'Working cats' help get rid of rats - WDAM.COM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

'Working cats' help rid businesses, homes of rats

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Millions of Americans suffer from musophobia - an extreme fear of rats. Just the sight of them can cause some people to have a panic attack.

But the real danger is not from the rats you see. It's from the rats you don't see!

Sue Fries owns Ecola, an alternative pest control service in Southern California. She says the destruction that rats cause can be deadly.

"Rats never stop chewing," says Sue. "They'll chew through electrical wiring. They can cause electrical fires."

And what's even more disturbing is that it's now harder to get rid of them, because they've become immune to commonly-used rat poisons. Fries says traps aren't the real solution, either.

"It's not always about killing them," she explains. "It's about understanding how they live and what they need so it's not easy for them to live there."

Fries says an effective way to deter rats from invading your home is through preventative exclusions.

"A rat can get through an opening the size of a quarter or larger," says Sue. "So our job is to close up those openings using a quarter-inch mesh or using steel wool, something where the rat can't travel from here to there."

Rats aren't just a residential problem. They also invade restaurants, schools, churches, even police stations. When the Los Angeles Police Department was overrun by rats, they turned to Melya Kaplan, founder of the Working Cats program.

"We get cats from the shelter deemed feral, they're going to be euthanized because they're not adoptable," says Melya. "We put them on the site, where they're going to live the rest of their life."

At the LAPD's Wilshire division, the rats were chewing through and destroying their criminal files.

"They were running on the desks of officers as they were trying to work. It was a nightmare," says Melya."They tried many different kinds of exterminating methods, but none of them worked. Once we brought in the working cats, the rats disappeared."

Kaplan says she's placed working cats in several businesses and private homes and they've been extremely effective in each location.

"We put the cats in a cage for one month so they're used to the sights, sounds and smells of their new home. After a month we open the doors," says Melya. "The smell of the cats as top-line predators deters the rats." 

Kaplan says it's a win-win approach for everyone.

"The feral cats are saved and not euthanized. We are saved from the environmental toxins, in our water table, our ground soil or our lungs and the rats actually leave," says Melya.

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