For a few years now, Oak Lawn residents have been complaining through Facebook pages about a “rat problem” and asking or demanding some response. One woman even wrote a op-ed piece in October of 2013, claiming rats were having a picnic on Minnick.
It is not an unfamiliar problem for Oak Lawn, other suburbs or even the City of Chicago, which was once named the “rat capital of the world”. One of our competitors posted on its Facebook page the following question: “Are any of you seeing rats in Oak Lawn alleys? I’ve seen several in the past month. I’m writing to the village about baiting the alleys.” The post was made on July 28, 2012. Over four years ago, yet Oak Lawn residents continue to complain about rats.
Rats cause a public health problem because they carry diseases like anti-biotic resistant E.coli. They are also known to spread disease through their urine and feces. Rats have been linked to MRSA cases by public health officials.
Chicago has declared “war” on the rat population creating a rodent task force in April of this year to mitigate if not eradicate the rat population. Unfortunately, some of that rat population may have been reduced by the critters finding homes in nearby suburbs, such as Oak Lawn.
Chicago has started a public relations campaign posting signs that state, “if rats can’t feed, rats can’t breed”. While no Oak Lawn residents have admitted to feeding rats, the critters will feast on garbage and even dog feces. The problem is so bad in Chicago that an ordinance fining homeowners for not picking up dog feces from their own backyard was introduced.
In recent months, residents have complained about overflowing garbage cans behind businesses on Cicero Avenue and 95th Street. Complaints about dog walkers failing to pick up after their own dogs have also been plentiful.
Individual businesses and residents both in Chicago and the suburbs have been frustrated with their failed attempts to eradicate the rat population.
Recently, one Oak Lawn resident suggested that Oak Lawn put feral cats to work to stop the complaints about rats. It’s not a new idea.
Some individual homeowners in Chicago are turning to cats in an innovative private approach to rat control.
An organization known as “Tree House” is the organization responsible for the program. The organization is best known as a “no kill” cat shelter. In 2007, the City of Chicago passed an ordinance, the Managed care of Feral Cats Act, that allows animal organizations to trap, neuter, and return the animals to their home turf. The ordinance was passed as a way to avoid killing cats that were wild and would not be adopted saving the rat chasers for gainful employment.
The relationship of Cats doing the rat chasing work dates back about 10,000 years to grain farms where cats were used to chase away the rats from the grain. Cats have also been used in Disneyland and on US ships during World War II.
Tree House is willing to give residents or businesses a colony and people who have used the system report that their areas are “rat free” after trying the approach. The organization does the work by making sure the cats are acclimated into the new area and provided giant crates that become the cat’s home. The cats adapt to the new home in about four weeks. At that point, a caretaker has to agree to feed the cats two times a day, provide shelter and trips to the vet when necessary.
For thousands of years, cats have been effective “rat hunters” because they not only eat rats but by marking their territory, by rubbing up against things, the rats tend to leave the area.
The organization charges about $600 for a three-cat placement. The cats will in effect become backyard guard cats chasing rats as well as providing an incentive for rats to vacate the area.