I swear I wanted to write two or three posts this week, but then, I started fostering (again) the sweetest dog and so I’ve been consumed with loving her. If you’re not already, follow me on Instagram so you can see my stories and keep up with all the love she gives! She’s finally settling in so I have a few moments to write about something that was super cool, a brewery that uses cats to keep their space rodent-free!
Empirical Brewery welcomed four working cats from Tree House Humane Society into their brewery about five years ago. When asked why they opted for this type of pest control, Empirical explained that they did plenty of research into the best option. They realized cats were cost-effective, eco-friendly, and pretty cute to look at, it was a no brainer to bring them on board.
Venkman, Raymond, and Egon are perhaps the best employees at Empirical because they’ve saved the brewery plenty of money over the years. Sure, they might have four legs, but they earn their keep. One of the main components in beer is grain, and there are plenty of bags of it sitting around the brewery. Grain also happens to be a favorite food of rats and mice. If there are any signs that the grain has been touched by rodents, the whole bag has to be thrown away. The year prior to getting their cats, Empirical had to throw away 200 pounds of grain. Since bringing the cats in, they’ve haven’t had to throw away a single bag.
Working cats, as they’re commonly called, are generally feral cats. The protocol for these kinds of cats is to trap, neuter, and then return (TNR) them to the location they came from. Unfortunately, for a multitude of reasons, some cats cannot be put back. These cats are also usually not good candidates for adoption since they don’t enjoy the company of people or a home environment. So, the best case scenario for these guys is to become a working cat for a business that needs rodent control.
It’s the same adoption process as any normal cat. The adopter is responsible for providing food, shelter, veterinary care, and litter boxes. The cat is responsible for keeping mice and other pests at bay. It’s a symbiotic relationship that works well for everyone. The Tree House Humane Society Program, Cats-at-Work, has helped to greatly reduce the number of feral cats euthanized each year.
You don’t need to look far to find proof that cats are excellent pest controllers. Their approach is two-fold. First, they are fantastic hunters that will kill mice, rodents, and any other unwanted critter. But perhaps more effectively, cats scare away these pests away with their scent. Cats spread their smell by rubbing up against things. When rodents smell these scents, they steer clear.
Of course, I’m absolutely obsessed with this idea and I hope to see more businesses using this technique to save lives (of cats – sorry rodents!) and lower their costs. Chicago Animal Care & Control always has feral cats available and they’ll happily set you up with your very own working cats.
If you’re interested in meeting Venkman, Raymond, and Egon, feel free to drop by Empirical and ask for a tour. You may not be able to get cuddles, but they’ll definitely leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy! Or maybe that’s the beer…?
A huge thank you to Empirical for showing us around and helping us get these fantastic photos.
Photographer: Mandy Dempsey
Venkman, Ray, and Egon are all spoken for, but there are plenty of feral cats ready to be put to work! Check out Tree House Humane Society for more information.
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