When I look back at my college life at De La Salle University (DLSU) — please don’t ask for my ID number lest I reveal my age — I remember so many memories, both beautiful and scary. These include having so many friends to connect with, all the while being at the mercy of professors. Amid the dreadful course card days, project deadlines, and the horror of walking the halls alone with all my insecurities intact, I wish they were made bearable by the presence of cats on campus.

DLSU students these days are lucky. When they cheer, “Animo, La Salle!” a good bunch also screams “Animeow, La Salle,” or at least remembers Animo the cat.

My connection with DLSU was recently reignited in the form of the cutest pictures and videos of cats residing in my alma mater. I can only smile and wish I had the chance to be a part of this wonderful organization called De La Salle University – Professors for the Upliftment of Society’s Animals (DLSU-PUSA).

Extrapurr-icular Activities

As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Compassion is a verb.” This is exactly the mantra of DLSU-PUSA and its thirty active members. They care for the campus cats by feeding them twice a day and vaccinating them to ensure they are healthy and safe. The cats have also been spayed and neutered to stabilize the population.

It is a commitment that knows no holidays, rain or shine.

While there are more than 80 cats in the university, the organization cares only for the existing cats and do not use the university to serve as a shelter for all strays along Taft Avenue. By keeping the colony from multiplying, the cats live their full potential and successfully establish their own territories to co-exist with the rest of the university.

It is a powerful initiative and a serious undertaking that sacrifices precious time and energy in exchange for rewarding purrs. There is nothing more satisfying than earning a cat’s trust, most often indicated by them flashing their bellies (which, of course, you cannot touch without getting scratched a bit).

Fluffy bellies aside, DLSU-PUSApporters are proud to have treated the cats well. The cats are now a picture of good health, and the history of abuse some of them endured as strays are no longer evident in their endearing faces.

Independent Initiative

INITIATIVEDLSU-PUSA operates independently and does not receive funding from the university.

PUSApporters, as the members are called, breathe life into these cats with their donations and contributions. Anyone can become a PUSApporter; one can become a volunteer feeder or a foster parent. Others may help in finding adopters, manning the booth during fund-raising events, doing artworks for DLSU-PUSA, or giving feedback and helpful information in monitoring the cats.

“I can see more students wanting to volunteer and get involved. There were non-cat lovers who learned to fall in love with the cats. I think the trend will continue. While there are cat haters, too, the presence of the cats can soften up several people’s attitudes one way or the other. Baby steps, but good enough for us“, says Laureen.

Not everyone will instantly fall in love with the cats. However, For DLSU-PUSA, respect — if not mere tolerance — is already a blessing in itself.

A Shared Cat-Vocacy

Founded in 2015 by Ms. Laureen Velasco from the Philosophy Department along with other core members (Drs. Elaine Tolentino, Lane Chua-Garcia, Guada Salanga and Jeane Peracullo), DLSU-PUSA was recognized and approved by the Chancellor’s Council as an official organization under the Office of the Vice President for Lasallian Mission. Consistent with the principle of La Salle schools about valuing all lifeforms, Vice Chancellor Bro. Michael Broughton FSC, designated father of the cats, took the budding organization under his wing.

It was a collaboration that involved various sectors: school officers, professors, students, and even alumni — a beautiful community forged by a common advocacy.

Cultivating Compassion (and a sizeable following)

As a university with beautiful facilities and manicured gardens, the cats’ presence add a refreshing atmosphere that brings joy and a means to relieve stress. We are witnesses of this phenomenon by being among the four thousand fans of DLSU-PUSA on Facebook. Regularly, the virtual community benefits from the numerous sharing of DLSU-PUSA cats’ pictures and videos.

As their fan base continues to expand, it presents more opportunities for adoptions. They have rehomed 20 cats last year. Along with these successful adoptions, there are also inquiries from other educational institutions hoping to learn about the advocacy and duplicate DLSU-PUSA’s efforts in their own schools.

It is not surprising at all that more people are beginning to follow suit as they understand proper cat care. DLSU-PUSA was an initiative born out of love for cats and as a new breed of human companions emerge in ourselves, our collective awakening will sprout more positive changes in the way we learn. Schools will then foster compassion and wider consciousness for all life, a new form of higher education that benefits everybody’s well-being.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s November 2018 issue.