Chicago Shelter Releases 1,000 Feral Cats to Tackle City’s Rats

Chicago Shelter Releases 1,000 Feral Cats to Tackle City's Rats cat sits on concrete (Dreamstime)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Wednesday, 12 May 2021 07:14 AM

One of Chicago's animal shelters is using some of the feral cats it catches to help tackle the city's rat problems.

The Tree House Humane Society has released more than 1,000 feral cats onto Chicago's streets since 2012 in an environmentally beneficial way to fight the rodents, reports WGN 9.

The city has ranked as number one on pest control company Orkin's list of the "rattiest cities" in the United States, based on the numbers of new rat treatments performed for residential and commercial clients, but businesses and property owners say the cats are helping control their rat problems.

The humane society humanely traps feral cats and spays or neuters them. Rescued cats that can't thrive in a home or shelter environment or for one reason or another can't be placed back into their former cat colonies are used in the agency's Cats at Work program.

Property and business owners apply for approval to get a working cat and after that, they're responsible for the animal's well-being, including food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

"In most cases, our Cats at Work become beloved members of the family or team," with some even ending up with their own Instagram pages, the shelter says on its website about the program.

"Cats are placed two or three at a time into residential or commercial settings in order to provide environmentally friendly rodent control," according to a fact sheet. "Caretakers humanely manage the cats for the entirety of their lives with ongoing support from Tree House, as mandated by Cook County’s '2007 Managed Care of Feral Cats Ordinance.' The cats’ presence alone repels rodents, causing them to leave the cats’ new territory. Cats will also hunt and catch rodents on occasion, but when they are fed regularly (as mandated by the program), they usually won’t eat them."

Cats work better than other common methods such as poison, gassing, or traps, the Humane Society reports, because working cats are "natural predators" that provide a "reliable, permanent solution and a win-win situation for both humans and cats."

"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 9.

Even while the cats hunt and catch rodents, their presence there alone deters the rodents because of their pheromones, according to Liss, which is "enough to keep the rats away."