In some parts of China, cats are hunted for their meat, but in the country’s western farmlands, they’re being used to save the wheat. And rice, and everything else.
In the city of Bole, officials rounded up a 150-strong army of stray cats and deployed them in pastures and cropland, in an effort to save farmers from a plague of rats and mice that have been destroying 5.4 million hectares (1.3 million acres) of food desperately needed for China’s burgeoning human population.
Rats and other pests have become more and more of a problem in the western grasslands because of the kind of human stupidity that has been destroying ecosystems all around the world. Overgrazing and the rampant execution of foxes and other animals that traditionally prey on rodents led to the plague of pests now troubling the farmers.
Apparently the cat army has already begun to prove its worth. The state-run Xinhua News Agency reports that the felines have already been very effective in their work: officials say the number of rat holes has decreased by more than half.
It’s no secret that cats are fantastic hunters. A few years ago, when I lived in a tiny apartment carved out of a barn, my own cat, Thomas, singlehandedly killed dozens of huge Norwegian rats that had made themselves at home there. Almost every night, he left a trophy on my doorstep, and he soon earned the noble title Most Puissant Rat Slayer.
If this Chinese “cat army” has skills that even approach Thomas’s, I have no doubt that the pastures will be rodent-free in no time.
Meanwhile, I hope people start getting smarter and come to realize that when you mess with one aspect of an environment, you throw every other element out of balance and create bigger problems in the long run. I also hope the government is spaying and neutering these cats so that the felines themselves don’t become a new “plague” in the future.