The San Diego County Department of Animal Services has launched a campaign to find new digs for felines they classify as “working cats” – those that act less like pets than business partners.
These working cats provide rodent control, living inside buildings, barns and business premises, working to get rid of pests.
Kelly Campbell, director of animal services, said the county has moved away from euthanizing adoptable animals. This includes cats who have been rescued from hoarding situations, who were once in places they weren’t properly socialized, or those who may be shy around people.
Some cats that the county welcomes have never had a human connection and are unable to be socialized to live well in people’s homes.
She said that while many of the types of cats Animal Services take in are not the best candidates for adoption into a home or apartment, they are ideally suited for the job. These working cats can launch a new life as pest control agents, ready and able to reduce the population of invasive rodents in larger spaces.
Animal Services staff say working cats often thrive in pairs and find their comfort zones in enclosed spaces like barns, warehouses, churches and factories. They usually stay out of sight as long as they have a safe space to go.
Work cat programs have been successful in Los Angeles County, where the Best Friends Animal Society is teaming up with the county.
The San Diego Humane Society also has a working cat program, although their website says there is a waiting list for a suitable work-oriented feline.
This is not the case for the county.
“We always have more under-socialized cats than (socialized),” Campbell said. “If we had a waiting list it would be a good problem to have.”
Campbell said the county has been working with feral cats for some time and has mastered “TNR” – trap, spay (or neuter) and return – a process in which feral and stray cats are captured in humane traps, neutered. / sterilized and vaccinated and returned to where they were found.
But she said some of the cats the group welcomes are unable to adjust to life outdoors or in the fields. They can’t fend for themselves, and these are a few of those who would do well as working cats.
Animal Services will waive adoption fees for working cats, which will be fully screened, neutered, microchipped and activity ready.
In exchange for cats, non-chemical organic pest control, interested businesses or property owners will be responsible for such things as keeping cats in a safe, dry shelter with easy access to the outdoors; leave out a daily supply of cat food and fresh water; monitor the safety and ensure the welfare of cats; and have the ability to trap cats if they are injured or sick to take them to the vet.