A purr-fect place: SCDS community finds homes for campus kitties

Fifty years ago, burrowing owls lived on the Country Day campus. Now that they are gone, new animals have moved in: cats.

On May 2, Patricia Jacobsen, dean of student life, received a call from Cameron Bohn, assistant to the head of lower school, asking her to get her cat kennel.  

There were four cats on campus: a mother and her three kittens.

All four were behind the art room, in the hallway where the storage closet and the kiln are.

Art teacher Andy Cunningham, Barbara Johnson (assistant to the head of middle school), Gabriella Foster (assistant to the head of high school) and Bohn tried to block the hallway and trap the cats.

“When we were trying to get them, all of them ran out except for one of the kittens, which crawled up (Johnson’s) leg,” Foster said.

(Photo used by permission of Alexa Mathisen)
The Mathisen sisters adopted this kitten.

That kitten was eventually adopted by junior Alexa and freshman Bella Mathisen.

They named her Eliza, after Elizabeth Hamilton, and took her to the veterinarian, where they learned she was about five weeks old.  

“She’s like a baby,” Alexa said. “She cries when she wants to eat or be held. It’s so cute.”

According to Bohn, other cats have been found on campus. The most recent was a kitten discovered under the middle-school lockers about six months ago.

The kitten was so young that it was taken to an animal shelter.

“I think the mama cat probably lives on campus and keeps having kittens here because it’s warm, safe and dry,” Bohn said.

Foster agreed, saying that the campus is a safe place for cats with mice and leftover food.

But cat adoptions are nothing new on campus.

More than 15 years ago, eighth-grade English teacher Lauren LaMay found a black, short-haired cat near the former middle-school building, Tsakopoulos Hall.

The cat, which LaMay named Angie (short for Evangeline), was pregnant and being bullied by another feral male cat.

“I already had two cats from the SPCA at home, but Angie would not have survived had I not taken her,” LaMay said. “I had also really bonded to her, and vice versa.”

Angie is still alive and well today, LaMay said, and is around 18 years old.

More recently, in the fall of 2015, middle-school English teacher Kathryn LaComb discovered a small black cat named Gus at a motel in Concord, Calif., where she and her daughter, freshman Abby LaComb, were attending a soccer tournament.

Gus was living under the dumpster at the hotel.

However, LaComb couldn’t keep the cat because she already had two dogs, a cat and a parakeet.

So high-school science teacher Glenn Mangold, who already had two cats, adopted Gus.

Unfortunately, Gus didn’t get along well with Mangold’s two cats, Newton and Tiny Tim.

(Photo used by permission of Kathryn LaComb)
Teachers Daniel Neukom and Patricia Fels adopted Gus after he was first discovered by the LaCombs and taken in by teacher Glenn Mangold.

But high-school history teacher Daniel Neukom and English teacher Patricia Fels were looking for another cat after their cat, Zoser, passed away during the holidays at the age of 17.

“When we got Gus, he fit in very well,” Neukom said.

“He’s a wonderful cat, and gets along well with our Yorkshire terrier, Darrell.”

On Mother’s Day, after Neukom and Fels attended an event in Berkeley, they drove to the motel where Gus lived and took a picture of the dumpster.

What used to be a village raising a child has now turned into a village of Country Day teachers and families rescuing cats.

—By Allison Zhang

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