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Feral Cats Are Being Employed As Guards To Save Shelter Animals’ Lives

on July 19, 2017
Posted in Cats

Animal rescue organizations are testing out a new way to keep feral cats from being put down: putting them to work.

One such worker can be found at a warehouse owned by the Los Angeles Distributing Company that stores food and beverages. His name is Black Cat, and his job is to scare away rodents that have been known to steal packaged snacks. The company hasn’t had any issues with rats or mice since Black Cat came on board because rodents are naturally repelled by just the scent of a cat.

Black Cat, who is technically known as not a pet but a “working cat,” was supplied through a program founded by the Best Friends Animal Society, a “no-kill” shelter based in Kanab, Utah. Last March, Best Friends revealed that it is spearheading a collective effort from US shelters to end unnecessary pet euthanasia, which mainly involves shelter animals who are put to death solely because of insufficient space and resources.

“We’re guided by a desire to make this a country where that doesn’t happen anymore,” Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle told USA Today.

Since starting the working cat program last year, Best Friends has given 75 neutered, feral cats to businesses with pest problems. The jobs saved the cats from potential euthanasia, which is even performed on animals in perfect health. Approximately 860,000 cats and 670,000 dogs are reportedly put to death every year.

But those numbers are reportedly poised to decrease, partially because Best Friends’ idea has inspired rescue organizations in several states to start up working cats programs of their own.

In St. Paul, for example, the Animal Humane Society’s Barn and Business Cat program has found jobs for 336 cats throughout the past two and a half years. Baltimore’s Animal Rescue and Care Shelter has a similar initiative which, since December of last year, has placed 54 cats in warehouses, farms, breweries and vineyards.

Many of these cats were too accustomed to their feral lifestyle to make good pets or live indoors. The majority of Best Friends’ cats are initially very fearful of humans but constant care and medical attention teaches them the socialization skills they need to be adopted.

In some cities, working cat programs are among the only ways to save shelter animals from euthanasia because they lack programs that vaccinate, neuter and release feral cats. These programs prevent cats from reproducing and worsening animal overpopulation but, depending on the area, are either prohibited by law or extremely difficult to maintain.

“There has to be a place in society for these cats,” says Melya Kaplan, the founder of the Voice For The Animals Foundation in Los Angeles. “They have no other option.”

After all, the main reasons feral cats are viewed as problematic for communities are their tendencies to reproduce or spread disease. It seems that the only notable difference between Working Cats and the aforementioned feral cats who have been re-released is that the former are released into a somewhat-contained environment.

The success of Working Cats makes sense considering they are employed by the same businesses who chose not to dispose of their pests via inhumane or dangerous methods. California’s Brittany Sorgenstein, for example, currently employs two cats to repel rodents who would eat the food she stores for the turkeys, goats and rabbits she raises on a farm.

She could have used rat traps or poison but felt there had to be a less murderous way to end her troubles. Her two cats, Bonnie and Clyde, have been proving her right since May of last year.

Read also: Nationwide Initiative Seeks To End Euthanasia Of Shelter Animals By 2025

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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