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'Working Cats' program gives hard-to-adopt felines jobs at Baltimore businesses

Mary Carole McCauley, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

BALTIMORE -- Not long ago, Inky the cat was so angry and frightened that the only way his rescuers at BARCS could handle him was by trapping the 4-year-old black cat with a net.

Then Inky got a job doing pest control through the "Working Cat" program run by the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter Inc. and almost overnight, his outlook on life reversed 180 degrees.

"The first day that BARCS brought Inky to us, he was hissing and really unhappy," said Tom Foster, the co-founder of Diamondback Brewing Co. and Inky's "employer."

"I thought, 'Oh, I don't know if this is going to work out.' But, then he got here and it was like a switch went off. I don't think he's hissed once since that day. He's gotten extremely friendly. He'll let me pick him up, and he'll jump on my lap when he wants to be petted."

Inky is just one of the more than 100 success stories of a BARCS program that places difficult-to-adopt cats on farms, at warehouses, in nurseries, and in other commercial settings.

Starting in 2012, BARCS began a small version of what then was called its Barn Cat program. Organizers reasoned that some cats weren't meant to be pets but would be happy living a life with minimal human contact in which they nonetheless provided a useful service -- rodent control. Meanwhile, humans in need of said service would provide the animals with food, shelter and medical care.

"Some cats can't be placed in a home," said Bailey Deacon, BARCS' director of communications. "Some won't use a litter box. Others are feral and haven't been socialized. Some get over-stimulated and the only outlet they have for their energies is by hunting humans."

Inky, for instance, came from a house where refuse was piled floor to ceiling, Deacon said. He'd lash out with his claws and teeth at any human who came near.

BARCS' staff kept Inky under observation for a long time, waiting to see if his attitude would change. When it didn't, they thought he might be a candidate for alternative placement.

As part of the program, BARCS donates the cat, spays or neuters the animal for free and surgically implants an identifying microchip. The shelter even delivers the feline to its new home.

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