We talk a lot about working dogs – military dogs, police dogs, assistance dogs, herding dogs, guard dogs, weight pullers, etc… Everyone knows that many dogs have a job to do and they’re so good at whatever they’re trained to do. But what about cats? Is there such a thing as a working cat?
Yes, there are working cats! Jobs for cats differ from jobs for dogs in that they are largely related to the cat’s natural abilities. Unlike a dog, cats are not all that eager to please us. We can teach a dog nearly anything because of their desire to make us happy, but cats are not so willing. Their motivation is to do something only if it’s worth their while. Such dignity…
Let’s take a look at some of the jobs that cats excel in!
Rats and Cats: Rodent Control
What could be more natural for a cat than rodent control? Hunting vermin is a natural instinct for a cat, although, training or owning a cat for the purpose of being a “mouser” or “ratter” is somewhat controversial. The argument is that it’s just not healthy for the cat. Cats who hunt vermin are not only vulnerable to diseases carried by the rat but can also be susceptible to fleas and ticks that a rat most certainly will have. That means if a rat has ingested poison, and the cat happens to eat or bite the rat, he too could be affected by the poison. Those things aside, many cats are “hired” as mousers, and in a lot of cases, it’s not a “bad” thing.
What could be more gratifying for a cat than allowing them to indulge their instincts? A cat that hunts is a much happier cat. If those impulses and desires are not appeased, inappropriate behavior can result, such as shredding the curtains, or ankle attacks. Also, as hard as it is for us to accept, stalking, chasing, and hunting is really fun for a cat!
Many humane organizations across the country are trying to use feral cats for rodent control. They are working to place feral cats in businesses and residences where mice and rats are problematic. Because of their lack of association with humans, many feral cats would otherwise be euthanized. Surely giving a cat a home is better than the alternative. Also, most feral cats are not strangers to the job of hunting for sustenance. And they can actually end up having very happy lives while working as a mouser.
There are several stories online about a brewery in Chicago that tried nearly every way possible to prevent rats from eating their expensive grain. As a last resort, they called the local shelter and adopted 4 feral cats. The cats eliminated the problem and now live comfortably and very happily in the brewery! The cats have even opened up to the staff, often allowing petting and playing. These lucky felines literally lack for nothing in their new life. The employees built them a nice home – several stories tall with shelves, windows, and a door. They have lots of toys to entertain them when not hunting rodents. And the staff admits that many customers come to their brewery just to see the cats! Isn’t that just awesome?!
Another fun story…Years ago, Walt Disney was surprised to find scores of feral cats living inside of Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland CA. So when the park realized they had a rodent problem, they put the cats to work! All of the cats were captured, spayed/neutered, vaccinated and released back into the park. Each night, Disneyland releases about 200 cats to help with the rodent population. The cats receive medical care when needed and have several feeding and watering stations throughout the park. These well cared for felines even have their own Instagram page (@disneylandcats)!
When raised with love and regular handling as kittens, an adult cat will often seek attention and affection in others. Just like therapy dogs, a therapy cat helps people struggling with physical and emotional difficulties. Obviously, cats are not able to assist people with disabilities – as in guiding, retrieving items, providing physical support and those types of things, but they are experts in calming and lowering blood pressure. Even the vibration of their purring is healing and comforting.
Therapy cats are found in nursing homes, rehab centers, juvenile homes, hospitals, and more. Many of these cats just happen to be in the right place at the right time and thus earned the right to be considered therapy animals. However, cats can actually be professionally trained and certified. Pet Partners, the nation’s leading organization of registered therapy animals, has 200 Registered Therapy cats.
The most famous Therapy Cat is named Oscar. This 11-year-old sweetheart resides at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The amazing thing about Oscar is that he has the ability to detect when someone is going to die. At the nursing home, he will seek out and curl up alongside a terminally ill patient and stay with them until they pass. He is so good at detecting death that the nursing staff will call in the family for final good-byes when Oscar settles-in with a patient.
PetMD tells the story of an IT Company in Japan that has an “office cat” policy in place to help relieve anxiety and create a less stressful work environment. They actually encourage employees that own cats to bring them to work! Employers are quickly learning that cats, as well as other animals, successfully reduce workplace stress. Dr. Heather Loenser, the veterinary advisor for professional and public affairs for the American Animal Hospital Association, agrees that having cats in the office for the purpose of reducing stress makes perfect sense. “Cats tend to bring a certain calm to the room, whether they’re walking across the conference room table or sitting on a lap,” Loesner said. “Practically speaking, they’re smaller and quieter, which makes them lovely colleagues.”
Cats have also been “hired” to help to reduce the inevitable tension in US prisons. Cats in prisons tend to reduce anger and aggression and generate more gentle behavior among the inmates. FORWARD (Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication), a program at Indiana’s maximum-security Pendleton Correctional Facility, began in April 2015. In the program, shelter cats get remarkably loving homes when being paired with inmates, making a real difference in the lives of many prisoners.
I’m sure you can think of a few cats you have seen on TV or in the movies: “Bleeker” from “Gone Girls”; “Mr. Bigglesworth” from “Austin Powers”; “Goose” in “Captain Marvel”; “Keanu” in “Keanu”; “Crookshanks” and “Mrs. Norris” from the “Harry Potter” Series; “Sassy” from “Homeward Bound”. And who can forget Morris, the finicky cat from the 9-lives commercials?
Cats have been working in Hollywood since nearly the beginning of filmmaking itself. It all started when a little kitten crawled up through the floorboards of a movie studio during a film. The director loved it and decided to leave it in the movie. How adorable! That particular cat went on to do several films in the next few years. If you search the web, there are lots of cats trained for film work these days… many of which are rescues! Feline talent agencies are very well staffed with skilled and experienced cat actors.
Cats are certainly not suited for just any job. We can laugh about it now, but a lot of money and time has been wasted in history in an effort to try to train cats for jobs outside of their proclivity.
In the 1960’s, the CIA decided that a foolproof way to spy on the Soviets was to use the innocent looking cat. In a period of 5 years, they spent 20 million dollars to come up with a “prototype” cat. The cat was implanted with a microphone in its ear and a transmitter at the bottom of its skull. After years of repetitive and tiresome training, they felt confident that they were ready to begin. They took the cat in a surveillance vehicle to downtown DC for its very first assignment. The cat jumped out of the vehicle, dashed across the street and was instantly hit and killed by a taxicab. $20m down the drain. The program was then squashed.
In the 1870’s a Belgian village decided – for whatever reason – that cats would make good mail carriers. So they trained 37 cats to deliver the mail. They wrapped waterproof bags containing letters around each cat’s neck and set them out on their route. That’s when all accounts of this “experiment” ends. No one knows why it didn’t work… whether the cats fled with the bags, or they got lost on their route… nothing. All we know is that it didn’t work. We could have told them that it wouldn’t work, right? What in the world made them think that cats would in any way be keen to deliver mail?
Our precious furry friends
The thing is, cats are lucky. As far as we’re concerned, they don’t have to work to earn their keep. Despite their aloofness and pretension, we are just happy to have them as companions in our lives. The feline guests at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts are very special indeed. We treat them like our very own companions and make sure they feel like royalty when they stay with us.