Which Do You Prefer? One Cat? Or A Thousand Rats?

The New York Department of Health And Mental Hygiene objects to deli owners keeping cats around to deter rats on the grounds that animals are not allowed into establishments where food and drink are served. That’s all well and good, judging by certain infamous news clips (above), but we’re pretty sure that a few well-tended cats prowling around is more hygienic than the alternative.

From the New York Times:

Luis Martinez, 42, has managed his brother’s grocery in East New York, Brooklyn, for two years. At first, despite weekly visits from an exterminator, the store’s inventory was ravaged constantly by nibbling vermin.

“Every night I had to put the bread in the freezer,” he said, pointing at shelves filled with bread and hamburger buns. “I was losing too much inventory. The chips and the Lipton soups all had holes in them.”

Then, last winter, a friend brought Mr. Martinez a marmalade kitten in need of a home. Mr. Martinez, who was skeptical of how one slinky kitten could fend off an army of hungry rats, set up a litter box in the back of the store, put down an old fleece jacket and named the kitten Junior.

Within two weeks, Mr. Martinez said, “a miracle.”

“Before you’d see giant rats running in off the streets into the store, but since Junior, no more,” he said.

Junior sometimes brings Mr. Martinez mouse carcasses as gifts, which he said bothers him less than the smell that permeates his store when the exterminator’s victims die and rot under a freezer.

In October, a health inspector fined Mr. Martinez $300 and warned him that if Junior was still there by the time of the next inspection he would be fined $2,000.

“He wants me to get rid of the cat, but the rats will take over if I do,” Mr. Martinez said. “I need the cat, and the cat needs a home.”

What do you think? Should shop kitties be legalized?

To Dismay of Inspectors, Prowling Cats Keep Rodents on the Run at City Delis [NYT]