AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Texas prison adopted a couple of barn cats to solve a rat problem. Now, a couple of years later, the prison has a cat problem, too.

The Texas prison, which asked not to be named, contacted Austin Pets Alive! animal shelter about a feline infestation problem on their premises. The prison started with two or three cats that weren’t spayed or neutered and now has nearly 20, staff said. 

Working cats are often used in barns, homes or prisons to help mitigate rat infestations.

“It’s a great idea,” said Kelly Holt, a senior manager for APA!’s cat program. “Where the issue began was that the cats weren’t spayed and neutered. So they ended up procreating and dealing with an overpopulation issue now.”

When shelter staff last went to the prison, they were able to nab five of the cats roaming around the grounds, and Holt said they plan to go back to get more. 

Marathon, a two-week-old kitten, was rescued by Austin Pets Alive from a Texas prison after cat population exploded. (Photo courtesy: Austin Pets Alive!)

 “We wanted to help out and bring some of the cats (to the center) where we could get them the medical attention that they need and place them in forever homes,” Holt said. 

Holt added that some of the cats had medical conditions that needed expert care. One cat, for example, has Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH), sometimes called wobbly cat syndrome, which is a neurological condition that causes a cat to — you guessed it — wobble when it walks. This condition is neither contagious nor painful for the animal.

Some of the cats rescued from the prison are up for adoption, Holt said. She added that the felines not equipped for indoor living may go into APA!’s working cat program, where they will be deployed to other places that need rodent populations controlled.

Holt said APA! will spay and neuter all working cats so clients who adopt them won’t have an issue as the prison has. 

“I think it’s great that prisons are utilizing working cat programs,” Holt said. “I think it’s just important to note that spaying and neutering the cats is really key to making those programs work best.”