Rats work as kitten care takers at New York cat cafe

By Daniel Uria  |  July 20, 2017 at 3:14 PM
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July 20 (UPI) -- A cat cafe in New York has sought the help of a pair of rats to care for its newborn kittens.

The Brooklyn Cat Cafe adopted two young rats, Remy and Emile, from small animal rescue service Helping All Little Things to join their kittens in the terrarium as caretakers.

"Although rats and cats have adversarial relationships outside the terrarium - inside the kittens are the perfect size to have supervised romp and play sessions with the kittens," the cat cafe said. "Because the rats are not scared of the kittens, they don't run away and the cats don't hunt them."

Brooklyn Cat Cafe has employed at least one caretaking rat for more than a year, but a July 7 video of Emile grooming a pair of kittens gained viral attention.

The rats are raised around kittens from a young age and are primarily used to car for orphaned kittens known as "bottle babies."

"They sleep with them, and they all cuddle up in the hammock when the kittens are old enough to get up there," Brooklyn Cat Cafe founder Anne Levin told The Dodo. "These kittens are slobs, essentially, so [the rats] will clean them up, and it's clearly not that they want the cat food, because the bowl is 5 inches away and they could just go over there and eat as much as they want. The fact that they're grooming them, to me, says that there is a strong relationship."

Levin added that it appears the rats' parental instincts kick in when around the young kittens.

"Even though the kittens are clearly different sizes, I think [the rats] recognize that they are not adults, so they have a paternal attitude towards them," she said.

While the rats serve as parental figures, they also serve a second purpose as "tolerant" playmates of the rambunctious felines.

"Because the rats are not scared of the kittens, they don't run away and the cats don't hunt them," the cat cafe's website states. "However, the kittens are convinced that the rat tails are there primarily for them to play with. Remy and Emile are ok with that so long as the kittens play gently with their tails."

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