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Hullabaloo


Sunday, June 28, 2015

 
Service cats

by digby


They have a job to do and they do it well:

Like the characters played by the actor who inspired his name, Pacino was no scaredy cat. The brown tabby had prowled the streets of Los Angeles, a drifter scraping for his next meal.

After the cat was turned in at an L.A. County animal services shelter, there was little hope that Pacino would be adopted. He was too distrustful, too fierce, too mean.

Then Melya Kaplan came along, looking for a cat with grit, street smarts and attitude.

Several hours after the customers and merchants have gone home and the lights are dim, the cats start their patrol in the Los Angeles Flower Market June 25, 2015. The Working Cats program is using unsocialized "feral" cats in a program to keep rodents away from the market.

The Working Cats program is using community cats in a program to rid the Los Angeles Flower Market of rodents. The cats dont kill the rodents they manage to repel them by their scent.
The 10-pound, 6-ounce cat would become the nighttime warden at the Original L.A. Flower Market, making sure rodents and other vermin didn't get out of hand. He's part of a group of tough cats recruited by an animal rights nonprofit to find homes in places that could use their hard-scrabble qualities. Along with another cat named DeNiro, Pacino would prowl the Italian side of the flower market. Of course.

"Mother Nature doesn't make mistakes," said Kaplan, executive director of Voice for the Animals. "We probably just haven't found a purpose for it yet."

As part of the Working Cats program, street cats like Pacino are rescued from animal shelters and sent to locations ranging from police stations, like the LAPD's Wilshire and Foothill divisions, to private homes, businesses and schools. Over the years, the program has placed about 500 cats in nearly 50 locations.

Kaplan, a frequent customer of the market, developed the program in 1999 when Carl Jones, a market employee, told her about the rats in the workplace. Exterminators would spray the warehouse with poison, but the vermin remained. Every so often, a customer would spot a pair of beady eyes hidden in the row of flowers.

"Anytime you heard a customer scream, you generally knew the rats were to blame. And then I had to stop what I was doing and go chase the little thing away," said Jones, who has worked at the market for 15 years. "It definitely wasn't the highlight of my job."

Scott Yamabe, executive vice president of the Original L.A Flower Market, said the facility had battled rats since the beginning of the 20th century. All kinds of things were tried to get rid of the rats, but the results were always the same: nibbled-on flowers.

"The rodents even chewed through the wooden refrigerator doors where we kept the flowers," said Yamabe. "Those rats were too smart. We really needed help."

About 15 years ago, Kaplan made a proposition to Yamabe. She would deliver three cats to the flower market to get rid of the rats. And if they could not take care of the rodents, she would take them back.

The market currently has 15 cats, and Jones and Yamabe said they do not see any rats.

Kaplan attributes the program's success to the simple fact that adding a predator to an environment will scare away its prey. Once rodents smell a cat on the prowl, they go somewhere else, she said.

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

There are no rats where I live, that's for sure: