Jailhouse cat drafted in to tackle prison’s ‘severe’ vermin problem

A cat has been drafted in to tackle a prison’s widespread rat and mice infestation after cells and a kitchen were overrun with vermin.

HMP Rochester in Kent was plagued by the “severe vermin control problem” for the best part of a year until the feline was hired to step in after other pest control measures had proved unsuccessful.

Inmates were having to keep their food in plastic containers to keep the animals at bay in the Edwardian category C jail which holds around 700 male adult prisoners and young offenders, according to a report from its Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).

The report, published by volunteers tasked by ministers to scrutinise conditions in custody, said: “Vermin are a serious problem throughout the prison, mainly on the old wings, but also in the kitchen and healthcare buildings.

“Rentokil have attended without much success, although there has been improvement in recent months with a new baiting process.

“New arrangements for waste disposal have recently been introduced and the prison now has a cat.

HMP Rochester houses 700 inmates (Gareth Fuller/PA)
HMP Rochester houses 700 inmates (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“Tupperware boxes are being provided for prisoners to keep their food in.

“Control of the vermin continues to plague the prison governor, and is a major problem directly affecting prisoners and workers at Rochester, many of whom see vermin on a daily basis.”

A spokesman for the board told the PA news agency there had been a widespread infestation for about nine months, which was particularly problematic for the kitchen where meals were being prepared three times a day and cells.

“Unpleasant” pest control measures of using sticky paper on the floors to trap the mice and rats meant they could sometimes heard squealing for long periods of time until someone came to remove them, he said, adding that the situation has improved over the last three months since resorting to the “good old fashioned method” of bringing a cat into the jail.

While the report generally praised the prison for having a “safe and decent environment” and noted levels of violence were falling, it raised concerns about the remaining availability of drugs and phones.

Susan Fitzjohn, the IMB’s deputy chairman, said: “To the credit of those working there, HMP Rochester remains a generally well-run prison.

“It is a challenging working environment because of the difficulties in keeping out drugs and other contraband due to the geography of the site.

“However it has remained stable and continues to be on track to achieve its key role as a resettlement prison.”