Oh, rats! Feral cats now on the job in NYC

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Ah, New York City. Gotham. The Big Apple. It is globally known for its imposing yet beautiful skyline, its culture, its nightlife, its tourist attractions, its sports teams, its subway system, the collective “attitude” of its residents — and its rats.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Yes, you heard me. Rats. Big, mean, scary rats — well, according to urban legends at any rate. There are millions of them. In fact, a 2014 estimate published in a New York Times article indicated that New York City’s rat population totaled roughly 2 million — give or take a few. Although that article was supposed to debunk the myth that there’s a rat for every New Yorker (which would put the total at approximately 8 million), New York City still ranks as the worst “rat city” in the world.

But never fear! According to published reports, feral cats are coming to the rescue.

Yes, I’m serious.

As the website nymag.com reports in an Oct. 23 article, “Volunteers with the NYC Feral Cat Initiative are working to repurpose some of the city’s population of as many as half-a-million stray cats as feline special forces in the war against the rats.”

Citing accounts from other media outlets, nymag.com explains that the group, “is working to trap wild cat colonies throughout New York, spay or neuter the animals, and when the cats can’t be adopted or returned to the place they were trapped, the group will try to relocate them to areas in need of rodent control.”

So far, it seems to be working. One group of feral cats “assigned” to the loading dock area at the Jacob Javits convention center a few years back has reportedly been highly effective. Today four cats from that group remain on the job. The rest found new homes with some of the center’s employees or with visitors.

The program isn’t unique to New York. Similar efforts are ongoing in large cities elsewhere in the United States.

Historically, shopkeepers throughout the world have also kept cats to control rodents — a practice that continues in New York City today. And we all know about “barn cats” that help fend off rodents in rural areas. What you might not know is that in World War I, cats took to the trenches and ships to hunt rodents.

So the bottom line is that when it comes to putting feral cats “to work” in New York City, no one is reinventing the wheel. But I still think the idea is genius… and so does Eli.

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