As Domino’s health declines, UT community’s love for him only grows stronger

Sasha Haynes, Life & Arts Reporter

Adored feline member of the UT community, Domino, stands as a tried and true symbol of on-campus unity. Often seen reclining outside the Flawn Academic Center, where he resides, many aspire to snag a Domino photo or pet his domino-like fur. 

Asian cultures and languages senior Tavina Singleton said she thinks of Domino as UT’s therapy animal and that he brings exponential value to campus life.  

“It’s a good thing (he’s) around because otherwise, we wouldn’t have those little sprinkles of light around campus that can make us feel better,” Singleton said. 

Now, after a flurry of social media concern, a trip to the vet and a professional diagnosis, Domino’s beloved presence on campus stands in the balance. Cats of West Campus cares for feral cats on and around campus, including Domino. Christina Huizar, a member of Cats of West Campus said Domino has both feline immunodeficiency virus and an upper respiratory infection. He will recuperate, for the time being, in a foster home. In his absence, staff, students and alumni said they will always think fondly of Domino and their interactions with the 13-year-old campus cat.

Maria Zoller, a senior academic program coordinator and frequent volunteer for the Austin Animal Center, said her favorite memory of Domino is when she cared for him on a cold winter day two years ago.

“He let me take some pictures of him without hiding,” Zoller said. “I ended up getting this really good picture of him where he was sticking his tongue out.”

After playing with Domino one afternoon outside the FAC, Singleton said Domino’s subtle demeanor piqued her interest and motivated her to seek out a feline companion. 

“I saw him and heard his meow, and it made me feel better,” Singleton said. “At that point, I hadn’t had the cat that I have now. That moment kind of stuck with me, and it inspired me to get another cat on my own here to take care of.”

Steven Morvant, a journalism and radio-television-film graduate, said he will always remember Domino relaxing in the sun and hopes his health improves. 

“He’s just part of our community, like a crossing guard,” Morvant said. “You see Mike every day. He’s very visible on campus. I think the same for Domino.”

According to a Feb. 18th Reddit post, while the Domino Council has yet to make an official decision, they may recommend Domino retire from on-campus living and be moved to indoor housing to preserve his health. 

“If living at somebody’s house makes more sense, and this person can work to rehabilitate Domino to (health) with FIV, then that’s a positive,” Morvant said.

Although Domino’s retirement may signify the loss of a UT icon, Zoller said she believes  Domino will fare best with his current caretakers.

“We are all huge Domino fans,” Zoller said. “Everybody that is involved wants the best possible outcome for him.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated March 31, 2022, with the following:

On March 22, the Cats of West Campus group announced on Facebook that Domino’s health is potentially in jeopardy. After a consultation with the veterinarian, the group said Domino now suffers from a lump in his throat, which hinders his breathing. While it remains unclear whether or not this lump can be treated, group members plan to seek additional medical treatment.

Public relations sophomore Anika Grendell said one of her first interactions with Domino included spotting him looking at political advertisements outside the FAC after she voted in the 2020 presidential election.

“It is really disheartening to hear that he’s going through this, and we might lose such a beloved UT mascot,” Grendell said.