There are several cat rescues in the Philadelphia area. Feral, or semi-feral cats pose an extra challenge to be placed in a home. Depending on their age, they may never adjust to life indoors, nor become accustomed to being handled and living the life as a “pet”. Thankfully, there is a shelter known as Philadelphia’s Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT). Also, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSCPA) handles thousands of abandoned and homeless animals a year. Both help find homes for cats not quite house pets, yet not wild enough to make it in a feral cat colony. They are known as Working Cat rescue programs, and they exist in other cities as well.
The cats are placed in various bucolic locations that surround the city. Many are farms in Bucks and Montgomery counties, such as Little Croft Farm in Harleysville, discussed in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. The Barrett family’s working farm was a overrun by mice and chipmunks, digging tunnels and wreaking havoc. Monster, Captain, and Luna were adopted and each have their own barn to monitor by hunting. Problem solved. Rodent control, and they have saved a life, or lives.
Since this program began a few years ago, more than 100 seemingly unadaptable Philly cats have found homes on farms and in stables. Philadelphia property owners may want to take notice. The American Housing Survey found that the Philadelphia had the highest rate of household rodent sightings of 25 metro areas. And the city’s Rat Complaint Line calls shot up 24% between 2014 and 2016, for reasons they have yet to explain. There are plans to expand venues supplied with working cats such as warehouses, garages, artist studios, police stations. Anyone interested in green pest control and willing to welcome furry vermin fighters are candidates.
Cats come neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. ACCT offers cats for free, and the PSPCA (a no-kill shelter) charges only $20 for two cats.
It’s not just here
Rome has an enormous population of stray cats, overseen by “cat ladies”. Disneyland has many feline residents that boast internet fans. Los Angeles’ has a similar program, the Voice for the Animals Foundation. Chicago’s Cats at Work program is hugely successful. Gentrification and cleansing of cat populations results in a rat problem. So, this program helped solve the problem. They charge $650 for three cats, an animal shelter for them, heated pads, and a large dog crate is loaned for the acclimation period. Even Longwood Gardens’ website boasts its cats as natural pest controllers.
Before you judge, here’s some sobering facts.
For those that might feel this is not an ideal fate, think about this.
Nationwide, there are an estimated 70 million stray cats. Some are adopted as pets, while others are captures, neutered, and returned to functioning feral cat colonies by local cat lovers and agencies. This niche population of cats, that doesn’t fit in to the other categories, is hardest to place. They are typically fearful in shelters. They hiss and resist socialization efforts, and refuse to be housebroken. They may like people, but many are rescued from abuse or hoarding situations.
Cats are natural predators. It is part of their nature. They hunt because they enjoy it, and not to please us. Still, there is the concern of their safety. This freedom comes along with risks. This is an ongoing debate. Is it better to live a fulfilling, but likely shorter life? Or is the alternative, a protected, indoor life that is presumably longer, better?
That debate will endure, and is beyond the scope of this particular discussion. Still, the happy ending stories are worth mentioning. Case in point is Janel Ashbury, who runs Ashbury’s Animals, a Noah’s Ark program that includes therapy animals. She participated in the PSPCA working cat program, having not been a big cat lover prior. She had low expectations, and was delighted and surprised at how friendly her adoptees were. Shelter cats can become quite different once they feel at home, and very often you get a working “pet” as well.
For someone like me, who was involved in a mass euthanasia of a cat hoarder’s home in Philadelphia in the 1990’s, this is a great alternative, and one I wholeheartedly support. Spread the word if you agree and know of potential placements for these cats.