Rocking on my porch, my dear friend Michelle and I looked to our right and saw Tuck, a feral kitty, come for some kibble. We were both in tears because he had been AWOL for a few weeks. “We had cats at our family bakery. My dad created Ezekiel bread, and an organic bakery will not use poison for rodents, that’s for sure,” she said. “The cats were all feral: some friendly, others not so much.” Michelle’s been the greatest cheerleader in my project to reduce our rodent population without using poison.
You may own a small business in Downtown Los Angeles, or a warehouse, live near a restaurant, or have a home in the San Gabriel Valley. No matter where you live, you’ve probably seen a rat or two and wondered how to combat them safely. Working cats to the rescue! Even Disneyland in Anaheim uses working cats for this purpose since, as they say, “There’s only room for one rodent here!”
In early March, I wrote a column about working cats and that I’d applied to have two feline rodent hunters for our home in Altadena. A week later, Rosa of kittybungalow.org and I stood on my front porch; she had come to set up the enclosure for the two cats that I’d I renamed Nip and Tuck. After I told Rosa I had already written a column, she said, “I hope you do a follow-up column; we need the exposure and the donations to spay and neuter more kittens.” I promised I would, and here it is.
I’m happy to report that we’ve seen a marked decrease in rodent activity since the kitties moved here. Hurrah!
I was already fervently against the use of poison. I became even more committed as I witnessed a life-and-death drama via Facebook during the darkest depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. My friend Bonnie Schindler witnessed a mature owl’s horrific struggle against an internal injury. Bonnie said, “The crows were dive-bombing Owliver, the name we gave the owl.” It had all the markers of rat poisoning. The Schindlers were able to get Owliver to the Wildlife Care of Southern California (wildlifecareofsocal.org). It turned out Owliver was in the throes of death from a parasite that had dug into his brain behind his eyes.
That Owliver wasn’t poisoned doesn’t matter as much as having the image of the magnificent winged apex predator struggling seared on my brain forever. Birds of prey are especially vulnerable to rat poison: hawks, eagles and owls. This is a double tragedy because the fewer birds of prey, the more rats can proliferate. Other animals and our pets can eat rat poison or the poisoned rats themselves. Not good! Yet we see rat control trucks around here a lot. Stop it! If Disney can use feral cats, so can you. Seriously.
Naïve as I am, I thought feral kitty fostering would be a noncontroversial project. As it turns out, someone I love and respect dearly took umbrage over our feral kitty adoption, and they weren’t the only ones. They were concerned about cats killing birds. I also care about birds … and not being overrun by rampant rat populations. The fewer unplanned litters, the fewer smaller birds are taken by starving cats. As it is, I feed our feral kitties once a day. They return because they know they can get a good square meal. Meanwhile, their very presence discourages rats.
Back to Michelle and me. She knew that I was so sad … I haven’t seen the little Russian blue female, Nip, for three weeks. She might have become a link in the food chain, or as Michelle and my husband, Ken, comfort me, “She might have found a better deal in another yard.”
Speaking of Ken, we now have the benefit of kitties without setting off the intense asthma attack he gets whenever he’s around felines. I’ve never seen a face swell up and breathing become so difficult in another human being as I did when Ken visited a home but had forgotten to ask the owner if they had cats, as he would have stayed outside.
Because we have a large property, I applied for and got another two kitties from Kitty Bungalow: Charm School for Wayward Cats. Michelle is so pleased as she is a feline fan extraordinaire. Here’s to sterilized feral kitties and their war on rodents — and poison — which benefits us all.
If you’re interested, here’s where you can apply for feral cats anywhere in Southern California:
• Paw Mission — Rodent Rangers: thepawmission.org/rangers.html.
• Kitty Bungalow — Working Cat: kittybungalow.org/workingcat (This is whom we’re working with. I love their subtitle “Charm School for Wayward Cats.”).
• Kitten Rescue — Cats on Pawtrol: kittenrescue.org/2019/12/cats-on-pawtrol.
P.S. Bonnie Schindler and Elizabeth Tatum are presenting a voice recital at Pasadena Presbyterian’s Music at Noon series on Wednesday, May 31. Just show up! Pasadena Presbyterian Church 585 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena.
2023 marks the 30th year that Ellen Snortland has written this column. She also teaches creative writing online and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her award-winning film “Beauty Bites Beast” is available for download or streaming at vimeo.com/ondemand/beautybitesbeast.