Officer Meow? Felix the cat is on duty at South Side police station to keep the rats at bay
The paw-leece cat showed up last year at the station at 7808 S. Halsted St., and a cop let him in. He’s made himself at home, kind of a mascot. Mice problems there? None.
At a South Side police station, while the cops keep their eyes on the crooks, a cat is keeping an eye out for the rats.
The furry feline’s name? Felix.
Though some call him Gresham — as in the Gresham district police station at 7808 S Halsted St. that he patrols.
Late last year, Felix was pacing in the cold outside the station, and an officer let him in.
Soon, the cat was part of the Gresham police family: part-mascot, part-rodent intimidator.
Felix, who has a gray coat and a striped tail, appears to be domesticated. Gresham cops set out a bed for him near the watch commander’s office. He has lots of toys to paw. And when he wanders the station, there are bowls of food and water and a litter box for him to use.
Another cat patrols outside the station but doesn’t have the same in-house privileges as Felix.
Animals are a rare sight in police stations in Chicago. Dogs used to be a fixture of Chicago firehouses, but last year they were banned after a dog living in a South Side station killed a small neighborhood pooch.
Felix needs to be on his toes in a city perennially dubbed the “rattiest” in America by a national extermination company. The number of complaints to City Hall about rats has been steadily rising, up from 32,391 in 2018 to 57,098 last year, though some of that’s due to people staying home and becoming gardeners and pet owners during the pandemic, according to a spokeswoman for the city Department of Streets and Sanitation. More than 120 people work for the Bureau of Rodent Control to fight the problem, she says.
One organization has been introducing feral cats into Chicago neighborhoods in a controversial program that aims to reduce the rat population.
So is Felix making a dent? A Chicago Police Department spokesman couldn’t confirm any rat or mice kills by Felix, though the city’s Bureau of Rodent Control hasn’t gotten any complaints about rats at the station since 2018, records show.
Other police stations haven’t been so lucky. Since 2011, for instance, there have been 22 complaints about rats at the Shakespeare district station at 2150 N. California Ave., four of them last year, making it No. 1 among the city’s 22 police districts, according to a Sun-Times count based on city records.
There were just three complaints about rodents at the Gresham police station between 2011 and 2018, the records show.
“He must be doing his job,” one officer says of Felix.
Not everybody loves him. A cop who says he suffers from allergies grumbles that he and other officers shouldn’t be forced to work indoors with a cat, though he also jokes that Felix’s litter box is cleaner than the public restrooms at the station.
Other officers say they like having the cat around. They’ve taken admiring notice of the way Felix struts the halls of the Gresham station.
“He’s a badass,” one cop says proudly.
Maybe they should suggest to the Shakespeare district cops that they could use a cat, too.