Feral Cats On Rat Patrol In Niles Police Pilot Program

Niles police patch.

While Ace and Deuce are Niles’ police dogs, a recent announcement by police reports a team of cats is now patrolling the 7800 block of Nordica Avenue to control rats.  

Niles police and community development officials recently launched a two-month pilot program releasing five cats to control rats in the Nordica area of Niles. The outdoor cats, which are natural hunters, will be fed and tended to by neighborhood resident Sarwad Hakim. The cats will be spayed and neutered to prevent uncontrolled breeding, police said.

Feral cats will establish an area they control, attacking rats and other rodents, which Mayor George Alpogainis said will drive the rats from that area. 

Alpogianis said he wants to start setting the groundwork to expand the program now. He said this pilot came after six months of planning. Niles police said it is modeled after a program used by Chicago. 

“We will be searching for volunteers in other neighborhoods where rats are problems,” Niles police said in an email to the Journal & Topics. “We are currently developing a social media campaign to recruit interested host families for the cats. This campaign Is forthcoming.”

Alpogianis said Niles Community Development Dept. officials track complaints about rats. He said he directed village officials to start looking for people in other neighborhoods where rats are a problem, who would be willing to host or adopt feral cats so the program could be quickly expanded, rather than starting the search process after two months have passed. 

Community Development Director Charles Ostman said his office has been in contact with at least one other resident willing to participate in the program outside of the Nordica area. 

Alpogianis said those hosting the cats would be given an outdoor shelter where the cats can live, spayed or neutered. Although the cats would roam freely within a neighborhood, the mayor said having a home base for the cats allows them to be better controlled. 

Ostman said although his staff has not yet created a “heat map” tracking locations of rat complaints, many complaints come from an area west from the 7800 block of Nordica where the program is now in place, past the village hall campus, to areas off Oakton Street east of Milwaukee Avenue.  

Ostman said the village has one community development employee who spends the majority of their day following up on rat complaints, setting bait boxes, and following up with inspections of properties. 

Although grocery stores and restaurants around Milwaukee and Oakton generate a good deal of food waste, Ostman said recent inspections of those businesses have seen trash kept inside until trash day, or otherwise well contained. He said there have been instances where residents put bird feed or other food for birds out where rats can easily get to it, or have yards in conditions where rats and other rodents are attracted. 

Alpogainis said a few other factors have contributed to the appearance of more rats in the village. Because of a great deal of construction happening in the village, nests, where rats lived, were disturbed, sending them out into the street. He said when restaurants in Chicago were shut down because of COVID, many of those rats migrated to north, increasing the rat population in the village.

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