By William Hicks
On the front page of The Thousand Oaks Acorn for September 5, 2019 is an article titled…..”Clawing For a Solution.” It purports a solution to control rodents, using feral cats at Cal-Luthern College at the exclusion of rodenticides. During my career with The Los Angeles Unified School District there was a time that I was in charge of all Pest Management decisions for the District. During that time I had many conversations with “The Feral Cat Society” regarding the release of neutered cats on school district property as a solution to reduce the use of rodenticides. I considered the pro’s and con’s to such a choice and came to the conclusion, after some serious research, that replacing rodenticides with cats had some serious negative health potential. I say this with the understanding that reducing the use of rodenticides is an appropriate decision, but cat’s are not the answer.
You see, feral cats represent some health risks to humans that should not be ignored. There are diseases that cats can spread and there are endo and ecto parasites that are frequently present in singular or groups of primarily outdoor cats.
Consider the following:
1) Cats have replaced dogs in the instances of rabies.
2) Through cat waste matter, pregnant women can contract toxoplasmosis that can risk the health of the mother and unborn child.
3) Through the cat flea murine typhus can be spread.
4) Populations of feral cats can be a reservoir of feline diseases that can be spread into the pet population.
These are just a few of the hazards of high populations of cats.
Understand, rodenticides do have their limitations and should never be the first step to controlling rodents. There are alternatives that should always be considered first. You can start by removing sources of attraction to your property; things like exposed food that rodents prefer. That alone may not be enough and you may need to look for areas on your property where rodents find entrance, egress and harborage. Exclusion methods can keep rodents from setting up home on your property. Using traditional traps can be effective, but to be effective it may take some education.
Consider that using cats as your preferred method of rodent control may only be replacing one pest with another. Rodents, particularly rats, are intelligent and there is no singular method to effectively control them. It takes a strategy of multiple methods to reduce a rodent population. Reduce, not eliminate, a population is the only reasonable goal with a rodent population. No singular method, rodenticides or cats, are totally effective.
My suggestion, if you really want to effectively reduce a rodent population is to seek professional help. There are well trained professionals that are State Licensed that specialize in rodent control that can choose the most effective method that fits your prevailing conditions. Before considering suggestions from feral cat activist for rodent control I suggest you consider the many Pest Control Companies that have tried and true methods that include a reduced use of rodenticides.
William Hicks is a long time resident of Newbury Park and is retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District