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.

Feeding feral cats could soon be illegal in CT town

Officials in Naugatuck, Connecticut, are currently mulling the creation of a new ordinance that would punish people caught feeding feral cats.

According to published reports, the measure being considered by The Naugatuck Board of Mayor and Burgesses would address an alleged feral cat “problem” in a borough neighborhood.

“A couple” brought the issue to the mayor’s attention and requested that a local law be created to “fine people if they choose to feed feral cats.”

Cute Kitten, courtesy of FURRR 911. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
Bolt, a kitten rescued by FURRR 911, at Puttin’ On The Dog & Cats, Too 2016. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

So what will happen next? To start with, the Naugatuck attorney will review an existing ordinance in another community and draft one of his own. Then citizens will get to voice their opinions on the subject at a public hearing. Finally, the board will vote on whether or not to adopt the new ordinance.

Needless to say, that won’t happen overnight.

In the meantime, here are some things to consider:

  • Feral cats are also known as “community cats” by some animal welfare groups.
  • The ASPCA estimates the number of “community cats” in the United States to be in the “tens of millions.”
  • Traditional methods of dealing with feral cat colonies include “lethal extermination” or relocation.
  • Most kittens born into feral colonies don’t live long.
  • Although the practice is often criticized, the ASPCA endorses Trap-Neuter-Return as “the least costly and the most humane, efficient way of stabilizing community cat populations.”
  • Having a “colony caretaker” who “provides food and adequate shelter and monitors the cats’ health,” is key to successful TNR programs.

Personally, as someone who loves cats I have mixed feelings about TNR programs. On one hand I think they’re great. On the other hand, I think it’s sad that we need them at all — and I hope that there will one day be a time when we no longer do.

Until then, there are things we can all do to reduce the number of unwanted cats and kittens in the United States. Please, please, please, do not buy kittens from pet stores. Consider adopting from a shelter rather than buying a kitten from a breeder. Please think carefully about buying or adopting a cat or kitten — it is a big responsibility. Please spay or neuter your cat or kitten — they will be happier and healthier — and it is just the right thing to do.