A street cat appeared on the campus of NYU Shanghai last October. Quickly, she attracted adoration from the community. Students gathered to pet her during breaks, and sometimes people gave her food and water. Students even gave her a name: Princess. Her photo was posted on Shanghai Fabu to represent NYU Shanghai’s autumn. Yet as winter approached and students went home, I saw Princess trembling helplessly in the wind. What should be done towards street animals like her?

According to the statistics of Shanghai local news Xinwenfang, in Shanghai, there are at least 300,000 street cats. They appear in almost every housing estate and park, in primary schools and universities, and now in the smallest university in this city: NYU Shanghai.

Citizens often hold two contrary attitudes toward street cats. The first attitude of citizens towards street cats is loving them blindly. Citizens may consider cats as cute, but they do not want to bear the responsibility of adopting the cats, so they simply provide food for the cats and consider this behavior helpful. However, the food provided by inexperienced caretakers may be unhelpful or even harmful. For instance, once I saw a student attempt to feed Princess with a slice of toast, but cats are strict predators and will not eat bread. Hams or sausages are another human-grade food often given to street cats, yet these kinds of high-sodium food products will cause harm to the cats’ kidneys and lead to long-term suffering from diseases. Just across the street from our campus, I saw at least seven cats near the garbage station, and the number of cats keeps growing. A female cat can give birth to ten kittens per year, and the abundant food provided by citizens makes it easier for kittens to survive. As a result, the cat population booms. The street cats howling in the heat at night disturb the sleep of residents. The fleas they carry bite residents and their pets. Some bad-tempered street cats even scratch anyone getting close. These behaviors cause residents to adopt the second attitude towards street cats, that the best course of action would be extinguishing them. Some citizens who are tired of their howling noise have resorted to poisoning street cats. Moreover, street cats have become easy targets for animal cruelty and perverts. 

The widely advocated TNR (trap-neuter-return) method is one possible solution to the street animal problems. The cats will receive a cut in the ear to be easily distinguished after they’re fixed. This method is increasing in popularity and usage in Shanghai. Still, problems may emerge, as the wandering cats will continue to pose a threat to small wild animals. The lack of an established law about protecting cats and dogs in China also contributes to the problems of animal abuse, perpetuating the vicious cycle of problems faced by street cats.

Luckily, the awareness of street cats is continuing to rise in Shanghai. University clubs like SJTU 喵汪 (The club caring for cats and dogs at Shanghai Jiaotong University) play an important role in advocating TNR and recusing. Rather than following the trend of buying ragdoll cats or fold-eared cats from a few years ago, young people today are more willing to adopt street cats. Starting this November, Minghang District became the first district in Shanghai to distribute 10 free TNR quotas per month by government departments

A warm winter shelter for Princess (Photo by Chen Zong)

With joint efforts by students and staff, a winter shelter for Princess has been established, and preparations are underway for giving her TNR in the spring semester. Princess is incredibly lucky to have encountered warm-hearted people from the NYU Shanghai Community, yet many more street cats face numerous challenges. It is essential to push for increased efforts regarding the regulation of street animals, both from legal perspectives and the continuous involvement of ordinary individuals.