When Sandra Hoffman looked out into the service courtyard at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Cloverdale campus there was no mistaking the sound she heard emanating from beside the dumpster in the middle of the service courtyard.
“I could hear something definitely small and fuzzy. I went around the corner and I saw a kitten.”
A cat lover with kittens (and two school aged kids) at home already, Hoffman held back, hoping the kitten’s mom – dubbed ‘Clover’ – would return shortly.
But the weather started to turn, growing grey, wet and cold even though it was July.
“I watched for a half an hour, and the wind was rising,” she recalled Friday. She realized the kitten might die if she didn’t intervene.
She went to pick it up. The kitten’s paw pads were cold to the touch and it was very hungry.
There was no turning back, says Hoffman, a former KPU board member, brewing program student, and current employee. Hoffman works as a facilities services generalist at KPU, helping run the buildings on campus.
She was on call as the First Aid attendant that shift and she couldn’t leave – so a colleague raced over to Cloverdale Pharmasave and picked up cat milk formula for the tiny kitten.
She took ‘Kaypuh’ home, nursed the weak little bundle back to health, eventually adopting the cat.
Kaypuh made regular visits to the Cloverdale campus, joining Hoffman on her work shifts, earning interest from staff and students alike.
Hoffman says her helpless feral kitten would have been no match for the coyotes and raptors that live in the undeveloped woods and open grasslands that surround the campus.
“I suspect Clover was near starving herself as she was extremely thin and did not return for the kitten,” Hoffman recalls. That’s when she decided to start feeding Clover – to support the momma cat’s health, and any remaining kittens – in hopes of trapping her, and having her spayed and released.
She was seen about a week later with a second kitten that was never seen again.
Clover, an attractive tuxedo cat with black and white markings, proved elusive. Despite the vittles left out for her, she was easily spooked and it was impossible to approach her.
Worryingly, Clover’s parenting days weren’t over, despite the concern among campus staff who were – like Hoffman – understandably anxious that they ensure she have no more kittens without a hope for a healthy future.
Fast forward to this summer, when staff discovered a new kitten den, hidden high up on an outdoor shelf next to the plumbing program workshop, well out of reach from predators (or people).
Hoffman posted notices asking people to limit their access to the area, hoping Clover wouldn’t feel threatened and move her nest.
With a raccoon trap she borrowed from her parents, she laid a trap, baiting it every day, hoping to catch Clover. A network of campus employees got behind the effort, keeping watch on the trap and reporting any sightings back to Hoffman.
Finally, their hard work and patience paid off in and Clover and her four kittens were gathered up in a temporary enclosure – an improvised metal cage with a lid.
Hoffman built another, larger enclosure for the feline family, using donated supplies such as fencing, reclaimed surplus wood scraps and chicken wire and tracking down materials like a free climbing tree through Craigslist.
The result is a deluxe cat enclosure that’s filled with everything a growing cat family might need for fun and comfort. It’s large enough to accommodate two easy chairs for the parade of visitors who have come to play and socialize with the kittens for the past weeks. Student breaks are staggered throughout the day, providing the kittens – named Langley, Surrey, Kaypuh II, and Richmond in honour of KPU campuses – with a steady source of human contact.
“I wanted to have people help socialize them,” she smiles.
Today, all four of Clover’s kittens, which range from all black to mixes of grey and white, are thriving, litter trained, and are nearly ready to be placed in new-found homes.
“They now purr if you pick them up,” she says, recalling the skittish nest of hissing kittens she discovered initially.
If you’re really careful, it’s possible to pet Clover, too, however Hoffman puts on welding gloves, safety glasses and wears coveralls to do so.
Donations to the Feral Cat Project are still being accepted – Hoffman wants to have Clover spayed, vaccinated and checked over by a veterinarian before she’s set free again. Contact Hoffman at Sandra.Hoffman@kpu.ca to help.
Generous community and private donors have made the Feral Cat Project a success, including: KPU Tech, Yellow Fence Rentals Surrey, and Costco Langley.