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MIT student blogger Anthony R. '09

Meow by Anthony R. '09

Yes, you can have cats in some dorms.

I was reading one of Laura’s recent entries with a response to a commenter asking about cats. East Campus is one of the dorms with “cat floors” — floors which allow residents to have a cat — and Third East is one of them. Before I go on, “hall” means “floor” — if I ever use one or the other, now you know. :)

We’ve got five cats at present — Dr. Popular, Harley, Nixon, Voight and Saber. We had one last year named Lucca who moved out with her graduating owner, and another named Ferris who had to be put to sleep for a variety of reasons. Dr. Popular is the most skittish, pathologically afraid cat I’ve ever seen. Harley never comes out from under Hannah’s bed, Nixon sheds a lot of goldish-orange fur, Voight meows to himself in this gravelly, rolling manner as he wanders the hall, and Saber is brand new to hall, having arrived in a kennel on Delta Airlines from a place called “TerrificPets.Com” (I’m not joking).

At East Campus, only about half of the floors are designated cat floors — this allows folks with allergies to make necessary arrangements. Since we have five now, the hall chairs (a couple of hall residents who are the liaisons to house management and the administration) have asked for people to tell them before getting any more cats. I think other halls have had more at one time — didn’t 5E have seven not that long ago? — but it’s probably a good idea to have some sort of internal control. People have just been getting new cats as they feel like it.

They’re a lot of fun to have around, and when they do something you don’t like, it’s hard to get angry at them because… they’re just cats. I’d never had a pet before, so I was completely clueless about what they were like on a daily basis before I moved in. Individual residents keep their own cats fed and watered and groomed, but they usually let them roam the halls all day, with their doors ajar to allow for ingress and egress at will. Here are some anecdotes from the past year.

* Lucca had this creepy habit of surprising you on the throne by walking under the bathroom stall when you’re inside. Not that I really care about a cat watching me attend to my business, but there’s this eerie feeling when she’s just sitting there and perhaps jumping onto the windowsill to get a better view.

* Dr. Popular can make every noise possible *except* what you’d expect from a cat. Dolphin is his favorite, with this pathetic, oscillating cry several octaves beyond what Mother Nature intended. He can turn the dolphin into a growling bear, a ghost, or a woodpecker, or all four for the “haunted house” effect. What’s best is you can stand there across from him and make the same noises back (I’m good at this), engaging him in a dolphin-meowing match for half an hour. He thinks he can outdolphin me, but to date he hasn’t. Usually he just runs halfway down the hall at 45MPH, stopping to look back at me to make sure I haven’t caught up to him yet.

* Dr. Popular is the cutest cat you’ve ever seen. Black with white paws. Problem is, when you pick him up, your shirt turns black also. Cat hair is impossible to quickly pick off of clothing.

* All cats love strings, ropes, cords, twine, keys, and oh yes — catnip. Especially catnip ordered fresh from the Garden of Ebay. Note to all who may follow: cats know no discretion when it comes to catnip. A large pile found its way into a corner of the hall, was swiftly consumed in full by an indulgent cat, and was equally swiftly turned into vomit in a resident’s closet. (The cat was fine.)

* Lucca’s litterbox, which sits in the closet right next to the door, never got emptied. Walking to your room shouldn’t involve suffocation from the worst smell known to man. It got really bad in the summer with no air conditioning and record temperatures, with the humidity turning said waste into something especially foul. No wonder the cat was always hanging out elsewhere on hall…

* Always look under your bed and around your room before closing your door and retiring for the night. Otherwise, it might be a Saturday morning at 8:00 when a cat starts walking over your face because he/she needs to get out.

* Besides having no clean place to poop, Lucca also had some digestive health problems. Guys, it’s important to take care of your pets if you’re going to have one. This poor kitty was leaving grey trails of Meow Mix all over the Walcott carpet, and the (yes, grey) stains continue to beckon today. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression from Lucca. All of the other cats have been kept well, and their owners have been pretty responsible.

* Either don’t leave your door open all day, or get used to finding your socks strewn about the hallway. :P

* Voight is a short-haired cat, making him a great candidate for picking up. He won’t shed anything on you! It’s immensely amusing to watch him walk up and down the hall, chattermeowing under his breath about all sorts of things (fish? catnip? bunnies?). We all thought he just had a very quiet voice, because even if he’s displeased, he’ll just softly grumble…

* When you’re really hosed, the cats will release some endearing kind of pheromone that instantly destresses you and turns you into a little kid playing with them, running after them, and basically finding every excuse to ignore your work until it’s way too late to get a reasonable amount of sleep. The cats then taunt you, bragging that they get to sleep all day and stare out the window.

