Cats are America’s most popular house pets, but if you’ve ever wanted one that lives alongside you and doesn’t demand your affection, we have a program you might be interested in.
Oakland Animal Services is the city’s only open-admission shelter. We are the safety net for any animal — whether lost, abandoned, neglected, injured, or unwanted. Dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets with nowhere else to go are welcomed, regardless of age, behavior, or breed.
Among the thousands of animals we see each year are a small number feral cats. While genetically identical to a housecat, they have never been socialized to people or tamed while kittens, and so, like wildlife, are afraid of humans.
The cats are sterilized and typically returned to where they came from. But sometimes they can’t be returned, either because it’s unsafe for them, or they are unwanted, or it’s a sensitive wildlife habitat. To find these cats a new home, OAS started our Cats on Patrol program in 2016 (bit.ly/catsonpatrol) .
Also known as mousers, barn cats, or garden cats, these feral cats are nature’s best pest control: 70 percent of our garden cat adopters report a large reduction or complete elimination of rodents from their property — rats as well as mice. In every case where these cats have been adopted successfully, some improvement has been seen.
One happy adopter, Emily S., has four cats on her 50-acre working farm near Sacramento. After their first year, her cats Xena, Hobbes, Garfield, and Taco are thriving, and Emily has noticed a big reduction in her pest problem. “I live on a farm, so my rodent problem is extreme. Xena and Hobbes are quite friendly now and will happily get petted by me during morning feeding. Hobbes goes everywhere, and I find him in some really crazy high up places. Garfield has a favorite spot in the barn and is usually hanging out there during the day. Taco hides the most of the four cats, but I still spot him every week, so I know he’s definitely still here, too. The working cats have been an excellent addition to our farm.”
Nearly 200 cats have been placed through the program since its inception in October 2016 and Cats on Patrol has become a key part of the shelter’s lifesaving efforts, helping to boost OAS’s live release rate for cats to 90 percent in 2018.
OAS places cats throughout Northern California, so if your backyard chickens or fruit trees are inviting unwanted pests, a Patrol Cat could be just what you need — especially if you wish to avoid the use of poison. Working cats are very adaptable and do well in farms, stables, urban gardens, warehouses, wineries, breweries, and similar places.
If you wish to adopt a garden cat, the adoption process is pretty simple — as is caring for the cats themselves. First you apply (no more than 10 minutes). Then your application is reviewed and you get an appointment to pick up the cats from the shelter. The cats need to be confined for a four-week acclimation period, and then they get to work. You just provide food, water and shelter.
Like any pet adopted from OAS, Patrol Cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and checked by the shelter veterinarian. For more information or to apply to adopt working cats, visit bit.ly/catsonpatrol.
Andrew Dorman is an IAABC accredited Shelter Behavior Affiliate, volunteers at Oakland Animal Services running the feral cat programs, and serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit Friends of Oakland Animal Services. He is employed at Cat Town, a local cat rescue organization, and at Revamp Engineering where he consults for the renewable energy industry.
Are you a San Francisco Bay area cat behaviorist, cat consultant, or cat expert who would like to contribute to this column, Kitty Corner? Send email to Editor@BayWoof.com.
Main article photo by: Photo courtesy OAS Cats on Patrol / Emily S.