Chicago Recruits Its Stray Cat Population to Battle Surge in Rodents

by Courtney Blackann

Stray animals populations are hard to combat. Even with the encouragement of adoption, things don’t always go according to plan. Especially since the pandemic hit. Animal shelters are increasingly full these days or even overloaded. With more animals and fewer resources, the issue keeps compounding.

Further, cats specifically are intelligent creatures with natural instincts to survive. However, they still need care. One Chicago-based shelter seems to have a solution – and it’s working out purr-fectly.

The Tree House Humane Society came up with the idea of pairing stray and feral cats with local businesses. But the cats won’t just be lounging about. They’ll actually be assisting the businesses with rodent problems.

“Cats are not generally thought of in the same category as work. However, these cats don’t actually have to do a lot of work in order to make this program successful,” Tree House Humane Society Sarah Liss says to the AP.

“Them just simply being there, existing, in that place tells the rats they should no longer be in that territory,” she said.

Cats Alleviate Rodent Problems in Businesses

Additionally, rodents can be a real issue for local businesses. Especially breweries – which are super lucrative in Chicago’s economy.

William Hurley of the Empirical Brewery says grain is like a block of cheese for rats. And you have to store grain for the beer-making process, he says.

“I would rather keep the rat population in control by keeping their natural predators in businesses like this,” Hurley says. “It’s a perfect pairing, frankly. And I always recommend to any of my friends who are dealing with either breweries or other manufacturing spaces that they get cats immediately.”

The Cats at Work program will work with any feral or homeless cats and place them within an appropriate business. The goal, Liss says, is to keep them with the same caregiver for the duration of their lives. Perhaps if the unique program works in Chicago, it can be emulated in other cities as well.

“It’s our goal that the cats stay for the rest of their lives,” Liss says.

Stranded Animals in Need

Overpopulation of animals isn’t always the reason dogs and cats need to be rescued. When natural disasters occur, sometimes shelters reach outwardly. This includes transferring stranded animals to other states for safekeeping.

This is the case for several animals when, in August, Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana’s coast.

“In Louisiana and Mississippi, they were maxed out to capacity. Kennels were full and kennels were lining hallways,” Helen Woodward Animal Shelter spokewoman Jessica Gercke said.

Additionally, she added:

“To see them fly in is really touching to all of us,” she said. “It always makes me feel like crying.”