An animal shelter in Chicago has released 1,000 feral cats throughout the city to combat a rat crisis.

Through a program called Cats at Work, the Tree House Humane Society, a local animal shelter, releases feral felines on to city streets. The initiative places two to three cats, all spayed, neutered and vaccinated, outside of residences and businesses to sustainably deal with Chicago’s rodent problem.

The cats are animals that “would not thrive in a shelter or home environment” and are usually subject to long stays in animal control centers or euthanization, according to the non-profit’s website.

While the deployed felines will sometimes kill rats, the mere presence of these repurposed alley cats is usually enough to scare off pests. About 1,000 cats have now been released since 2012, as reported by WGN9, a local media station.

Local homeowners or businesses can sign up for the program, as long as they cover food, water and shelter for the cats. The popular program currently has a “long waitlist”, as stated on its website.

Issues with vermin aren’t new for Chicago. For the sixth consecutive year Chicago has beaten out major cities like Los Angeles and New York to be named the “rattiest city” in a poll conducted by Orkin, an American pest control company.

While Chicago has implemented solutions like rat-proof garbage bins and rodenticide in rat burrows, the Tree House Society has called these actions “ineffective” and “short-term”, specifically citing the use of poison as “dangerous to children, pets and the environment”. Alternatively, using cats as deterrence for rats is a “long-term” and “green” solution, said the organization.

“Working cats are natural predators, which provide a reliable, permanent solution and a win-win for both humans and cats,” said the shelter.

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