Feral Cats Helped by Voice for the Animals Program
The sad awful truth is that feral cats are most likely euthanized when there's a space crunch at the local animal shelter.
What are feral cats? Feral cats are the "wild" offspring of domestic house cats that have been abandoned, lost or thrown away. You may have seen these elusive felines living in cat colonies behind shopping centers, back alleys, city parks and rural areas.
The Voice for the Animals Foundation (VFTA), an animal advocacy and animal rescue organization, has developed a unique working cats program to save feral cats. The program actually puts cats to work, patrolling rat-infested areas. This win-win program saves feral cats and gets rid of rats. Most importantly, this rodent control measure is eco-friendly. The cats completely eliminate rodent infestations without poisonous chemicals or toxic sprays.
Since 1999, this Los Angeles-based organization has relocated almost 50 feral cats, placing them in the city's flower markets and at some police stations.
Melya Kaplan, VFTA founder and executive director, first suggested relocating feral cats to patrol rat-infested areas. After observing how flower market employees were affected by the chemical spraying, Kaplan proposed the idea.
Kaplan remembered that at first the flower merchants were very skeptical about bringing cats into the flower market. "Rats were destroying the carnations by eating the seeds. For almost 100 years the Los Angeles Flower Market had been trying to control the pesky rats.
"Eventually, they gave me the okay," said Kaplan, "and seven healthy cats formed the first official cat patrol." Results? The rats virtually vanished after the cats arrived. Kaplan quickly added that the cats neither kill nor eat rats. Quite simply, rats are repelled by cat odor and leave the area.
Patrol cats are sterilized, vaccinated and micro-chipped. VFTA volunteers try to place the most unadaptable feral cats in the working cats program. For example, feral cats, which are older, are most likely to be euthanized while a kitten has more chances to become more domesticated in a home environment.
According to Kaplan, the process of placing feral cats in a new location must be gradual. The VFTA works to ensure that the cats are properly placed. Right now there are VFTA working cats keeping rodents away from the Los Angeles Flower Market and the Orchid Market. VFTA cats are also patrolling in four divisions of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Crossroad Schools campus. VFTA expects to add even more cats to police divisions. Kaplan said that placements always begin with a contractual agreement. "We want to ensure the cats well being. Both the flower markets and police staff welcome the working cats and agree to provide a designated guardian to watch over the cats.
According to Kaplan, the process of relocating feral cats takes patience, time and money, she explained. After being captured, upon release feral cats naturally want to return to their original habitat. To prevent them from going back, VFTA keeps the cats in a cage for three or four weeks. During this time cats become accustomed to the sounds, smells and sights of the new area. Although the cats live independently, guardians provide food, water and litter box care.
Looking ahead, Voice for the Animals Foundation would like to see the working cats program expanded to cat patrols in other businesses, industrial parks and even residences. Kaplan invites other animal rescue groups to consider starting a working cats program for feral cats.
For more information, check out the Voice for the Animals Foundation website.