Old weapon returns to battle vermin

RATCATCHER for hire.Hardworking, low maintenance groundsman seeks land to roam on and vermin to catch – all for the low cost of a warm shelter and occasional pat.

RATCATCHER for hire.

Hardworking, low maintenance groundsman seeks land to roam on and vermin to catch - all for the low cost of a warm shelter and occasional pat.

That is just the job vacancy a number of homeless feral cats are searching for, and they are hoping their advanced rodent catching skills could make them the perfect employee.

Cats Protection in Ipswich has a number of feral cats currently available for re-homing and are hoping to attract business owners.

Colonies of feral cats are increasingly finding themselves homeless, often as a result of inner city and rural development.

Judy Mills, co-ordinator of the Ipswich branch of Cats Protection said: "Most feral cats prefer the rigours of a working life to a comfortable lap in towns. "We have had some very positive feedback in terms of reduced rodent problems from the many farms, warehouses, stables and garden centres that have adopted a feral or two from us,"

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Cats Protection recommend a pair of feral cats as an efficient alternative to chemical pest control.

Suitable homes for the cats could be garden centres, smallholdings, farms, stables, shops - anywhere where there is room to roam and rats to catch, will provide working cats with a suitable environment in which to live and work.

Owners must be prepared to provide their feline employees with food, water, a warm shelter and veterinary care when needed.

Mrs Mills also said contrary to popular belief, regular food and neutering will not affect a feral cat's desire to catch prey.

"In our experience, neutering and feeding a feral cat can actually increase their predatory abilities," she said.

Anyone interested in providing a home for a feral cat should contact Ipswich Branch of Cats Protection on 01473 690084 or 01728 747115.

Rat Facts

There are an estimated 60m rats - one for each person in the UK. Most of them are brown rats.

One pair of rats can produce a colony of 2,000 in a year.

Rats eat the equivalent of 10 per cent of their body weight daily, consuming rubbish, leftover dog food, bird food and dog excrement.

Each year about 200 people contract Weil's disease, an infection carried in rat urine which can lead to kidney or liver failure

A group of rats is called a mischief.

The brown rat is a true omnivore, eating a huge range of food including invertebrates, frogs, small mammals, birds' eggs, scavenged meat and bones, cereals and seeds, fruit, carrion, and any food discarded by humans.

Maximum life span is 3 years, but in the wild, life span is probably less than 18 months.

The greatest cause of mortality is poisoning by rodenticides, but predators such as cats, foxes, dogs, mink, stoats and owls also take their toll.

Brown rats have developed resistance to rodenticides, and many newer poisons are unfortunately highly toxic to many other vertebrates.

Source: www.arkive.org.