she is over 10 years old,” she elaborates. This would mark her legacy to be as long as, or even longer than the university’s.
Oudah explains that upon her arrival to the Saadiyat campus, there were very few cats. Over the next few years, however, their population clearly skyrocketed.
According to Oudah, there are three types of cats on NYUAD grounds: cats from nearby residential areas that have wandered into the university for food, stray cats that have been relocated to campus by students and staff who believe they are helping the cat, and dumped cats — pets that have previously belonged to students hiding them in dorms or staff who have since left the university and abandoned them on campus grounds to avoid relocation fees. So far, Oudah has been able to rehome two dumped cats, an intensive work that requires time and funding. Regardless, these occurrences have increased the number of campus cats over time.
As an independent animal rescuer before joining NYUAD, Oudah naturally took up the responsibility of the few cats living on campus in 2018, which over time became demanding work as new sick cats were relocated to the university and sustained injuries as a result of territorial fights. However, student volunteers, community donations, and recently updated funding from the university have helped in the process.
Approaching the end of her postdoctoral contract in 2023 and nervous about the future of the campus cats, Oudah one day ran into Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann who was surprised to hear that NYUAD was not fully funding the care of the campus cats. Up to January 2023, the university only provided food to the cats, making Oudah and other volunteers primarily responsible for heavier costs such as veterinary care.
“...They allocated the budget for campus cat treatment. It's a humble and a good budget that will suffice us for treating the cats for wounds, vaccination, neutering … microchipping … deworming. It’s the basics, Oudah shared about the newly allotted budget which will prove useful for the general health of the cats on campus.
What are some do's and don'ts that students and staff should be aware of?
“The most important don't would be don't bring cats to campus. Do not relocate cats cause you are not helping them,” shares Oudah. She suggested posting them on non-NYUAD Facebook group such as “Strays of Abu Dhabi” instead, adding that relocating cats to campus causes fights and injuries in the animals or the spread of disease.
“... At one point, someone dumped a Parvo positive kitten. Parvo is Feline panleukopenia virus and is highly infectious and deadly" ,she shares as an example. According to the American Veterinary Association, up to 90% of cats who aren’t given the required intensive and expensive treatment necessary for the virus may die. “... They just put the cat there, thinking they helped the cat — but during that process, they infected two of our campus cats as well … the cost to treat Parvo ranged between 3 to 5000 dirhams, and I had to do this for three cats,” Oudah explains further.
Other consequences include severe injuries as a result of fights between relocated and campus cats. Familiar sights such as Gingerbell, Scarlette, Snow, and Eduardo (also known as Jasper) aren’t seen on campus anymore due to their sustained heavy injuries, and have had to be rehomed as a result. The rehoming process is arduous and wounded cats remain in pain throughout; hence, prevention by not dumping or relocating cats is the best course of action. NYUAD recently posted Snow, a rehomed campus cat, on their Instagram page in light of World Animal Day.
Other don'ts include not feeding campus cats human food or giving them food away from their feeding stations, and not playing roughly with them so as not to get scratched. Getting scratched, however, isn’t a major medical concern as all campus cats are vaccinated — so a visit to a medical center, as some may suggest, wouldn’t be necessary. Furthermore, do not let campus cats into academic or residential buildings, as it will lead to complaints from community members.
Do’s include making use of them as the best academic stress relievers possible and gently playing with them.
What do I do if I see a stray cat outside in need of help?
We have previously established the fact that relocating them to campus isn’t an option.
This may sound counterproductive, but taking them to a shelter wouldn’t be in their best interest, either. “I strongly advise against it. Mainly because the shelter is already overwhelmed with cats, so if you want to help a cat, if you are financially able to, take it to a rescue charity vet [such as Hope Veterinary Clinic],” Oudah explains.
If neutering and vaccinating them at a vet isn’t an option, posting them on Facebook groups dedicated to Abu Dhabi stray cats and asking for help from fellow cat feeders and rescuers is the best course of action.
How can I help?
Daily responsibilities related to taking care of campus cats include filling the four available feeding stations on campus in order to deter cats from approaching dining halls and minimizing community complaints.
Another important community responsibility is keeping track of new cats as they require immediate medical attention. “I have several Whatsapp groups and Facebook groups where people can text me if they see any cat fights or injuries on campus — and [or find] new cats on campus. And if I see any new cats on campus, I have to take them immediately to be neutered, vaccinated, [and] microchipped,” says Oudah, referring to the Campus Cats Facebook group, open to the NYUAD community only.
Volunteering opportunities are currently available for students. Students interested in helping out and taking care of the campus cats can reach out to Mayada Oudah who is currently looking for volunteers for refilling feeding stations, taking rotations as needed. She can be reached via Facebook.
Mehraneh Saffari is Senior News Editor. Email them at
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