Problem: Rats. Chicago's answer: Feral cats

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - The upcoming demolition of a hospital in Lincoln Park has residents nervous that the neighborhood will be overrun with rats.

The answer? Cats.

Children's Memorial Hospital will be torn down next month, and some residents are appealing to the Treehouse Humane Society's Cats at Work program for help. Cat coordinator Paul Nickerson has helped six up 650 feral cat colonies around Chicago. The waiting time for getting a colony is now  two to four weeks.

"It's really the only 100 percent solution in terms of getting rid of rats permanently," Nickerson said. He's gone from getting four to six requests a week, to ten requests a day.

One resident of Lakeview said the idea works. Victoria Thomas has a colony of three feral cats at her six flat.

"I used to have nightmares about the amount of rats coming through our yard all the time. They would be there day and night. All the time. They would have babies running around. Large ones. Bigger than cats," Thomas said. But then she got the cats. "It's been five years. We never see a rat."

The developer of the hospital property,  Bill McCaffery, is hoping  that since the hospital's been vacant for several years with no garbage around, maybe the rats have left.

"I don't anticipate it spiking. I really don't, " he said.

Last year, Ald. Michelle Smith (43rd) helped pass new rules requiring developers to include rat abatement in their plans.

"And we hope individual neighbors do their part to pick up after their dogs, close their trash cans. don't give the rodents anything to feed on," Smith said.