Take This Job and Love It:
Great Benefits Program with Perks for
Blue Collar Working Cats

June 21, 2021
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca



They’re a little too temperamental to be considered perfect, in-home, companion cats. Some are even feral. What’s to be done about these categories of cats when agencies like the SPCA Serving Erie County receive them as surrendered animals, or as part of an animal hoarding situation or other type of animal rescue or cruelty case?

For more than a decade, East Aurora-based Feral Cat FOCUS Inc. (FCF) has provided an answer for this agency and other cat welfare organizations in the state. Historically called other names such as the Adopt-A-Barn-Cat program and the Adopt-A-Working-Cat program, the Blue Collar Working Cats program now encompasses more of the varied establishments that have taken advantage of the loyal presence of these hard-working cats!

One of the founders of FCF, Edie Offhaus, says, “These are cats of various temperaments. In some cases, they are not exactly feral, but they’re unsocial. This program is a beautiful adoption alternative for these types of cats who have nowhere else to go.”

According to Offhaus, Blue Collar Working Cats have been placed in various New York State establishments including wineries, warehouses, nurseries and greenhouses, barns and stables, and more. “We place cats in all parts of Western New York, and assist agencies all over New York State, even some in the New York City area,” Offhaus states. When an organization representative calls to inquire about receiving Blue Collar Working Cats to live on the property, Offhaus says, “We conduct a thorough interview to ensure proper placement, since not all of these cats will thrive in all of these settings. We also ensure there are enough people who will take full responsibility for the care and feeding of these cats throughout their lifetime.”

Once an establishment is deemed a proper setting for specific Blue Collar Working Cats, a representative of FCF brings a minimum of two cats (some larger establishments have four or more Blue Collar Working Cats), already spayed or neutered, treated for fleas, and vaccinated by veterinarians at Operation PETS: the Spay/Neuter Clinic of WNY, Inc. for “grounding” purposes. Cats are placed in extra-large dog crates at their “new home” (when a separate, closed-off room is not available) for a three-week period, which allows them time to adapt to the different people, sights, sounds, smells, and, possibly, other animals that collectively comprise the new setting.  Most importantly, they begin to recognize the voices of those who will be providing the majority of care.

“Feral Cat FOCUS provides the crates and other equipment during the three-week grounding period,” Offhaus says. “After that, as with any adoption, all care is the responsibility of the new owners.” Offhaus also remarks that, in all the years of managing this program, FCF has had very few cats that didn’t respond to the new surroundings. “Now that the quality of life has increased for the animals and they’re more content, some of them become even more social and enjoy being present around people for longer periods of time.”

To date, more than 600 establishments house a minimum of two Blue Collar Working Cats. The purpose? “Rodent control, plain and simple,” Offhaus says. “Sometimes the mere presence of Blue Collar Working Cats is enough to keep rodents away from perceived food sources or food and beverage storage areas.”

FCF is unable to accept surrenders of cats from private owners who believe their cats may not be living a high quality of life indoors, yet feel guilty about keeping them outdoors or giving them up. “What we do,” explains Offhaus, “is walk those pet owners through how to set up a Blue Collar Working Cats program right at home. We remove the misplaced guilt they may feel over not keeping a cat indoors. Not every cat can life a high-quality life indoors. So we help these people establish a Blue Collar Working Cats program right where they are; we walk them through all the steps and assist as much as possible in their imitation of our program.”

The SPCA Serving Erie County is honored to be one of the organizations with which FCF works in its Blue Collar Working Cats program. Several hundred cats who were not viable adoption candidates found new lives through FCF and this program, and the SPCA is indebted and eternally grateful to the team at FCF for dedicating so many of their resources to these special cats with high work ethics.

Organization representatives who believe Blue Collar Working Cats might be a welcome addition to their establishments are encouraged to call FCF at 1-888-902-9717 or visit the FCF website to learn more about adopting a working cat team.

Feral Cat FOCUS Inc. is an all-volunteer organization with 501(c)(3) status. Donations are welcomed and encouraged. Make a gift or learn more >>

DOMESTIC MALE RATS ADDED TO NEUTER LIST AT SPCA SERVING ERIE COUNTY

August 24, 2020
By: SPCA Shelter Veterinarian Dr. Allison Kean; Vice President of Veterinary Services Melanie Rushforth; Director of Behavior and Research Miranda K. Workman 

The SPCA Serving Erie County is now neutering male rats prior to adoption. Neutering male rats can have several benefits that result in improved welfare for the rats, their cagemates, and their humans.

Males can be neutered as early as eight to 12 weeks of age. A neuter is a less- risky procedure than a spay (ovariohysterectomy) for females, which is why the SPCA is limiting sterilization surgeries to males.

Benefits of neutering male rats include the following:

-The risk for testicular cancer is eliminated after neutering. Reproductive cancers are very common in rats; neutering can potentially increase their lifespan. The greatest increase in average lifespan for male rats is associated with early neuter (eight to 12 weeks old).

-Neutered rats can be housed with female rats (spayed or intact) without the risk of impregnating the females. This increases their potential adoption opportunities as they are not restricted to housing with males only. (Research indicates that most males are sterile by one week post-neuter, although introductions to females may be safest after two weeks post-neuter to ensure the males have completely healed from the procedure and are no longer experiencing post-operative pain.)

-Neutered rats are significantly less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior toward their cage mates, behavior that may result in injury and/or death. At sexual maturity, due to increased testosterone, it is common for male rats to display increased aggressive behavior.

-It is also easier to introduce new rats to neutered rats than intact males who are more likely to attack “intruders” to their housing space. Introducing new rats to adult, intact males resulted in death for 21% of the introduced rats in one study* (Flannelly & Thor, 1978).

-Neutered males urine mark much less often than intact males. This can help keep their housing units cleaner than if they are urine marking more frequently.

-Neutered males are also more prosocial with humans and are easier to handle due to the decreased influence of hormones on their behavior. The risk of aggressive behavior toward humans is decreased with neutering.

With all the benefits above, there is one small downside:

-Neutered males are at a slightly higher risk of obesity, which is why we encourage a good quality diet and regular exercise and enrichment.

Given the evidence provided by research combined with the experience of the SPCA’s Director of Behavior and Research Miranda K. Workman and Shelter Veterinarian Dr. Allison Kean, we can confidently say that neutering male rats increases the welfare of each individual rat, their cage mates, and their human companions. Thus, in line with the SPCA Serving Erie County’s mission, we are now neutering all male rats prior to adoption. The adoption fee for domestic rats is $15.00, and this fee includes the males’ neuter surgeries.

Web references for information above include:

*http://www.ratbehavior.org/Neutering.htm

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/neutering-in-rats

https://ratcentral.com/should-i-neuter-my-male-rat/