Collegiate Cats: UNLV’s Feline Friends on Campus

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Gray cat on campus. Photo taken by Jimmy Romo.

A four-legged predator lurks in the shadows freely between UNLV’s buildings searching for its prey. Students leave food and water in tribute to the hungry, pointy-eared beasts, the UNLV cats.  

During the day, these furry felines can be seen approaching students for pets or basking in the sun near a tree taking an afternoon nap. But when the sun sets, the claws come out. 

In the U.S. outdoor domestic cats kill 1.3 to 4 billion birds annually, according to a Nature study. 

The cats have been on campus for several years and most have families thanks to the support of faculty and students who continue to care for them. A family of Siamese cats around the Beam Music Center are cared for by Haik Goomroyan, a music facility attendant. 

It is estimated that there are approximately 10-20 cats that live on campus, according to a fourth year vocal performance student, Isabel Ferguson. Several cats are dispersed across UNLV’s campus in prominent locations like the Carlson Education Building, underneath the Ham Concert Hall and near the Chemistry Building. 

The cats have an Instagram account dedicated to posting pictures of cats on a weekly basis through student submissions and daily sightings. The instagram account called ‘unlv cats’ is managed by Ferguson.

Ferguson started the account in spring of 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disconnect students felt from distance learning. She initially learned of the cat’s residency on campus as a high school honor choir student in 2019.

“I can vividly remember seeing a family of black cats residing underneath Ham Hall right before my choir competitions,” Ferguson said. 

Fast-forwarding to her years as an undergraduate on campus, Ferguson began taking pictures of cats every time she saw them and compiled an archive of pictures from cats across campus. Not thinking much of it at the time, Ferguson started the Instagram account to foster a close knit community on campus.

“Many of the pictures I post on there are unedited and raw,” Ferguson said. “I just wanted to create an adorable community with wholesome content and am happy with how much positive feedback it’s gotten.”

The account gets new student submissions of cat sightings across campus every day and has now started doing a “UNLV cat of the week” segment. 

In addition to the Instagram account, one cat in particular has received popular attention not only for their presence on campus, but for their dedicated UNLV people page

The cat is often referred to, by students, as the “emeritus sciences representative” and goes by “Beaker the Cat”. The cat is described on the website as, “a long-time Las Vegan and seasoned member of the College of Sciences team, with over a decade of experience at UNLV.” The page also lists Beaker’s interests and occupations. 

Many College of Science students like David King, have taken amusement to the dedicated people page.

“I love seeing the cats on campus and more specifically Beaker,” King said. “Seeing the cats roaming around the sciences is always so cute and in the past I tried to approach Beaker one time with water, but unfortunately he ran away at the time.”

Beaker is currently under the care and supervision of Eric Chronister, dean of the College of Sciences.

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