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Inky The One-Eyed Therapy Cat

So cute.

So cute.

Last semester, Barnard announced a “Support Animal Policy” which allows students to keep a domestic animal in their dorms to provide them with therapeutic support. Bwog spoke to Kelsey Kephart, BC’14, about life with her adorable kitty, Inky.

Bwog: What was the process of getting a therapy cat like?

Kelsey: I thought it would be a lot more intense.  It was strange because the wording [of the policy] was just that “someone who has authority” [had to recommend a therapy animal]. My doctor just wrote a letter saying “this is a pretty good idea” to Barnard. Then I had to get the cat’s vaccination records. I handed those in to the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Three weeks later, ODS told me I was approved. Then my suitemates had to be interviewed, to make sure they weren’t lying about wanting the cat. And that was it.

Bwog: What about housing?

Kelsey: I had a meeting with my RA and building’s assistant director, Frank. The way Barnard handled it was very funny. They keep telling you “don’t worry, we won’t tell anybody.” I mean, to be at Barnard/Columbia you basically need to have some kind of anxiety. And how many things could you be getting a therapy cat for? You don’t like the color purple or something? But that’s it. ODS told Frank that we went over the policy, made sure that I understood that I was the cat’s owner, I needed to clean the litter box, feed it, not kill it. Frank’s job was then to tell the building administrator and Public Safety.

Bwog: Sounds pretty easy.

Kelsey: It was pretty easy. It’s nice. Apparently I’m the only one at Barnard with a cat. Dogs are more popular at Barnard and cats are more popular over at Columbia.

Bwog: Tell me about your cat. What’s her name?

Kelsey: Her name is Inky. Originally her name was Becky. I don’t like cats with nicknames. If her name was Rebecca, it would’ve been fine, but it wasn’t. She does respond to it; if you call her name, she’ll come running. Inky and Becky sort of have the same intonation, so it works. She’s also jet black. I can’t find her at night.

Bwog: Is she friendly?

She’s aggressively friendly. She’ll wrap her tail around your leg. I trip over her all the time, she’s stupid friendly. I don’t know why, she was horrifically abused. I work at a cat shelter. This old woman had gotten her from Petco, because Inky was born with one eye, and the woman was afraid no one would want her and she’d be killed. When her owner passed away, about two years ago, her son kept her two cats in her apartment. They became feral because he never interacted with them. And when my colleague at the pet shelter came to rescue her, the guy just picked Inky up and threw her into a box. She wouldn’t come near him. And she’s very affectionate. So, that’s how she came to be.

Bwog: What’s the best part of having a therapy cat?

Kelsey: Umm, having a cat? She sits on my face, she likes her belly rubbed. It’s pretty great.

Bwog: What’s the worst part?

Kelsey: There is no worst part. I worked at a cat shelter, I was used to cleaning up after 30 cats, and that was not a big deal. This is just one cat.

Bwog: What do your roommates and friends think? Are they delighted? Are they jealous?

Kelsey: When I told them, I felt like a mother: “it’s not a guaranteed thing.” I think they’re pretty excited. I gave them free rein to come into my room and see her whenever they want. I’ll come in sometimes and there will be two girls I don’t know on the floor, playing with Inky. But it’s fine.

Bwog: I want a therapy cat.

Kelsey: Get one. It’s really easy.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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  • wait says:

    @wait What building does she live in? Is it for all of Barnard housing? I want one.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous @wait: I don’t think it matters where you live, I’m pretty sure anyone at Barnard can get a therapy cat :)

  • waittttt says:

    @waittttt how do i get a puppy at columbia

  • hmmmmmm says:

    @hmmmmmm this makes me really uncomfortable as a person who struggles with mental illness. i feel like this bwog post is (and a lot of people are) totally ignoring the fact that mental health issues are a super serious thing. like, getting a therapeutic service animal shouldn’t just be about having a pet around, it should be a service for people who need help with mental health issues that can be super debilitating for them. like, there’s nothing fun and cute about dealing with anxiety/depression/etc. on a daily basis and this post feels like it’s playing into a huge problem at columbia of not talking about mental health and skirting around these major problems.

