Her name is Fräulein Sinner. This tabby-and-white girl should, in theory, be expert in fields such as child care, environmental issues, languages, democratic social networks, and artists’ roles in political change.
Why? Well, when biologists, educational specialists, or sociopolitical researchers at Hildesheim University in Germany are teaching, this campus cat will roam the hallways and join the human students. Her favorite place? The cozy armchair in front of lecture hall three, where she secretly learns and listens to everything that is being taught.
But nobody really knows whether during 13 years at the university she has gained the aforementioned knowledge, because, well, she has taken no exams.
“Technically, she is the most clever cat in the world, because she loves hanging out in seminar rooms,” says Annedoris Bruns, secretary at the Institute of Pedagogy at Hildesheim University.
The University of Hildesheim in Northern Germany has had a campus cat since January 2002. Back then, administrator Monika Sinner found a homeless, skinny, and injured cat who liked to linger around the warm air from the vents that flowed through the university library at night. The cat is named for Monika Sinner, whose last name, in German has nothing in common with the English word “sinner.”
All attempts to settle her into a shelter or a home with a family failed. Fräulein Sinner kept returning to the main campus of the university, and she has been a long-term student there ever since. Monika Sinner saw that the cat was very shy and wary at first, whereas today she is almost an attention seeker and loves being at the center of the action. She has a team of researchers (even one with a cat allergy) looking after her, to make sure her food bowl is always full — she has at least three feeding spots.
Various others contribute to the care of Fräulein Sinner, including biology professor Uwe Kierdorf and Ph.D student Margarethe Becker. The latter says the cat chose the university, and not vice versa.
“This kitty is really unique. The first ‘person’ when I initially came to the campus for my interview was Fräulein Sinner,” she says. “Wherever you find students studying, this cat is never far away from them.”
The main campus consists of various buildings connected by doors, so whenever Fräulein Sinner wants to go outside, she depends on humans. But who wouldn’t love to open the door for an “old lady?” At Hildesheim, everyone has taken her into their hearts.
Catster caught up with Isa Lange, who was a student and is now an office administrator at the university.
Barbarella Buchner for Catster: Is Fräulein Sinner considered to be the university’s mascot?
Isa Lange: She chose this place as her home, so we don’t really see her as a mascot, but she surely brings a lot of joy into many people’s lives here. There are so many serious subjects that occupy our minds, and when this kitty flits past us on our way to the office or a lecture, she always puts a smile on our faces and spreads good vibes with her purrs and affection.
Hildesheim is only a small university (about 7,500 students) and most people know one another. This feeling of “community” also reflects on how people treat the cat. Many students and teachers here love sharing their daily lives with Fräulein Sinner, and everybody is really gentle and considerate with her — otherwise she probably wouldn’t be here anymore.
A seminar called “animal-assisted education” was offered for the summer semester this year. This is still a very new and unexplored field of practice, but it teaches students the benefits of using animals at day care centers, youth centers, and schools, for example, with regard to the assumption of responsibility and mutual respect. Fräulein Sinner acts as a kind of muse for people studying this course.
What is Fräulein Sinner like, character-wise? Is she cute and cuddly or grumpy and independent?
At first, our campus cat was very shy and suspicious of people but now has become trusting and friendly. She takes part in lectures and lets students cuddle her while she struts around underneath their chairs. I think she really likes the young people here at the university. When she wants some peace and quiet, she disappears a few meters away and rests on one of the comfy blue chairs next to the lecture hall.
Also, she is intelligent. Very intelligent, I presume. Nobody has yet studied her to find out how high her cat IQ is, but she knows how to silently manipulate students and researchers to not just simply walk past her, but to open doors for her wherever she goes.
How does Fräulein Sinner react when someone brings a dog onto the campus?
She doesn’t like dogs at all. She will either run away or quickly hide somewhere.
After various attempts to home this cat, why do you think Fräulein Sinner always comes back to the university? Wouldn’t it be better for her to live with a nice family?
We have tried very hard to find a family to take her in, but every time, she made her way back here. We just have to face the fact that this cat has chosen this place as her permanent home, where she lives, hunts, sleeps … and studies.
About the Author: Barbarella Buchner — Ailurophile. Geeky Goth Girl. Ex-Musician Singer/Songwriter. Photographer. Web Designer. Fibromyalgia + RA Sufferer. And totally mad. She originally hails from Hannover (Germany), then moved to London, and since 2004 has lived on the tropical island of Lanzarote, together with her tabby twins Lugosi & Spider, and ginger queen Ruby Akasha. She is a photographer, and she works as a freelance web and graphic designer and occasional Catster/Dogster contributor.