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LAPD puts feral cats to work

Cats are incredible animals. They make wonderful pets because of their remarkable ability to interact and bond with people. Cats that aren't lucky enough to...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Mar 10th 2008


Cats are incredible animals. They make wonderful pets because of their remarkable ability to interact and bond with people. Cats that aren’t lucky enough to live with people are still phenomenal survivors. These feral (or homeless) cats are able to live and reproduce in almost every environment on Earth.

The reproductive abilities of feral cats are prodigious indeed. Consider the following excerpt from an article on about.com.

It’s estimated that one unspayed female cat, her mate and all of their offspring producing two litters per year with 2.8 surviving kittens per litter can total 370,000 kittens in just seven years.

Although this sort of capacity for reproduction has made cats one of the most successful species on the planet, it has a dark side. Large numbers of feral cats are present almost everywhere, and most of these cats lead unpleasant lives. (Ironically, the above quote was taken from an article detailing the success of of a feral cat spay and neuter program in California. However, this quote illustrates that even if large numbers of feral cats are sterilized, those that remain intact will quickly replenish the population.)

Communities have employed many different methods to deal with the perceived overpopulation of feral cats. Sadly, mass euthanasia is a common tactic.

However, the following blurb, which appeared in the February 1, 2008 issue of The Week, paints a somewhat happier picture.

Feral cats’ lives on the street are usually nasty, brutish, and short. And when municipal animal shelters catch them, they are almost always destroyed. But the Working Cats program of Voice for Animals, an advocacy and rescue group, has found a way to save some of them. The program has given a half-dozen of the cats to the Los Angeles Police Department to help it deal with rat and mouse infestations at some of its facilities. The cats don’t usually kill the rodents; rather, once they get a whiff of the pungent predators, they generally run. “Once we got the cats, problem solved,” said Cmdr. Kirk Albanese. “I think it’s a very humane way to deal with a very stubborn problem.”

Although I don’t think that this program alone will solve the feral cat dilemma, it certainly is a step in the right direction.