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Who Cares About a Little Cat Fur in the Bun If It Keeps the Ground-up Rat Out of the Hotdog?

- February 13, 2008

Ever vigilant to keep our readers abreast of cutting-edge public policy issues, we here at “The Monkey Cage” have been keeping a close tab (a close tabby?) on the brouhaha over the employment of cats in the workplace. Although some traditionalists contend that a feline’s place is in the home or, better, in the alley, those of us who know better recognize the many vital services that cats perform for humanity, besides snuggling and purring. Indeed, it turns out that the viability of a sizable portion of the service sector of the American economy depends directly on the contributions of assorted little Fluffies and Bootses.

I’m referring, of course, to the use of our feline friends as mousers and ratters in grocery stories, delis, restaurants, and butcher shops, especially in urban settings. If you’re not familiar with how this process works, let me explain. Take a cat, like Holly, pictured below, and plunk her down in the aisle of a deli, like this one in Williamsburg, and presto, you have just solved your rodent infestation problem. No calls to Orkin, no poison, no muss, no fuss. Holly and her many counterparts love their job, they show up for work faithfully every day, they work for sub-minimum wage (a little tuna every now and then if it’s a slow day for mice and rates), and they bother no one except the mice, the rats, the occasional asthmatic who wanders in to buy some chopped liver, and the busybodies at the health department.

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The policy issue arises from the conflict between the afore-mentioned health department busybodies, who are changed with enforcing regulations that ban live animals from such places, on the one hand, and the recognition that rats, if left unchecked, are likely to overrun these places. Enter the cat (or not), the world’s most efficient mouse- and rat-killing machine. And they’re green technology to boot.

What to do, what to do? Here’s a New York Times story that clarifies the basic issues, but not the resolution, of this public health dilemma. My own cats wouldn’t recognize a mouse or a rat if they happened to run into one (which the blind Gooseberry might do) — or if they did, they’d scurry off in the other direction. On the other hand, we shop at catless grocery stores, and I’m pretty queasy about eating the meats that they package.

[Hat tip to Gina Lambright]