Students find hands-on training invaluable
RIVER FALLS – UW-River Falls senior Roxana Cridelich was not originally a cat person when she started taking part in Falcon Felines. However, after one semester under her belt, she can now say that’s changed. This would explain the bittersweetness of seeing the program’s last cat adopted this past weekend.
Montello native and animal science/companion animal management major Cridelich began working with Falcon Felines as part of the capstone class Animal Science 421 Advanced Canine and Feline Care & Management. The program, which is a collaboration with Dunn County Humane Society (a no-kill shelter), opened in October 2021 and became fully operational in Spring 2022. The point of the program was to help the humane society find homes for its cats.
The cat colony at UWRF provided services for up to five cats at a time, Cridelich said. Students kept the shelter area, which was located in Hagestad Hall, clean and fed and gave them medication. The initial funding for the program came from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Capacity Building Grant that Associate Professor Beth Rausch received.
Students were able to get hands-on experience monitoring the cats’ behavioral and physical health. They also used social media to help promote adoptions, which were conducted through the Dunn County Humane Society. Students were divided into teams, each focusing on a different aspect of running Falcon Felines: Cleaning, adoption, physical and behavioral, and social media.
Cridelich began working with Falcon Felines at the end of August. Set to graduate in the spring, she hopes to work in the animal training field or in a shelter.
“I want to take the things I’ve learned in this major and apply them,” she said.
The on-campus program is taking a hiatus as Hagestad Hall will be demolished in Summer 2023 to make way for the new Sci Tech building. University officials are working to find Falcon Felines a new home on campus. As such, students were working to find homes for the five cats housed at Hagestad last week. This past weekend, Danika, the last cat, found her forever home.
“We would love for her (Danika) to go to a home, or she will go to Dunn County’s no-kill shelter,” Cridelich said last week. “We don’t want to revert her behavior.”
Good news is that Cridelich’s wish came true.
“We will be fully closed for the rest of the semester and in the spring,” Cridelich said. “The university is working toward finding a new home for the program.”
The students value Falcon Felines because it’s one of only two-hands on opportunities for the companion animal management major.
“It’s super valuable to take the things I learn in this class and apply it to taking care of cats,” Cridelich said. “I’ve learned more people skills, along with so many other students who are doing the same. I want the program preserved for the future students too. It potentially sets it apart from other campuses, for students who don’t have this opportunity.”
Cridelich said community feedback has been positive, especially since companion animals are growing in popularity.
“It should be one of the opportunities that will be preserved and protected on campus so we can have better connections in our field,” Cridelich continued. “I met friends in this room where I could make those connections.”