Story by Joseph Ray
Photos by Sean O’Brien
Before the two famous black felines found home in a giant container beside Burruss Hall, they prowled the surrounding streets of JMU like students searching for the next party. The Quad cats, Dolley and Jimmy, have patrolled the Quad for almost seven years, but few know where they came from.
The winter of 2009, Ramona Messenger received a call from a group of girls while volunteering at Cat’s Cradle, a cat adoption center in Harrisonburg. The girls had been feeding ve feral cats out of their basement apartment at 1097 S. Main St. and asked Messenger if she would feed them while they were on winter break. Messenger referred to this as “Operation Cat-mas.” “That winter, we had six apartment cat colonies to feed,” Messenger said. “We went to each of the cat colonies and fed the cats for that month that the students were gone.”
Messenger quickly noticed the cats’ ears weren’t tipped, which meant they weren’t spayed or neutered, so she trapped them and took them to Anicira Veterinary Hospital to receive their shots and to get them xed. When the girls returned from break, Messenger left the cats, but the fall of 2010, two black cats emerged on the Quad. Messenger, who worked in Alumnae Hall at the time, recognized them from their newly-tipped ears. “When those girls graduated and left in May, the cats were there without any food source,” Messenger said. “How they got to the Quad is the mystery.” Messenger approached Jane Dinsmore, who worked in Burruss Hall at the time, about helping her feed the cats. Dinsmore had helped Messenger feed the cats the previous winter. As an avid animal lover, Dinsmore took action.
Messenger said. “It was just ironic … that she and I were the ones that fed them, and she and I just happened to work up there.” Coincidence or not, when Dinsmore began recruiting people to help care for the cats, the Quad cats phenomenon exploded with news articles, Facebook pages, and an overwhelming amount of support. “I had a couple shelves in my office full of cat food,” Dinsmore said.
Laura Wisman, who’s currently in charge of donations for the cats, contacted Dinsmore in 2011 after hearing of the cats. “I just couldn’t let them go hungry,” Dinsmore said. “I had to start feeding them, and then I got interested and attached to them.” Messenger found it odd that the cats seemed to nd her and Dinsmore after almost a year. “I was in Alumnae, she was in Burruss and that’s where the cats ended up,” Messenger said. “It was just ironic … that she and I were the ones that fed them, and she and I just happened to work up there.”
Coincidence or not, when Dinsmore began recruiting people to help care for the cats, the Quad cats phenomenon exploded with news articles, Facebook pages, and an overwhelming amount of support. “I had a couple shelves in my of ce full of cat food,” Dinsmore said. Laura Wisman, who’s currently in charge of donations for the cats, contacted Dinsmore in 2011 after hearing of the cats. Together, they ordered the building of a shelter and feeding station beside Burruss Hall, making the cats official residents of JMU. “I think they consider this to be their home,” Wisman said. “I think this is where they’ll stay.”
Since then, Wisman said that students see the cats as good luck charms, and Dinsmore said the cats have become “mini-celebrities” and “informal mascots.” Messenger has since moved to the University Events building off the Quad, and Dinsmore has since retired, but she still feeds the cats on Sundays, along with four other feeders throughout the week.
“I’m happy to feed them once a week because I get to see them,” Dinsmore said. “They still know me, they still remember me and they come running.” Wisman encourages more students and faculty to get involved. To donate, bring money or food to Harrison Hall, Room 1109. The cats aren’t too picky, but they like dry food and Fancy Feast.