When Melya Kaplan visits one of L.A.'s too-full animal shelters, she isn't searching for cute or cuddly. "We look for unsocialized cats; we want the ones that are hissing and spitting in their cages," she told us. Luckily for street-smart strays, they have an advocate in Kaplan and her team, the group behind Working Cats, a program that's found more than 500 of L.A.'s fiercest strays jobs as lean, mean, rat-hunting machines for local businesses. As the Los Angeles Times reports, it all started with a rodent problem at DTLA's historic flower mart, where vermin were scaring shoppers and making meals of the fresh goods. Kaplan, executive director of Voice for the Animals, stepped in with an idea that would soon become the Working Cats program: Save the wildest cats from L.A. shelters to work as live-in rat security guards. And it worked: Nine strays later, the flower mart is rodent-free. Now the group places cats everywhere, from police stations to private homes, normally two or more cats at a time for companionship, of course. The new owners name the strays and feed them, and almost instantly see their vermin problem disappear.
Of course, it's no secret that these cats would likely never be adopted without people like Kaplan and her team. According to the ASPCA, each year approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters, and 2.7 million are euthanized. That's more than a third. Thanks to press, such as the aforementioned Los Angeles Times article, Kaplan is getting more and more calls for cats — and for more than just businesses. "We've been getting calls to place cats in private homes with rat problems," Kaplan says. And oftentimes, the owners get more than a security guard. "Even the cats that are hissing and spitting can become domestic in time," she says. It's a win-win.