Farmers have been counting on barn cats to control rodents for centuries, but now the Javits Center is taking a note from country life and putting feral cats to work in the big city too. The Manhattan convention center ‘employs’ a team of four cats to keep the rats away at the facility’s loading docks. The felines are part of a special program that helps feral cats stay healthy and find new homes away from dangerous construction sites. Sylvester, Alfreda, Mama Cat, and Ginger do their part by scaring off rodents without using toxic chemicals, and they work for cheap, too.
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, located at 655 W. 34th St. in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, has reportedly been struggling with its rodent population for the past two years. Visits from professional exterminators were costly, and didn’t seem to be solving the problem. The center’s sustainability manager Rebecca Marshall told DNAinfo that the NYC Feral Cat Initiative was her next call.
The organization runs a “trap-neuter-return” (TNR) program through which feral cats are captured, then sterilized and vaccinated before being “returned to their territory of origin.” But many of the cats can’t be released in the same place where they were found since construction projects often leave them without homes. Volunteers started bringing felines from the TNR program to the Javits Center back in 2014, and the convention center proved to be a perfect new home for them. There were already a few feral cats slinking around the loading docks, making it more likely for newly introduced felines to stick around. (There’s no word on how the resident felines react when popular dog and cat shows roll through the convention center.)
Although the cats are reportedly happy at the convention center, being fed in rotation by staff members who volunteer to bring in food, half a dozen of the felines that came from the FCI’s TNR program have found new adoptive homes during their stay at the Javits Center, including two kittens. The felines do their part to keep rodent populations in check, both by preying upon them and also by scaring them off with their scent. Convention center managers like this deal as well, because they can save money and avoid using dangerous pesticides on the property.
“It’s definitely less expensive than calling the exterminators,” Marshall told DNAinfo. “The cats… literally work for food.”