* Ferris had a behavior problem in his old age. When Hannah was out of town for IAP, this ferocious feline would go into Mark’s room (home to Dr. Popular, the other male cat at that time) and pee all over. This happened about six or seven times, soaking Mark’s jeans, floor, mattress, sheets and bed — yes, once when he was in it. It was funny to everyone but Mark, who sounded like a broken record emailing the hall with all kinds of displeasure and directives to keep Ferris locked up and away from his linens. I put a few condolence cards on Ferris’ door expressing my wishes that he recover successfully. I think the cards said “Sorry About Your Accident…” (yeah they were actually commercially produced), and each time he soaked something, I’d tape up another one.

* Don’t go into a bathroom late at night with the lights off. A cat could be sleeping in one of the stalls, and you just might accidentally step on him, creating the loudest, most shrill “YEOWWWWWWW!” ever. I speak from experience — it scared me just as much as I must have scared him.

* That said, some of the cats do the funniest things when startled. One suddenly jumps about a foot in the air, and another runs down the hall as if summoned by a wailing air raid siren. It’s funny when someone is standing halfway down the hall, sees this cat darting past, and wonders what the heck is going on.

* When you see a cat heading for the stairwell door or fire escape, grab it. It probably doesn’t know any better.

Any special questions about having cats in the dorm? EC is pretty informal in that you can keep other pets too if they stay in your room and don’t cause any problems. One girl has a bunny rabbit (the cutest thing ever with big floppy ears and a generous pounce), and I think a couple others have fish.

21 responses to “Meow”

  1. Anonymous says:

    How can you forget about reuse, our little furry fish….

  2. Anna says:

    i’ll definitinety move to your hall next year.. can’t live without cats smile

  3. Josh says:

    Awesome anecdotes. I’ve been living without a cat for two years and its pretty depressing.

    Are freshman able to choose to dorm in a cat floor (or really have any choice of where they dorm, for that matter?)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I love all animals but cats… common, their so wierd. I now know not to live in one of those dorms. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. which hall was nietzsche on, again? he’s senior haus innit he?

  6. John says:

    omg i love cats!!!!!!!!!!1

  7. Anonymous says:

    nietzche is on 5th east

  8. Karen says:

    Thanks for answering my question! (I think it was mine you saw.) I’m still amazed that people at MIT actually take the time to answer my questions, no matter how small. You covered everything I was wondering, and then some. You should totally get a raise.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “Not that I really care about a cat watching me attend to my business”…

    So…you’re a “business” major???


  10. Anonymous says:

    “Are freshman able to choose to dorm in a cat floor (or really have any choice of where they dorm, for that matter?)”

    Apparently in-house rush gives older students the final say over new student housing assignments (see here and the Johnny example), so if they think you’re too shy or too ugly or whatever they can deliberately put you in a non-cat floor after seeing that you want a cat floor.

  11. Anthony says:

    So many anonymous posters… you have my identity but refuse to reveal yours. smile

    To the in-house rush naysayer: that isn’t quite true. I think there are five cat floors and if you really want to be on a cat floor, the chance is pretty high you can get one. Cat floor vs no-cat floor isn’t something the hall rush people would really be concerned with “fixing”.

  12. Laura says:

    Awesome! I don’t think my sister stayed in one though. Do you know anything about dogs?

  13. Anonymous says:

    “I think there are five cat floors and if you really want to be on a cat floor, the chance is pretty high you can get one.”

    Even if the majorities of upperclassmen on the cat floors like enough other East Campus freshmen more than they like you?

    “Cat floor vs no-cat floor isn’t something the hall rush people would really be concerned with ‘fixing’.”

    Several years ago I heard a MacGregor upperclassman get angry during rush week about another upperclassman transferring dorms. The complainer didn’t want to fix any entry variables, he just thought the people who own MacGregor shouldn’t have allowed someone to move into that empty room of theirs without giving him a chance to meet and rate the new tenant first.

  14. Yes, I’m a cat supporter. (See posted name.) But I’m so glad that you have cat floors! So many of the colleges I’m looking at are cruel and heartless and…don’t. Sad Chatte! Yet another reason to go with MIT…

  15. Anthony says:

    (still) anonymous: How obnoxious does a person have to be to annoy five floors? Is that what you’re asking? raspberry

  16. Anthony says:

    Well, I’m pretty sure they bark. wink

  17. Drew says:

    Maybe things are different at other dorms, but I’m pretty sure if you request a cat/non-cat or smoking/non-smoking hall, they’re just about required to give you one (though it may not be your first choice). If I remember correctly, one of the halls has a couple vacancies since of the people who ranked it near the top, only a couple were willing to live on a smoking hall.

  18. ntn says:

    Different dorms handle hall rush in different ways. For example, at Random, it’s done by lottery. All the frosh pick numbers out of a hat, and then it’s “who has #1–pick a room” and so on.

    It’s a little more complicated, because the first person in a double can “pull in” someone they want to room with (mutually), but it’s not the upperclassmen’s choice.

  19. Ana says:

    Cats?! I happen to be pro-cat myself. MIT never fails to suprise me.

  20. Christina says:

    For the record: Fifth East currently has NINE cats.

    It’s pretty ridiculous