LOS ANGELES – They're on the prowl at a handful of police stations throughout the city, keeping pesky rodents in check.
Thanks to the Los Angeles-based animal advocacy and rescue group, The Working Cats program of Voice for the Animals, feral cats that would have faced an almost certain death in shelters or on the streets now have a job.
The group has placed a handful of them in several police stations where rodents are a problem. The cats do not usually kill the rats and mice, but simply leave their scent, prompting the rodents to go elsewhere.
The animals' reputation as successful exterminators grew after feral cats were introduced to the parking lot of the Wilshire Division nearly six years ago. The problem was so bad, mice were sometimes seen scampering across staffers' desks.
"Once we got the cats, problem solved," Cmdr. Kirk Albanese, a captain at the Wilshire station at the time told The Los Angeles Times. "I was almost an immediate believer," said Albanese.
When Albanese moved to the Foothill Division in the northern San Fernando Valley, he brought feral cats into the building's mice-infested basement.
"I think it's a very humane way to deal with a very stubborn problem," said Albanese, now assistant to the director in the office of operations at Parker Center.
Feral cats cannot be turned into house pets, as they are unaccustomed to people and run away when approached.
Voice for the Animals' board member Jane Garrison selected six feral cats for the Southeast station.
Garrison worked with two shelters to select the most feral cats. The cats were then spayed or neutered, vaccinated, micro-chipped and ear-tipped to show that the cat had been altered.
The cats were placed in large wire holding cages and housed in a shed for a month until they adapted to their new location.
At first, the cats spend much of their time out of sight.
"They've got to play it safe and see if they're OK," said Southeast Officer Sandra Magdaleno, who feeds and cares for the cats.
More feral cats will be joining the rank-and-file soon. Another group will be housed at the Central Division early next year.