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Hello, Kitty: Cats Prowl for Rats at LAPD Stations

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Unemployment is no longer an issue for LA's population of feral cats.

The stray and often unfriendly felines that are known for populating local neighborhoods and prowling the streets for food and shelter have been put to work as rat-catchers for the LAPD in some of their stations through the assistance of The Working Cats program of Voice for the Animals.

The non-profit organization explains on their website that a feral cat is defined as one that "avoids human contact either because s/he has lived his/her whole life with little or no human contact or is a stray cat who was lost or abandoned and has lived away from human contact long enough to revert to a wild state." The typical fate of feral cat is euthanization, because they are unadoptable.

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But now some of these cats have the chance to join the police force, in a sense. According to the LA Times:

Six feral cats were recently installed as ratters in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Police Department's Southeast Division, and another group will be housed at the Central Division early in the new year. Their reputation as furtive and successful exterminators grew after feral cats were introduced to the parking lot of the Wilshire Division nearly six years ago. Rats had been burrowing into the equipment bags that bicycle officers stored in outside cages; inside the facility, mice were sometimes scurrying across people's desks.

But lest you picture grisly scenes of pouncings followed by bloodshed, it turns out that the cats don't attack and kill the rodents, but instead leave their scent. Just by doing what cats do--lazing about, roaming, urinating and so on--they mark the area with their odiforous calling card, which drives away the rats and mice en masse, calling to mind images of the Pied Piper.The cats selected for this mother nature-inspired mission came from two shelters, and were chosen with the help of Jane Garrison, who serves on Voice for the Animals' board. "The cats were then spayed or neutered, vaccinated, micro-chipped and ear-tipped (under anesthesia while the cats are being altered, vets notch an ear tip, the widely recognized sign that a cat is altered)" explains the LA Times. The cats need about a month to adjust to their new surroundings, so they are first introduced to their new environment in large holding cages. Although money to feed the cats isn't currently in the LAPD budget (Southeast Officer Sandra Magdaleno pays the $100 a month it takes to keep the kitties in dry and wet food out of her own pocket) the program seems to be working.

Feral cats were installed a few years ago in LA's flower district with much success. It seems the next place a gang of cats might get sent to is Parker Center--apparently that place is crawling with rats.

Photo by cobalt123 via Flickr