    1. Maud says:

      @Maud I’m sorry you see it like that. When I asked to speak with Kelsey about her cat, I wanted to be sensitive to the fact that, as you say, mental health issues are a super serious thing. However, she reminded me that, while anxiety is serious, we don’t need to treat people who suffer from it like they have a big, sad, secret. Instead we can acknowledge that it’s something lots of us deal with, and that there are policies that exist at Barnard/Columbia to help us. And cats to help us, too. The purpose of this post was to share kitty cuteness with our readers, and to spread awareness about how easy/great it is to get a therapy pet to help you with any mental health issues you might be dealing with.

    2. okay but says:

      @okay but not everyone who struggles with mental illness is going to be bettered by a therapy animal? I think this post just wanted to talk to someone who has one to see how she’s dealing with it, rather than “you have have pets now, go forth good Columbians!” It’s a little invasive to grill her about her situation mentally when they want to know about the cat.

      Plus when is bwog ever serious?

      1. Jennifer says:

        @Jennifer Yes, you are correct. Not everyone with anxiety issues will be helped by owning an companion animal. However, studies have shown that this greatly aids in alleviating symptoms in depression as well as anxiety. I say, good for Barnard and Columbia.

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous I think the point is that no one wants to see mental illness exploited.

  • Rebeka says:

    @Rebeka ONE-EYED CATS ARE THE BEST! (No, but seriously, my family has now had two. <3)

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous hey you got two eyes on cats somehow!

  • I kind of agree says:

    @I kind of agree I did a double take at the line about how everybody at Columbia/Barnard must have anxiety. It sounded ironically funny at first, but it’s really not something to joke about. Mental health issues are not the same across the board, and to make a generalization that “everyone basically has it” is not only contributing to the problem, it’s kind of damaging.

    1. get real. says:

      @get real. You did a double take? Look how sensitive you are.

      As someone who has cared (and still cares) deeply about another person with a serious anxiety issue, I’m really thrilled to see this program getting some press. I’m sure not EVERYONE will benefit from a support animal, in much the same way that not EVERYONE will benefit from SSRIs, but bringing either of those options up (not to mention any number that also exist) in a conversational, everyday tone, only helps the national dialogue on the subject, not damage it.

      Seriously, get your head out of your ass.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I think you misunderstood the comment. I wasn’t referring to the program, and I’m sure there are people who would benefit from the options you’ve mentioned. I was talking about the idea that to be at Columbia, you basically need to have some kind of anxiety. It was a joke, and it was meant to be funny. It’s not really funny, because you can’t lump everybody’s difficulties into one category. You do not know what people’s circumstances are like, individually. It’s dangerous to make that kind of generalization, the same way that it is uncomfortable to watch a play under-research its subject of sexual abuse.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous The difference between the joke and your poorly researched sexual assault comparison (is there a name for Godwin’s law via sex crime analogy?) is that the student here made a joke that normalises a relatively common mental health issue,without stigmatising it or making it seem like something shameful. I think you’re reading too much into a benign comment, and frankly, looking for controversy where there isn’t any.

      Sexual abuse, please. Get real.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous If you’re up to date with any of the things going on at CU lately, you’ll see that the sexual abuse comparison is a deliberate reference to a current event. Godwin’s doesn’t really apply because the topic wasn’t chosen to be randomly provocative.

        As you may know, a recent student written play revolved around prison inmates trying to escape their doctor who sexually abused them. This was a problematic piece because students wrote a very uninformed play about heavy material. I would say making generalizations about health issues is pretty relevant to campus right now. So yes, normalizing mental health problems, which are not as relatively common and simple as you’ve suggested, is an issue.

  • Anonymous says:


  • CC gal says:

    @CC gal I’ve always wanted to have a black cat named Inky! Kelsey, your kitty is so cute!

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