During the fall 2014 semester, it was the sensation that rocked campus. Students were frantic on Twitter, often posting updates about their most recent encounters. Was a celebrity seen walking down the streets of Erie? Or maybe there was a Bigfoot sighting at Presque Isle? No; rather, everybody at Gannon University was losing their minds over a cat.
The little black cat was seen roaming around AJ’s Way mid-semester last fall (and even earlier than that, some reports say). Most students assumed the cat was a stray or ran away from home and would be gone soon. However, the feline was spotted almost daily for weeks on end by students, faculty and inhabitants of Erie. From that moment on, the cat became a sort of unofficial mascot for Gannon. Students would often post Twitter updates or anonymous messages on YikYak about the cat. Some would try to pet the cat if they spotted her on AJ’s Way. Workers in Waldron even had a little bag of food that they would leave out for the cat so she wouldn’t go hungry. In short, GU was going cat crazy.
Towards Thanksgiving break, the cat hadn’t been seen for a few days. Students panicked as they thought about the disappearance of the cat, expressing their sentiments on social media. What if the cat’s owner had found her? Or worse, what if the cat was hurt by a passing car?
After Thanksgiving break, the cat was once again spotted by an anonymous source on YikYak. While most of the students rejoiced, sharing their glee on twitter with the hashtag #GannonCatIsBack, some worried about the fate of the cat during the wintertime. As we’re all well aware of by now, Erie winters are unforgiving. How could this little kitty survive the harsh Erie winter?
Luckily, the cat was finally adopted and given a proper home by Deborah Parks, the Application Processor for the Office of International Enrollment and Affairs. Even though the cat is now safe and sound, many students still wonder how their furry friend is faring. I decided to sit down with Parks and ask the question that matters: Is campus’s favorite feline adjusting to domestic life?
Q: What did you decide to name the cat?
A: Ava Jane [in honor of where the cat was found, AJ’s Way].
Q: How did you hear about the Gannon cat?
A: Ava came up to me in the parking lot, in the garage where I park. One morning I got out of my car and I heard a meow. I said, “Here, kitty kitty,” and she came over to me and let me pet her. So, then I saw her the next day and I decided to bring in food. So that’s how it all started.
Q: What made you decide to adopt Ava?
A: Because I’ve always wanted a black cat. I have three cats, but I always wanted a black cat. When she came over to me that first day I saw her, I said to myself, “That’s my cat.”
Q: How did you capture the cat?
A: I couldn’t have done it without Debbie [the ticket booth worker in the parking garage.] She helped me. I got a cage from the ANNA shelter; I called the shelter for some advice, and they told me I could borrow a cage. I came to the parking lot on a Monday, put the cage out, Debbie threw in some catnip and a toy, and [Ava] went in halfway through the cage. Debbie pushed her bottom in the rest of the way, and that was it.
Q: She didn’t put up any type of a fuss at all?
A: No. She meowed, and when I took her home, she meowed in the back of the car. She fit right in almost immediately. I put the cage in the basement with the food and the kitty litter and let her out and she used the litter box, ate her food. It’s like she was meant to be there.
Q: So she’s adjusting well?
A: Yes, there have been no problems at all. Her and Dusty [my male cat] play around. She gets along with the dog, Mindy, too.
Q: So Ava isn’t the first animal you’ve rescued. What other animals do you have?
A: Dusty – I rescued him in my backyard when he was just a kitten. And Regina [my other female cat] I got from the ANNA shelter. They’re all wonderful.
Q: Why do you think so many students were so obsessed with this cat?
A: Probably because she was always hanging around and she was friendly! She’d allow the students to go up to her and pet her.