Chicago has a rat problem. We’re talking big rats, and lots of them. The solution? Chicago cats. Hundreds of feral cats have been put to work killing rats. Best of all, it’s a lifetime job with health benefits. Since its inception in 2012, the Cats at Work program run by Tree House Humane Society has placed more than 400 working cats in backyards, factories and warehouses around Chicago, according to the Scratching Post, an online newsletter published by the Tree House Humane Society.
All the working cats are spayed or neutered. They are also treated for parasites, vaccinated, and microchipped. “Volunteer caretakers humanely manage the cats for the entirety of their lives with ongoing support from Tree House.”
The program has been such a success, that National Public Radio featured it on All Things Considered. These aren’t cuddly kitties, but hardcore hunters, Victoria Thomas told NPR. “Oh my God, that one, that’s my killer out of the three,” said Thomas said, pointing to one of her cats as it ran across the backyard. “That one loves to hunt.” Thomas said her home and yard were over run with rats until she took advantage of the Cats at Work program.
Chicago resident Anne E. Beall had the same problem and found an old-school solution. Using feral cats to combat rats is less dangerous to children and pets than putting out rat poison, and it works much better, said Beall, who is a Community Cats Colony caretaker for Tree House Humane Society and author of a book about feral cats. “We struggled with rats for many years at our home. We did everything; called the city, put down poison and gassed their holes. Nothing worked. One night, a rat ran over my husband’s foot, and we decided that we’d had enough.”
Beall and her husband became caretakers of one of Tree House’s feral cat colonies and within a few weeks the rats disappeared. “It’s fabulous,” she said. “We love our colony cats.” Cats at Work helps feral cats by giving them a safe place to live.
Cats at Work is an offshoot of Tree House Community Cats, an award-winning no-kill shelter and rescue center. The Tree House Humane Society also runs a state of the art, low-cost spay and neuter clinic.