Powell Cat Feeder Friends binds together community of pet-lovers on campus
Many students said Powell Cat has become a highlight of their days at UCLA, serving as a lovable and comforting part of campus from their nook in front of Kaufman Hall. (Photo by Ashley Kenney/Photo editor, Photo illustration by Victoria Li/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Saumya Gupta
March 4, 2022 3:37 p.m.
This post was updated March 6 at 10:07 p.m.
For many, Powell Cat is a reliable friend away from home.
“Powell Cat is kind of like my second animal home,” said Isabelle Sandbank, a third-year applied linguistics student. “I can go on campus, say hi to them and make sure that they’re well taken care of.”
Sandbank added that it made her sad to have no pets in the dorms since she is used to having a lot of pets at home.
Sandbank is part of Powell Cat Feeder Friends, a group of students who take turns to help take care of Powell Cat during the week.
Every Wednesday, she visits Powell Cat’s feeding station outside the entrance to Kaufman Hall to fill and clean up their bowls with fresh food and water, Sandbank said. Sometimes she gives them treats if they are around at the time, she added.
Kathy Brown, an assistant to the University Librarian in the Charles E. Young Research Library and the primary staff caretaker of Powell Cat, said the opportunity to take care of Powell Cat fell into her lap. While she was outside of Kaufman Hall to see Powell Cat one day, she ran into someone from the Campus Cat Network, which works to control the feral cat population on campus, and they struck up a conversation that ended with her becoming Powell Cat’s caretaker.
With instruction back in person, Brown said she has not been able to go to campus every day to take care of Powell Cat. She said she started Powell Cat Feeder Friends to find some help to take care of them.
“It’s just one of those things – I saw Powell Cat and Powell Cat saw me and we just started hanging out together,” Brown said.
However, Brown said Powell Cat has been wary of her lately since she took them to the veterinarian in May for their vaccinations and a checkup. But, she added, she’s been trying to bribe their trust back with treats.
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When she posted about having people help feed Powell Cat on the Powell Cat Instagram, she received dozens of responses in minutes of people wanting to help, she added. Brown said she also created a GoFundMe page for Powell Cat’s vet expenses and had to shut it down after a few hours because people were donating more than enough.
“People are really (wanting) to give back and are very generous with Powell Cat,” she said.
Powell Cat showed up on campus in 2015 and has stayed put ever since, Brown said. They originally lived by Powell Library but later moved down to where they now live in front of Kaufman Hall.
Brown said Powell Cat is a way for students to make some connection to campus and served as a unifying figure waiting for everyone to come back to campus during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Powell Cat’s a really unusual cat,” Brown said. “I’ve been around cats all my life, and I’ve never seen a cat who responds so positively to so many different people.”
Powell Cat’s choice of residence evokes a sense of school spirit, Sandbank added.
“Powell Cat can leave anytime they want,” Sandbank said. “There is no point for Powell Cat to stay on campus if they did not like the attention that students give them or the care that we provide. It’s pretty easy to say that Powell Cat likes being UCLA’s little cat mascot.”
Students have recently taken to online platforms such as Reddit to express their love for Powell Cat. In around the past month, there have been more than 15 posts about Powell Cat on the UCLA subreddit.
Sudarshan Seshadri, a second-year electrical engineering student, posted the video series “Petting Powell Cat every day until I don’t” on the UCLA subreddit daily for more than 80 days. He said petting Powell Cat was a highlight of his day.
“One time I sat there for like 20 minutes because (they) wouldn’t get off my lap, and obviously, you (have) got to sit there if a cat is sitting on your lap,” Seshadri said.
Seshadri said he posted an initial video of him petting Powell Cat in response to a post about how Powell Cat did not like to be pet, he said. The next day, on Oct. 11, he posted the first video of the series, which continued daily and garnered hundreds of upvotes.
“During this time, we definitely need something to cheer us up, and I think Powell Cat served as that,” Seshadri said.
Sandbank said Powell Cat provides a beacon of comfort to students.
“I know that Powell Cat’s just a cat, but it makes campus a lot less scary when you know that there’s this cat that sees thousands of people every single day and can deal with it,” Sandbank said. “Some students are going to be afraid to even think about that, coming on to campus. So I think Powell Cat is there to say, ‘It’s going to be ok. If I can do it, you can do it.’”
Thiri Cynn, a fourth-year economics student and a member of the Powell Cat Feeder Friends, said seeing Powell Cat is a way to unwind.
“Powell Cat is … like a sense of security and stress relief,” Cynn said. “After long days of class or stress, I would just come see Powell Cat. (They’re) like a friend.”
Seshadri added that Powell Cat is a lovable part of UCLA’s school culture.
“(They’re) a cat,” Seshadri said. “What’s there not to love?”