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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Beloved UF cat Tenders returns home after brief campus ‘cat-napping’

The stray was removed from UF’s Tolbert Area Wednesday

<p>Tenders, one of UF’s campus cats, gazes upward as she sits on a table in the Tolbert Area.</p>

Tenders, one of UF’s campus cats, gazes upward as she sits on a table in the Tolbert Area.

Tenders, the famed brown and white tabby who takes shelter at the UF Tolbert Area, returned home safe after being found four miles away at Cabana Bay apartments Thursday. 

At 1:56 p.m. Thursday, she was retrieved by Emma Van Riper, a 21-year-old UF political science junior; Eden Kershner, a 20-year-old UF materials science and engineering sophomore; and Dr. Tina Tallon, a UF College of the Arts professor. 

After searching the wilderness surrounding the apartment complex, the three eventually found Tenders by contacting the apartment’s front desk. A resident had taken in and notified the apartment of a stray cat she found wandering the apartment’s premises the night prior. 

To the luck of her rescuers, that cat was Tenders.

Ines Aviles-Spadoni, a research coordinator at UF who’s behind the Instagram account Campuskittiesfl, became aware of the matter Thursday morning after receiving two messages from concerned individuals.

She then began spreading the word to other people involved in the campus cat community. Along with a YikYak post imploring students to check on Tenders, word began to circulate about the cat’s unknown whereabouts. 

Because Tenders has no owner, Aviles-Spadoni said she can’t report the incident to local authorities.

“[Tenders] could be very confused,” Aviles-Spadoni said. “She could’ve been killed because she was in a place she didn’t know. She’s used to UF. Trying to get home she could’ve gotten run over.”

UF assistant professor Tina Tallon immediately drove to the apartment complex after hearing the news of Tenders’ disappearance. 

The search hit close to home. Last year, she adopted a campus cat from the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering area named Willy, after finding out he needed medical attention and was suitable to be an indoor cat. The adoption process was not a quick one — relocating community cats can be extremely dangerous, she said. 

“When I adopted Willy I did so after long conversations with Ines,” Tallon said. “I took many measures to help him transition to being indoors as it can be incredibly stressful for cats who’ve lived their entire lives outside.” 

Emma Van Riper, another one of Tender’s rescuers, said the cat seemed to be unshaken by the incident — besides a few ‘meows’ expressed on the car ride home.

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“She seemed confused but not distressed,” Van Riper said. “She is incredibly sweet and trusting because of how many people she interacts with on a daily basis.” 

Devon Limcangco, a 23-year-old UF electrical engineering senior, runs the Instagram account Gatorcats. 

As the self-proclaimed spokesperson for campus cats, Limcango updates followers on vet visits, safety during hurricanes and other day-to-day kitty activities. 

She said she was alarmed to hear Tenders had been missing from the Tolbert Area, which has been her home for about seven years. 

“If someone was that concerned with caring for her or taking care of her for her own health,” Limcango said, “they would have safely put her in the carrier.”

While she was missing, many concerned UF students, faculty and alumni took to social media to repost.  

“I know a lot of other students at the University of Florida love her,” Limcango said. “She's sort of like our mascot. She’s everyone's emotional support pet.”

Eddie Penney, a 21-year-old UF anthropology senior, discovered Tenders was missing through Instagram. While living near the Tolbert Area Summer 2021, he said he would pass by her every day on his return to his dorm from class. 

“She was always so friendly and sweet,” Penney said. “It was free therapy for me.”

Community cats can be identified by a clipped left ear tip that shows they have been trap-neuter-returned, according to the cat advocacy group, Alley Cat Allies. This is a method that manages populations of feral cats by live-trapping, neutering, clipping an ear for identification then releasing them. 

Contact Bonny Matejowsky at Follow her on X @bonnymatejowsky.

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Bonny Matejowsky

Bonny Matejowsky is a fourth-year journalism major and editor of The Avenue. When she’s not writing, you can find her delicately crafting a Pinterest board or at a local thrift store.

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