The cat came back

Seven years ago, amid heavy winter rains, Head of Performing Arts Rees Pugh noticed a little problem unfolding backstage in Rugby Theater, or rather little remains of a problem. 

“I’ve had cats.  I know the kinds of gifts they leave,” Pugh said. 

He mentioned the problem to the administration, but once the rain had passed, the “gifts” stopped appearing.

Then three years ago, the problem returned.  But again, the weather got better and the problem was solved.

In September of this year, in order to allow for Bryan Kurtzman’s ’08 character to plummet to his death in “Les Miserablés,” Pugh tore a hole through the center of Rugby stage in order to build a trapdoor.

“And boy was it ever miserablés,” Pugh recalled. The stench hit him before he saw it.  The cause was clear.

The cat came back.

Over the past summer, a brown, orange and black feral cat (name, gender unknown) created its own private litter box under Rugby stage.  Pugh assumes this time frame since when the pool built into the stage for “Metamorphoses” was disassembled, the underneath was “spotless.” So Pugh put on his respirator and descended into the pit, cutting out most of the soiled carpeting.  The following weekend, outside contractors were hired to chemically disinfect the area.

One person didn’t get the memo.

“You know it’s funny,” Kurtzman said. “I was not told.”

“It was relatively clean, although I have to tell you, there was something very deceptive about the trappings, no pun intended,” he said.

Kurtzman now questions the covert actions taken to cover up the cat’s offenses. 

“Before a guy goes sky-diving, they tell them there’s a chance that the parachute might break or, when you get on a plane they tell you there’s a possibility the plane might crash, but they don’t tell me when I’m about to go through a trapdoor there’s a possibility that I could land on a pile of cat [feces],” Kurtzman said.

After the Littergate incident, the cat struck yet again: this time above ground, upon drama teacher Chris Moore’s favorite chair.  He has his own name for the feline: “that darn cat,” code name TDC. 

But, how did the problem get so bad? 

For one, it is being fed.  The very campus the feline defecates upon is what supports it.  Stomping grounds include the awning over the lunch area outside the dean coordinators office, where one can often find a cat dish, and the courtyard next to Rugby. 

“The dean coordinators in Chalmers have bought food and water dishes for the cat over the years,” Assistant to the Head of Upper School Michelle Bracken said.  TDC has also found support from the cafeteria, which sometimes leaves food out for it.   

In fact, the cat does play a role in the campus food-web, catching any rodents that may be present on campus, Bracken said. 

“It might actually be serving an important function,” Pugh said. “I just want it out of the theater.”
TDC has become a topic of campus politics over the years, exposing the divide between cat-lovers and non-cat-lovers. 

About four years ago, when the cat began doing its business backstage in Rugby again, Pugh remembers many pro-cat faculty members did not want to believe a cat was responsible. 

One  teacher demanded hard evidence, contending a coyote was the culprit.  The scientific community was then involved in the matter, and the pro-cats contracted the services of a middle school science teacher, who was sent (by intercampus mail enclosing a plastic zipper bag) a sample of the fecal matter in order to determine its origin.

Though the analysis proved a coyote was the source, Pugh is still certain that the cat has always been the problem.  Pugh believes that the coyote theory stems from other fears.

“The fate of this animal if we do catch it is not good,” Pugh said.

Upper school dean Mike Bird believes the cat outside the dean coordinators office is different than the one using Rugby as a litter box, though the photo of the cat on the awning above matches the desciption Pugh gave.

At present time, TDC remains at large. Confronted in Rugby courtyard, the cat declined to comment.