Keeping cats secretly for deratting in Telford Garden

Reporters: Pinky Lee, Jessie Fan, Pony Wang and Lucy Kim

The rate of rat infestation in Telford Garden has been growing in the past two years. The management office found that none of the deratting methods seem to be effective, except “feral cats”.

The problem of rat infestation in Hong Kong has been highlighted all along. A few months ago, Chiang Lai-wan, chairperson of Subcommittee to Study Issues Relating to Animal Right, suggested training the feral cats to catch rats rather than using the rattrap.

However, Poon Yam Wai-chun, Kwun Tong District Council member, said there were over 60 feral cats wandering in the garden of Telford Garden have been caught by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) since 2012, leading to an increase number of rats in these two years, and she believed that this was the main reason why the number of rats arose rose.

Mr. Kwan, a resident of Telford Garden, said the rats would even appear during daytime and he could spot them at least twice a week. As he thought the rats were much dirtier than cats, he would prefer to see cats rather than rats although cats would also make troubles sometimes.

Telford Garden is a private housing estate where the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) is not responsible for, so the Management Office has hired a pesticide firm to deal with the rats. Poon said they have resorted to every conceivable means of deratting, including rat poison and bait clips, but they have also tried the new technological measures, for example, using super-audio frequency to drive them away. “Rats like challenges so much, they will only get into the rattrap with challenging design. But they are very smart, only the first few times they would be fooled,” Poon added.

Besides, she mentioned that rats love hiding in the garden, so they had to dig up the soil in order to wipe out the ratholes, but for large vegetation which might involve costs of nearly HK$100,000, and they were unable to do so due to the lack of money.

Although deratting tasks are being carried out twice a week, Andy Chan, the Assistant Manager of Housing Administration of Telford Garden, said they still got at least two to three complaints of rat infestation per week in average.

They have also strengthened the regulation of the nearby eateries, including forbidding them to dump trash outside their stores. However, the bigger trouble came. “When the rats lost the source of food and their holes, they then started to get into the dwelling for seeking food through climbing up along the water pipes,” Andy said. He has received complaints from the residents who live in lower-level, that the rats have eaten the soil of the plants.

After consulting with FEHD as well as trying different deratting measures, Poon found that none of them were better than using feral cats. “It is believed that rats are the natural enemy of cats, no other methods will do better”. Hence, she furtively asked the Management Office to keep a few feral cats in the garden of Telford Garden, hoping them to catch the rats. But she said she had not seen those cats for a week already, maybe they have been caught by AFCD.

According to AFCD, they have totally caught 1053 cats in last year, 449 of them did not have people to adopt and were euthanized, leading to the anger of those feral cat organizations. Feral cat volunteer Irene Lee agreed that catching rats was an instinct of cats, “they love catching the moving things very much, especially the insects and rats.” And she did not oppose to making use of cats' habit for controlling the number of rats.

But she did not think cats could be trained as Chiang’s mentioned. “Cats are different to dogs, they are not as obedient, especially the homeless cats, they are timid and do not trust humans.” On the contrary, she thought that if people could just let them become a part of the community, they would spontaneously help with catching the rats. 

The rat problem has lasted for a long time in Telford Garden. Let's wait and see which measure works well.


The residents of Telford Garden said rats often appear near this green kiosk. Photo: Lee Tsz Yan

An open pack of rat poison found in the garden. Photo: Lee Tsz Yan

Rat poison warning labels can be seen everywhere. Photo: Lee Tsz Yan