Chicago has found a solution to its rat problem — 1,000 feral cats

Felines hunt rodents in neighbourhoods in return for food, shelter and care from residents

Louise Hall
Wednesday 12 May 2021 14:21
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A charity in Chicago has released hundreds of feral cats into neighbourhoods around the city in an attempt to conquer the area’s historic rat problems.

The Tree House Humane’s society’s “Cats at Work” programme has released more than 1,000 furry felines into residential or commercial settings to hunt the pesky rodents, WGN9 first reported.

Working cats hunt pests for the small fee of food, water, shelter, and wellness from their sponsors and often become “beloved members of the family,” the humane society says.

The organisation explains the hunters are feral cats who can’t live in a home or shelter environment. “By placing them in Cats at Work colonies, we’re able to make sure they’re living their best lives.”

The project is a “green” humane solution that removes sterilized and vaccinated feral cats from hostile environments and avoids the use of rat poison and dangerous traps.

According to Tree House, such chemical and mechanical methods are “ineffective short-term solutions” that can be “dangerous to children, pets and the environment.”

“We’ve had a lot of our clients tell us that before they had cats, they would step outside their house and rats would actually run across their feet,” Sarah Liss of Tree House Humane Society told WGN.

The cats’ mere presence in the neighbourhood alone repels the rodents, Ms Liss explained, spurring them to leave the predators’ territory.

“They are actually deterring them with their pheromones,” she told the broadcaster. “That’s enough to keep the rats away.”

While the cats will hunt and catch rodents on occasion, they won’t usually eat them as long as they are fed in line with the programme’s guidelines.

Chicago has long been infamous for its hard to tackle rat infestations, with the city having been named the “rattiest city” for six years in a row.

In 1977, a $1 bounty was offered for rats in the city as part of a “war on rats” after a borough official estimated that the rat population in one constituency outnumbered its 85,000 human population,The New York Times reported.

Now, residents are seeing a further spike in suburban rat populations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Forced closures of restaurants in urban areas cut off rodents’ food supplies and forced them to search further afield for sustenance, with many even resorting to cannibalism.

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