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Will Feral Cats Win New York City's War on Rats?

"Leave it to the Sliwas," former Republican mayoral candidate and perpetual red beret-wearer Curtis Sliwa said Wednesday, gesturing toward his cats.

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Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld (Getty Images)

New Yorkers, the faintest sliver of a red crescent is rising over the horizon, like a sun waking up from our looming nightmare. On Wednesday, former Republican mayoral candidate and perpetual red beret-wearer Curtis Sliwa parked himself in front of Mayor Eric Adams’ Brooklyn apartment and offered a solution to the city’s horrendous rat infestation: feral cat colonies.

“This is what me and my wife are experts in,” Sliwa told a reporter while gesturing to his cats. “Leave it to the Sliwas.”

Joined by his wife and fellow Guardian Angel, Nancy Regula, and two of their 16 cats, Tiny and Thor, Sliwa announced that feral cat colonies were the best way to win the city’s war against rats, a war that has ramped up in recent months—a war that is personal to Mayor Adams, whose Brooklyn apartment (real ones know that this apartment is actually his son’s apartment and that the mayor lives in Fort Lee, NJ, but that’s neither here nor there) has been ticketed multiple times by the city for rat infestation. “He is frustrated because he has tried everything to remedy the situation,” a press release from Sliwa read. “Everything except Feral Cats.”

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Some New York City residents strongly disagree with this solution.

“My stance is that I would prefer Curtis Sliwa not release a large number of feral cats,” Alise Morales, my friend and nearby neighbor of Mayor Adams, texted me this morning, upon learning of Sliwa’s plan for her block. Too bad, Alise. It’s cat city now.

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“Rats don’t run this city, we do,” NYC Sanitation head Jessica Tisch declared this past fall. The city posted a job listing for a Rat Mitigator, a 24/7 position aimed at decimating the city’s rat population by “improving operational efficiency, data collection, technology innovation, trash management, and wholesale slaughter.” As brutal as that description sounds, the city is in desperate need of someone to save us from this rat-tastrophe.

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Enter Sliwa, who has turned down the $170,000 a year salary, saying that he’ll do the work for free. He is, he claimed, regularly patrolling the streets of NYC from 10 pm to 4 am, which is when the rats roam. “I’ll be the Rat Czar at night,” he said.

Early in the press conference, a reporter asked Sliwa’s thoughts on the fact that studies have shown that feral cats are not effective in reducing rat populations. Curtis responded confidently, though not really answering the question, “Remember, they don’t eat the rats, they just kill the rats. They are predatorial.”

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“The cats that are nocturnal are up, patrolling up and down” the block, Sliwa promised the crowd.

At one point during the press conference, a man on the street started chanting, “LESS RATS, MORE CATS,” and Sliwa went over and hugged him. A plant? A fan? Maybe just the only sensible man in this city... (Editor’s note: It’s “fewer” rats, not “less,” for fuck’s sake.)

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Throughout the event, Sliwa kept mentioning that the most common managers of feral cat colonies are women aged 55+, but that all types of people, “hipsters, millennials, Black, white, hispanic, Asian,” have managed feral cat colonies. Sounds like some neoliberal diversity rebrand of neocon values, if you ask me.

While I am generally hesitant to fund increased surveillance of any kind, I am admittedly interested in learning more about this feline policing solution. But more than that, I am interested in watching Curtis Sliwa continue to have bonkers press conferences any time he wants. I am ready to submit to my feral cat overlords.