A Chicago animal shelter has found a solution to the city's rat problem.
Since 2012, the Tree House Humane Society has released 1,000 feral cats into Chicago's streets as part of its Cats at Work program. After humanely capturing the feral felines, the rescue spays/neuters the cats and then releases them back outside to serve as environmentally friendly rodent control — and stray cat population control.
The program is a welcomed solution to Chicago's rodent issue, as the Illinois city recently topped Orkin's list of the "rattiest cities" in the U.S. for the sixth consecutive time, based on the fact that Chicago had the most rodent pest treatments in the past year.
"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 told Chicago's WGN 9.
According to the Tree House website, the rescue places two or three neutered/spayed cats at a time into residential and commercial settings experiencing rat problems. Only felines who cannot thrive in a home environment, or cannot be reintegrated into their feral cat colonies, are part of the Cats at Work program that provides rodent control. After getting approved for a working cat, property and business owners are responsible for providing food, water, shelter, and wellness for the cats they employ to combat rats.
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"In most cases, our Cats at Work become beloved members of the family or team and some even have their own Instagram pages!" the website states.
Liss explained that although the cats don't typically eat many rats, they will usually kill a few when they first arrive in their new environment. After this, the rats tend to avoid the cat's area.
"They are actually deterring them with their pheromones. That's enough to keep the rats away," she said.