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  • Writer's pictureBecky Faulks

All About Working Cats and How to Have One

The term ‘working cat’ isn’t one we hear much nowadays, but it wasn’t so long ago that all felines had a job

Image by miezekieze 

Working dogs are everywhere. From guide dogs to service dogs and even rescue dogs, ‘man’s best friend’ has stood beside us for over 30,000 years. But when we think of cats, what usually springs to mind is a well-cared for, probably slightly tubby feline lounging on the sofa or curled up by the fire. ‘Emotional support animal’ is the term that would probably fit most domestic cats – and we love them all the more for it. However, cats have only been domesticated for a fraction of the time that dogs have, and it wasn’t long ago that all felines had ‘job’. Around 11,000 years ago, a partnership between cats and humans began, with humans providing cats with shelter and cats acting as a pest control service. Fittingly, DNA tests have shown that humans never really domesticated wild cats - they actually domesticated themselves.

So where does that leave us? Well, fortunately for us and our feline friends, the average street cat isn’t fully domesticated at all. We call them ferals, but a feral cat is essentially a wild animal with domestic ancestors, which has returned to a wild lifestyle having had no contact with humans. These cats are usually scared of humans and don’t associate them with food or comfort. The upshot is that there are still plenty of felines out there who are more than capable of fending for themselves – although keeping a caring eye on them never hurt. These are our modern-day working cats – perfect for a life outdoors and keeping mice at bay.

Image by Chris Birk 

If you’re interested in adopting a working cat, there are plenty of ways to get one. SPCA International is a great place to start as it has it has a comprehensive list of animal shelters across every continent. Often, working cats come from shelters as part of trap, neuter and return (TNR) programs, which have been put in place for those who are unable to be rehomed as pets. Sometimes there are reasons why cats can’t be released to where they were before, and these cats usually make ideal mousers as they are used to hunting for their own food. They are available to barns, warehouses or other such places to be ‘employed’ as a natural form of pest control. While a housecat may miss the comforts of home, a working cat can thrive in places like this and both parties can benefit. The cat may become friendly, but it's just a bonus if it does.

If you’re interested in adoption, be aware that the process is slightly different to adopting a house cat. For a start the cats are usually free, but there can be other requirements. Some rescue centres specify that you have to take two or more cats, and may insist on choosing the cats themselves as they will know which ones are most suitable. These cats are usually afraid of people, so the shelter will relieve them of the stress of having visitors. You will then need to prove that you can provide food, water, litter and shelter for the cat, bearing in mind that cats do not need to be hungry in order to hunt – this is referred to as the cat’s ‘minimum wage’. And that about sums it up – your purr-fect partner awaits.


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