The cat is crouched in a corner of his kennel in an office of Multnomah County Animal Services, a mass of long, grey and white fur. When Kitties for Hire director Karen McGill puts some treats in his cage, he ignores the offer and remains pressed up against the kennel bars, attempting to make his big, fluffy frame look small.
Not all cats who come to the animal shelter are up for becoming indoor pets. As a last resort, truly unsociable felines become a part of Kitties for Hire, a program that places cats in farms and rural warehouses, where they act as deterrents for mice, rats and other vermin.
"They're the introverts of the cat world. They don't need the day to day interaction," says the animal shelter's interim director, Wade Sadler. "They're good just going off and doing their own thing."
But just because a cat isn't a natural-born cuddle buddy doesn't mean it's a wild animal. Kitties for Hire doesn't select its adoptees based on prey drive, and adopters are still required to provide their furry pest policers with shelter, food and veterinary care. And just the presence of a cat is usually enough to deter vermin, natural-born mouse killer or not.
Recently, McGill received a picture of two Kitties for Hire tabbies locked into a staring match with a flower pot, behind which they'd trapped a mouse.
"It's these two really cute cats, but they were on duty," says McGill. "They may not have ever caught the mouse, but they did let the mouse know they were there."