The American University of Beirut has a campus community of roughly 9,000 students, 1,000 faculty ... and 300 cats.
Over the years, the scenic campus of AUB became a sanctuary for the felines of Beirut's rough streets. They are a fixture of the university and the community has more than embraced them. Here's how:
1. Cats began inhabiting campus during Lebanon's civil war
As families fled the country, many left their pets behind. For whatever reason, AUB became the go-to dump spot for abandoning cats. Since then, the population has grown and become a day-to-day reality for AUB students.
2. AUB has an official six-point policy governing the campus cats
The policy lays out regulations as to where cats are allowed and how they are to be treated by faculty and students. They cannot be harmed. Failure to adhere to that policy can result in a Dean's Warning. Cruel and unusual punishment? Just don't be mean to the cats.
Additionally, the should not be allowed in public buildings and shouldn't be fed by students... but this doesn't stop the more tender-hearted in the AUB community. These regulations were officially formalized during the presidency of John Waterbury, who took the reins of the university in 1998.
3. Volunteers feed the cats every day at 6:00 a.m.
AUB's student affairs assistant Zena Jureidini volunteers to feed the cats of upper campus, giving them a mixture of dry and wet cat food. An additional employee feeds the smaller number of cats on lower campus. Although this costs $2,000 to $2,500 a month, AUB has consistently denied allegations that it contributes to the ever-swelling student tuition.
Cats are only fed once a day, and their diet is supplemented by food they find on Bliss Street, the rodents they hunt on on campus and from AUB students who bend the rules to feed them.
4. There was that time a cat gave birth inside a guy's dorm room
In early 2014, a biology student reported finding one of AUB's friendly felines giving birth in his closet.
"We always lock the door but I think [she] slipped between my legs when I was talking to my friend or something," AUB student Majid Chammas told AUB Outlook after the incident.
5. And there was once that psycho kitten murderer on the loose
In 2015, a string of kitten murders rocked the AUB community. After four months and numerous victims, the murderer was apprehended . The man was banned from campus and signed a statement with police saying he would no longer murder kittens. However, he escaped legal punishment. An animal welfare law was passed by Lebanon's cabinet in February of 2015, but it still awaits parliamentary approval.
6. Rumors have spread about the cats spreading diseases...
R umors circulated that the cats carry diseases and these have been consistently denied by AUB. In 2013, a large number of students and faculty expressed concern about cats possibly spreading ringworm. However, the veterinarian tasked with caring for campus cats quickly debunked this rumor. Faculty from AUB's Department of Animal and Veterinary Science chimed in and pointed out that the possibility of students contracting the fungus, even if the cats had it, is very low.
7. A veterinarian regularly keeps tabs on the population
AUB contracts a veterinarian part-time to monitor the cats and keep tabs on the overall population. In addition to treating sick cats, the veterinarian spays 8 to 10 female cats per month.
8. It's not actually OK to abandon your cats at AUB
Yes, it's true. The university adamantly advises against pet-owners setting their cats loose on campus. AUB advises owners to find other loving homes and to work with animal welfare organizations to find new homes.
They may be friendly, the cats at AUB are feral, and not house pets. So house cats will have difficult time adjusting.
9. Cats can be adopted!
But don't simply choose a cat and take it home. There's a procedure in place to ensure that cat's will be properly taken care of once they are taken from campus. AUB ensures that all cats are vaccinated and neutered or spayed at not cost to the new caretaker. Those interested in adopting should email email@example.com or call Dr. Jaouhari at +961 03-607-525.