Think about some of the most hated creatures in the animal kingdom, and you would have to figure that rats rank high on the list. As for cats, they are on the other side of the spectrum and it turns out that not only are they lovable, but also very helpful. People spend millions each year on pest control across the United States, however it turns out that all we have really needed is some more cats.
In Chicago and many other major cities, rats have taken over the streets and the Windy City is seeing a bigger problem than ever. If you know the history of rats and disease, you might remember that they were the ones that carried the Bubonic Plague. They might not have the black death with them anymore, but they are still carrying nasty diseases that can leave people dangerously ill.
The reason that the rat problem has gotten bigger is because of the amount of food that has been left on the city’s streets and sidewalks. Not only that, rats are also feeding on dog poop that doesn’t get picked up by owners. If rats are able to find food, they will start breeding at an alarming rate. Chicago has started pest control groups that have been poisoning holes where rats come out of and stuffing them with newspapers in hopes of making the rat numbers go down.
Now, there is another weapon that they are using in the fight against rat infestation: cats. Cats are natural predators for rats, and if you have a cat you have probably had a dead rat or mouse dropped onto your floor by your cat at some point. One woman named Victoria Thomas in Chicago had a massive infestation where there were more than 400 rats in her yard and she was a regular with the city’s pest control office.
After spending thousands, Thomas ran out of options and made another call to the Tree House Humane Society. Tree House was founded more than 40 years ago as a no-kill shelter for cats without a single cage. With more than 3,500 cats around their network, they realize that a lot of the feral cats they house won’t make good pets, but they can at least do some good for the community.
Cats have been used as rat catchers for thousands of years, and have even worked in places such as Disneyland and World War II Naval ships to catch rats. Five years ago, Tree House started their own pest control service with the Cats at Work project. Paul Nickerson manages the program, and he is a construction worker that received a colony of cats that have done their job so well that he hasn’t seen a rat in years.
Tree House brings colonies of cats in massive crates for them to stay in until they get comfortable with the territory, which usually takes a few weeks. All of the rats on the property are quickly chased away or killed by the cats and future rats will know to stay away once the territory has been marked. It costs around $500 to $600 for a small colony of cats, but the prices aren’t set in stone.
Victoria Thomas was willing to give it a shot, and has said that all of the rat holes have completely disappeared. “It’s been amazing having them here. I feel kind of proud of them,” Thomas said. Even a large brewer in Chicago, Empirical Brewery, has adopted four of the cats as their own and named them after the original “Ghostbusters” characters. Massive 12-inch long rats that used to be a problem are now a thing of the past.
The only problem is that the cats who were supposed to be workers have been getting a lot of attention as pets, which means there are a lot of cat toys around the brewery. That’s still a big improvement over the rats, especially since the cats are loved.