Chicago Releases Feral Cats On City Streets To Tackle Explosion In Rat Population
Close up of two pet fancy rats, one white and silver, one dark brown and white, looking through bars of their cage.
Arathrael Photography/Getty Images

Windy City? More like Ratty City.

Every year for the last six years, the city of Chicago has been named the rattiest in America, according to a report from a local TV station.

“In an unprecedented year, the visibility of rodents has increased, creating concern for homeowners and business owners alike. As reported in the Spring, the pandemic-driven closure of restaurants forced rodents to find new food sources,” said the Orkin pest control company, which puts together the annual ranking. “Without food waste to consume, these pests were seen scavenging new areas and exhibiting unusual or aggressive behavior. The presence of rodents became so relevant that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Rodent Control guidance on ways to keep rats and mice out of homes and businesses. ”

But a city animal shelter has an answer: Feral cats — feral cats everywhere.

The Tree House Humane Society has been releasing feral cats into regions with bad rat problems. “Feral cats, and especially feral cats without safe habitats, have frequently been overlooked in the past, often resulting in long stays at animal control or even euthanasia. Our Community Cats and Cats at Work programs help us save cats in every environment,” the shelter says on its website.

“After humanely capturing the feral cats, the humane society spays or neuters the animals and places them into residential and commercial settings with rodent infestations to act as an environmentally friendly rodent control,” WGN News reported.

The Society says it uses only rescued cats that would not do well in a home after being adopted or cannot rejoin their former colonies.

“After trapping and neutering a Community Cat, there are times when those cats cannot be reintegrated into their former colonies. This can be for a variety of reasons, including their former location being demolished (as in the case of cats living in abandoned buildings,) dangerous locations, etc. It is for these special cases that Tree House created the Cats at Work program,” the Society says.

“Cats are placed two or three at a time into residential or commercial settings in order to provide environmentally friendly rodent control. Property and business owners provide food, water, shelter, and wellness to the cats who work for them. In most cases, our Cats at Work become beloved members of the family or team and some even have their own Instagram pages!” the shelter says on its website.

According to WGN News, the Society has put more than 1,000 feral cats onto Chicago streets since 2012. “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 don’t even need to catch and kill rats, the Society says. “They are actually deterring them with their pheromones,” Liss told WGN. “That’s enough to keep the rats away.”

There also isn’t worry about disease, the shelter says. “Our Cats at Work cats are feral cats who have already gone through the trap/neuter/return process and are vaccinated against diseases like rabies.”

The title of this article has been revised for clarity. The Tree House Humane Society has released more than 1,000 feral cats since 2012. 

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