1,000 feral cats unleashed on Chicago streets to fight rat problem

CHICAGO — In its fight against an urban rodent infestation, a Chicago animal shelter has unleashed 1,000 feral cats onto the streets in the last decade.

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The Tree House Humane Society started combating the rats with wild cats in 2012 with its Cats at Work program, WGN reported.

“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, told WGN.

The shelter rescues cats and some that would never become pets because they are too wild are neutered or spayed and then returned to roam the streets.

“Cats are placed two or three at a time into residential or commercial settings in order to provide environmentally friendly rodent control,” the shelter said. “Property and business owners provide food, water, shelter, and wellness to the cats who work for them. In most cases, our Cats at Work become beloved members of the family or team and some even have their own Instagram pages.”

The cats typically do not eat rats. When the cats are introduced to a new area they will occasionally kill them when they first arrive. Their presence becomes a deterrent.

“They are actually deterring them with their pheromones,” Liss said. “That’s enough to keep the rats away.”

Chicago was considered the “rattiest city in America” for six years in a row by extermination company Orkin. Residents interested in a feral cat can apply for them online.