Cats, the world’s first pest control

PBIC has been saying from the very beginning that cats are the best resource for fighting the rodent population, especially on barrier islands that have a shipping port inlet.  It was confirmed by a recent report on telling how Chicago, reportedly the nation’s “rattiest city”, is embracing the idea of bringing cats in to fight the public health issue.


Why the increase in the rat population?  With mild winters it means more breeding time, and a recovering economy brought new construction that sent the rats scurrying for new rodent real estate which included a lot of residential sections of the city.  It is alarming considering the history of the disease carriers that caused many deaths.  Rats as we now know carry antibiotic resistant E.coli and C.diff, and both are hard to cure in the case of a rat bite.    

Even if a person doesn’t get close to the critter, the vermin spread diseases through their urine and feces.  Rats shed a lot and their fur is carried through our ventilation systems.  Dr. Chelsea Himsworth did a study in Canada about rodent disease and said, “rats are a highly capable sponge for disease.  They can go into any environment and absorb all of what is dangerous and bring it back to people”.  She went on to say that with the climate changes and this century’s urbanization the rat population will grow.

CNN reported that rat complaints are up in all cities around the country 67% with municipalities testing a wide variety of extermination tactics.  Chicago declared a war on rats in April and added 10 rat patrol workers and started a public awareness campaign about not feeding rats.   That translates to food in the trash and a warning to dog owners about not picking up behind the dog.  The Sanitation Commissioner in Chicago went so far as to say rats consider dog waste a delicacy and said this food source is likely the easiest to control.

One resident reported to CNN that exterminators found 400 rats in her yard and that nothing worked to get rid of the rats.  That’s when she enlisted the help of a humane shelter for feral cats that started the “Cats at Work” project.  The shelter transplants the colonies to areas in need of help with rodents.  The resident now reports that his yard is rat free and attributes that to the cats.  The new caretaker then feeds the cats, provides shelter and vet care in return.

The mere presence of a cat deters rats from areas patrolled by the felines who mark their territory by rubbing up against things.  Just the scent of a cat can make rats scatter.  With cats in place, they will either kill the rat or their pheromones left by rubbing the area creates a scent that rats want no part of so leave the area.  The community cat’s program manager is quoted as saying “as far as rodent control goes, it’s nearly 100% effective.  It’s the only long-term, permanent solution.”

Rather than dislike the sight of the community cats in Palm Beach, think about them being the backyard guardian.

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