Rami Abi Ammar
A gruesome image of a dismembered kitten posted by a student on “AUB Courses/Teachers Guru”, a Facebook group with more than 17,000 members from the AUB community, shook the AUB community on Thursday, Oct.12.
The young Tabby was found outside the campus cat clinic around 6 am, by cat-feeder and caretaker Zena Jureidini, as she was about to start her morning rounds. When found, the cat’s limbs and jaw seemed to be freshly severed.
Zena sent a picture to the AUB vet, as well as a student, who would later end up sharing the image on Facebook. The post evoked immediate speculation around who, or what, the perpetrator could be.
Some students suggested that other cats might have killed the kitten, alluding to the tendency of male cats or even mother cats to kill or eat their sick kittens. However, a majority agreed that the brutal and rather precise mode of mutilation could only have been inflicted by a human.
This is not the first time the AUB community witnesses such a violent crime against campus cats. Seven kittens were murdered on three separate occasions back in Spring 2015, at the hands of the infamous “cat serial killer”. The perpetrator was caught and subsequently banned from campus.
The recent dismemberment did raise concern over the return of the “cat serial killer”, as well as concerns over security and the university’s protection of its familiar cat population.
It has been pointed out, however, that the different technique used, and the time of the murder, make it unlikely that the same serial killer is back. This is yet to be confirmed.
An official email from the Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management department addressed the issue the following day. In the email, Director Farouk Merhebi condemned the cruel incident and assured the AUB community that investigations were underway.
“The investigation did provide evidence that some people are behind this act, however we cannot declare anything yet,” Merhebi told Outlook. “The findings will be announced in due time.”
This story goes beyond the isolated incident of the slaughtered kitten. As addressed in both the Facebook post and Merhebi’s email, there is controversy surrounding the university’s policy and practices towards campus cats. This comes after rumors of the current administration’s plans to reduce the cat population. Merhebi denied all claims in this regard.
“There is nothing official being done to reduce the number of cats on campus,” Merhebi said. “All what we are doing is spaying and neutering the cats, and the vet is treating new kittens and putting them up for adoption. This has always been the case.”
Merhebi has been working on the campus cats case for several years and keeps well-documented files of all operations done by the AUB vet.
“What we are seeing on campus recently is not in fact a reduction, but we are seeing an increase in the number of kittens. There are around 22 kittens currently at the cat clinic, which is a number that has never been seen before,” he said.
On the rumors, Merhebi was very firm in pointing out that a certain group may be set out to defame AUB’s reputation. He told Outlook that his department and the President’s Office have been bombarded with emails from non-AUB accounts that contain outrageous accusations in regards to the cat policies.
“The circulating claims have no basis and serve no purpose besides defamation of the university’s reputation,” Merhebi said.
He also went as far as to imply that the recent attack might have been a ploy or a deliberate act by the same group who is sending the emails.
On the other side of this issue, there is a large community of cat-lovers who are pushing for better care. Many have started taking matters into their own hands.
“It breaks my heart to see this happening to our cats,” said one of cat-lovers who prefered to stay anonymous. “I have to feed them or sometimes take them to vets myself. What is being done is not enough.”
As they wait for the findings of the investigation to come out, those who are concerned with the well-being of the cats demand more communication and transparency from the administration. A new, better-studied, and more collaborative policy may be in order to ensure a healthier and safer campus for our cats.