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  • Friday, November 29, 2019

    When cats stand guard

    When cats stand guard

    An army of velvet-tipped guards watches over dozens of Washington homes and businesses, ready to pounce all out on an intruder. Their retribution? A bowl of milk should suffice. These shadowy agents are stray cats rescued from the streets of the US capital and their prey, the exponential population of rats and other rodents.


    The Blue Collar Cats program, launched in 2017 as part of the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) initiative by the city, showcases these unaccustomed cats to rub shoulders with humans and who would not make good pets as an environmentally friendly alternative to traps and chemicals to control this infestation.

    They generally show no interest in socialization and, for the most part, do not let themselves be approached. Cats perfect for humans are interested only in their hunting instinct.

    "The Blue Collar cat receives from the owner premises, in exchange for its deterrent effect on rodents, food, water and shelter in bad weather," says Lauren Lipsey, an official of the HRA, organization specializing in the protection of animals.

    And "the owner is committed to providing emergency medical care where appropriate and keeping an eye on the well-being of the cat," she notes.

    Anyone wishing to adopt one of these solitary guardians undergoes a strict selection process with a very specific questionnaire - including the presence of pets on the premises - to ensure a welcoming environment for the feline.

    "I love animals and even rats - I do not hate them," Christian Kelleher, owner of a carpentry shop and client of Blue Collar Cats, told AFP while he was receiving two cats.

    "With a little luck, these cats will limit a few of their strengths and (rodents) will not breed and spread everywhere," he added.

    Tim Williams threw a quarter of the bird seeds and sod seeds from the Greenstreet Gardens store where he works, located in Alexandria, a few miles from Washington.

    But since the recruitment of Rue with Blue Collar Cats, rat attacks on his bags of seeds are now a rare phenomenon.

    Simple cat patrols among flowerpots are enough to keep rodents out of the way, he explained.

    In addition to an inexhaustible playground and shelter, Rue has a litter box and a scratching post.

    This program proved to be very effective in controlling the number of rats roaming the US capital, but also saved the lives of many cats.

    "Before the program was created, these cats were euthanized because they could not be released where they were captured and they were not sociable or adoptable," Lipsey said.

    Nearly 250 mouse hunters have been placed at this stage. HRA plans to expand its services in the future.

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