Working Cats

For an illustrated version, see page 11 in The EnvironMentor, Oct-Nov 2014 vol. 3 no. 2.

WORKING CATS

Why do cats attack mice? Many fanciful tales worldwide "explain" how they became enemies. Here is one, from Romania:

In the beginning, Cat and Dog agreed to divide up the work of serving their human master. Dog would work outside, Cat would work inside. They wrote up a contract, signed it with their pawprints, and stored it safely in the attic.

After a while, Dog got tired of guard duty in all weathers while Cat lounged around indoors. "Show me that contract!" Dog demanded.

Cat searched the attic for it but found just a mess of paper fluff. A family of mice had shredded it with their sharp teeth to build a nest!

Cat was so angry that she hunted down all the mice she could catch. But she had to return to Dog with no contract.

Dog was so annoyed that he gave her a rough shake.

Ever since then, whenever dogs see a cat they ask about the contract and chase the cat because she can't produce it. And cats, blaming mice for the loss of dogs' friendship, hunt them down at every chance.

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The Arizona Humane Society has found a way to solve a local problem with "feral" cats--domestic cats that had gone wild, living on their own for generations. Around Phoenix AZ, hungry feral cats became a threat to all creeping and flying creatures. Although thousands were trapped and brought to the Society to be spayed or neutered, they didn't make good housepets, so very few of them got adopted. They couldn't just be turned loose at random. What to do?

This spring the Society started a Working Cats Program. They send pairs of vaccinated, microchipped, spayed/neutered formerly feral cats to hunt mice and rats on Arizona farms and ranches around Phoenix. The cats provide a non-toxic alternative to poison pest control, in return for safe shelter, supplemental food as needed, and water.

Pairs of the Humane Society's feral cats are delivered in a large mesh crate with food, bedding, and litter box. After three weeks to get used their new home base in a barn or shed, they're let out. The crate is picked up by the Society and the cats get to work.

"I don't have one mouse on the property. Those kitties, they keep up with everything," said Jackie Urbanski, a Desert Hills farmer with two cats from the program, Sammy and Sassypants.

The Arizona Humane Society has already placed 85 working cats with grateful farmers and ranchers. Communities nationwide, whose work with feral cats has been limited to "trap, spay/neuter, and release," are inquiring how they, too, can make constructive use of cats' ongoing war with mice and rats.

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Folktale Source: "The Dog, the Cat, and the Mouse" M. Gaster, Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories (London: Folk-Lore Society, 1915), no. 66, pp. 208-209. Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 200.

Fact source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2014/08/04/arizona-hum...