China fights rats with stray cats

Beijing, Aug 20: More than 100 stray cats that used to roam the streets in a Chinese province have now been collected and organised into a team to fight rodents that are destroying crops.

The ‘cat army’ has been formed in northwest Xinjiang Uygur region, Xinhua reported.

The team was released by the pest control office into the grassland in May, and have adapted to their new life and proven to be good rat hunters, said Li Hua, a forest worker in Xinjiang’s Bole city.

To make the cats comfortable in the grassland, forest workers have built pens for them near water sources.

Li and his colleagues have observed fewer rats in areas where the cats wander.

‘Local herders also say they have seen fewer rat holes,’ he said.

At least 5.4 million hectares of Xinjiang’s cropland was hit by rats this spring.

‘In winter, when the minimum temperature drops to minus 30 degrees Celsius, they will stay in local herders’ homes – these herders will get government subsidies in return,’ said Li.

He said cats are as efficient as foxes and eagles in hunting rodents.

‘We hope to promote the practice to the entire region and to other parts of the country,’ he said.

Officials say stray cats are an apparent consequence of China’s fast urbanisation over the past three decades. Many old homes are being demolished and pets are left behind when their owners move.

These deserted animals, often roam around restaurants, relying on food provided by kind-hearted people or rummaging through garbage bins.

IANS