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story.lead_photo.caption Karen Oxner of Little Rock, a volunteer for the Little Rock Animal Village, places feral cats in cages Friday on a farm in England. The relocation of the cats is part of the Animal Village’s “working cats” pilot program, which places the cats in new homes or businesses where they can help control pests. - Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / MITCHELL PE MASILUN

They roam the streets, scavenge for food and aren't the most trusting of humans.

Photo by MITCHELL PE MASILUN / Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Daniel Gladstone of Greenbrier, a volunteer for the Little Rock Animal Village, prepares to take a feral cat to a farm Friday as part of the “working cats” pilot program.

Although feral cats might not be ideal to adopt as household pets, the Little Rock Animal Village says they could be perfect workers for a business or rural property.

The Animal Village recently started a "working cats" program, in which it captures, sterilizes, vaccinates and microchips feral felines and then adopts them out for free to businesses or farms in need of a solution to unwanted vermin.

Tammy and Keith Langley live on 7 acres in England. They adopted five cats through the program Friday.

"They are going to keep the rodent population down as well as the snake population," Tammy Langley said. "They are excellent hunters, especially the females."

When adopting one of the cats, the property owner or business must agree to provide shelter, food, clean water and veterinary care to the animal.

The city suggests "working cats" for construction companies, barns, farms, warehouses and other businesses that need rodent control.

Healthy feral cats that aren't suitable for normal adoption will be considered for the new program.

In the past five years, the Animal Village has euthanized more than 1,000 feral cats. Feral cats are the offspring of pets abandoned by their owners. They aren't domesticated. They avoid humans, spend most daylight hours hiding, and eat whatever scraps or small animals they can find.

Little Rock has had an overpopulation of feral cats in recent years and has been considering ways to correct that.

Animal Village Director Tracy Roark previously proposed a trap, neuter and release program that would keep the cats in a colony and would prevent reproduction.

There was some pushback to that idea, and the city is still discussing it. The working-cat program is a different way the city can respond to the overpopulation issue, he said.

"This is an adoption program, and it's an awareness program," Roark said. "We really want these cats to find their place. We've got this influx of feral cats coming in, and over 20 years we've just not found anything that is positive for them to go. So I think it's time we start looking at a positive way to get them out there, and plus to fuel the need for people who want a working cat."

Those interested in adopting a working cat can call the Animal Village at (501) 376-3067.

The idea of a working-cat program was developed in Los Angeles in 1999 by Melya Kaplan, an animal activist.

It started after she was told of a rodent problem at a flower market she frequented. The owner had laid out poison and attempted other methods, but nothing got rid of the rats. Kaplan suggested dropping off three cats to rid the venue of its vermin problem and promised to take them back if they didn't get rid of the rats.

Seventeen years later, the market now has 15 cats and no rats.

Kaplan told the Los Angeles Times last year that once rodents smell a cat on the prowl, they leave.

"It's not anything new. People used to have barn cats or church cats to keep out rodents," Kaplan told the newspaper. "We just brought [the idea] to the city, and it seems to be really working."

"We're saving cats and helping people," she said, calling it a win-win situation.

The Little Rock Animal Village delivered five feral cats to the Langleys' England property Friday afternoon.

The cats are delivered in cages. Roark recommends they be housed and fed in the cages for about two weeks so they learn that the property is their new home and that they can return there for food and water.

Tammy Langley said that often when people offer up kittens and she tells them she needs a working cat, the people don't understand and would prefer that the kittens go to homes that will have them as pets.

"A lot of people don't understand that cats are going to do what they naturally have the instinct to do, and that is to catch birds, mice, snakes, whatever. We reap the benefit of that because it keeps everything away from the house," she said. "If we don't have working cats, we are just going to be overrun with mice and snakes."

Donations from the Friends of the Animal Village group help pay for the sterilization of the cats that are adopted through the working-cat program.

In addition to the cats delivered to England, four more were in the process of going to a rural property in Pulaski County. The city began advertising the new program Thursday.

"There's just such a need for this program," Langley said. "I think as the word gets out more, they'll have more people participate. It not only helps us, but it gives the animals a chance, too, because otherwise they would be euthanized. I think it's just a win-win all the way around."

Metro on 06/06/2016

Print Headline: City finds work for feral cats


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  • Jfish
    June 6, 2016 at 7:21 a.m.

    There are also some negatives, cats kill alot of birds, and most of the snakes are beneficial. I am not blaming the cats, it's their nature, but the article should at least mentions these things.

  • Dave35
    June 6, 2016 at 8:22 a.m.

    I absolutely agree with Jfish! There are too many cats that are allowed to roam and kill the protected birds. People let them roam at night and during the day when they are at work. I have had them kill female blue birds which left the newly hatched babies to a gruesome death sentence of starvation.

  • Bill905cor
    June 6, 2016 at 8:41 a.m.

    Feral cats are night hunters. The Arkansas quail population will
    vanish as it has in other states.

  • outinthesticks
    June 6, 2016 at 9:20 a.m.

    Don't look now, Bill, the quail population has vanished in Arkansas.

  • LR1955
    June 6, 2016 at 10:23 a.m.

    Before you lay blame on feral cats, go talk to your neighbor's that let their pets roam free, breed freely, and caused this problem in the first place.
    I thought Quail were taken out by loss of habitat.

  • Queen1976
    June 6, 2016 at 10:42 a.m.

    I agree with LR1955 - feral cats are caused by irresponsible cat owners that allow their pets to roam freely to breed & create more feral & homeless cats. Same with dog owners that won't get their animals sterilized, but allow them to roam & populate. Arkansans for Animals have a low-cost spay/neuter clinic that's not tied to income levels. Do the right thing & call them for an appointment: 501-455-5400

  • PopMom
    June 6, 2016 at 10:55 a.m.

    They need some of these hardworking cats at the Governor's mansion where they have a "rat infestation."

  • BirdDogsRock
    June 6, 2016 at 11:13 a.m.

    Many types of snakes are effective rodent predators, AND they are native species in Arkansas. Hoping cat colonies will kill snakes is counterproductive to the goal of reducing rodents. While both snakes (esp rat snakes) and free-roaming house cats are efficient predators on quail, house cats (not to be confused with native bobcats) are an invasive exotic species, adding yet another serious threat to bobwhite quail that already are plummeting due to landscape-scale habitat degradation and loss. The worse the habitat gets for quail, the easier prey they become for cats and other predators. Anybody who cares about restoring bobwhite quail in Arkansas will be opposed to cat colonies.
    Even though these cats are sterilized, they still can live many years, killing native wildlife every day. Creating cat colonies simply is a lousy idea.

  • DontDrinkDatKoolAid
    June 6, 2016 at 11:22 a.m.

    Copper Heads and Cotton Mouths are other snakes to consider. Then we have elected ones also.

  • LR1955
    June 6, 2016 at 12:04 p.m.

    Also I've read there are more predators due to low fur prices, ranchers are planting fescue for cattle and the natural wild grasses are lost, seem to be more birds of prey too.
    Feral cats too.