`Cats at Work` project using feral cats to catch rats - FOX 32 News Chicago

`Cats at Work` project using feral cats to catch rats

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

After this long cold winter, Chicago's rats are rearing their ugly heads in alleys and yards once again. But some homeowners say they've got an old-fashioned solution that'll keep them away.

Elaine Lowenthal and her neighbors in Lakeview used to have rats running everywhere. Now, the only rat in her yard was a dead one thanks to a feral cat named Lillie.

"Well, we had quite a few rats just strolling through the backyard, when we were picnicking, and running up and down the alley," Elaine says of the rodents. "There were holes in our yard for the rats, and the cats would run over and stick their arms down the holes."

Feral cats are un-socialized cats, who are accustomed to life outdoors.

Lillie came, spayed and neutered, from the Tree House Humane Society, under what's called the "Cats at Work" program. Tree House officials believe feral cats are a better long-term solution than using poison or traps, and safer too.

"The cats come in, they start to hunt, the rats get wind that they're there, and they leave," Jenny Schlueter of the Tree House Humane Society explains.

Two years ago, under a pilot program, about 30 feral cats were placed with families in Chicago's 47th Ward and Tree House officials say the program has been very successful.

"We have a 100 percent positive feedback so far," says Schlueter. "It's been amazing. People are surprised, some people say within days, other people say maybe about a week.

The cats do require some sort of shelter, daily food and water, and owners must register with treehouse as official caretakers. As for dead rats in the yard, there may be a few, but eventually the cats their point across.

"Once they establish a new territory on your property, any rats and mice that have been around realize that, I mean, they're not stupid, they know when a predator is around. And they kind of get out of the way. Especially after the cat catches a couple, they move on pretty quickly."

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