Cats in the Cradle at VHS


ag class teacher with cats
Dr. Noreen (Noni) Heikes holds Midnight, one of the cats her students have adopted.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg High School’s Agriculture Building had a mouse problem.

The school’s veterinary science instructor, Dr. Noreen Heikes had a solution. “We thought about having our rescue contact, Sarah Gerstner with Animal’s Best Friend Fund, find us a cat to foster. That way, we could avoid the issue of caring for the cat over the summer; he could go back to the rescue if not adopted.”

Last fall, Heikes and her teaching colleague, Michelle Guthrie, accepted a litter of three half-grown cats. They had been caught by Van Buren County Animal Control, but were considered unadoptable as they were not used to humans and likely were too old to become truly tame.

It turned out that it wasn’t too late to calm the cats down with tender loving care from students at Vicksburg High School.

“The students’ behavior problems also seemed to be mitigated, through the care and petting they took with the cat(s). We soon had more cats to foster, and will soon have placed twenty cats in their forever homes.”

Students in her class were taught how to handle the cats safely, care for them and maintain strict hygiene. They started getting them out and holding them all the time, Heikes reported. Other students at the high school began to come to hold and pet the cats.

Now they are highly adoptable. They have had donations for food and litter, and now have a special animal cage for the cats that allows them to climb, play, and tolerate each other.

“It’s hard to tell if the kids were saving the cats or the cats saving the kids,” she said.

At Christmas break, all the cats went home with students who had parental consent. Several were adopted and didn’t come back.

“We still have the mouse problem,” Heikes admitted.

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