By: Hillary Robert

Ginger spends most of her cold days relaxing on warm blankets. She rests for the spring hunt all winter.

As an alternative to pesticide use, the horticulture program adopted Ginger to creep through the foliage and hunt the vermin that attack their crops.

As a health conscious and cost effective alternative to pesticides, the Algonquin College horticulture program brought in Ginger – a majestic, big eyed and long haired cat –  eight years ago to eliminate the problem. Though the greenhouse may not have luscious meadows for mice to frolic, they were a major nuisance to the nursery. Rodents eat and uproot most of the plants that are grown in the greenhouse and on the grounds so finding a solution was necessary.

“She does her job,” said Tommy Wingreen, the horticulture program coordinator.

Ginger, who is estimated to be about 12 years old, came from a plant nursery when she was five. She needed a new home and was quickly welcomed to the campus. Ginger’s hunting instincts made her the greenhouse guardian, protecting the plants and soil from mice and other rodents.

Though she is ageing, Ginger has yet to lose her taste for the kill. She is docile in her downtime but fierce and energetic on the hunt.

Rachel Rhoades, a horticulture technologist who’s office is located in the horticulture building, looks after Ginger. She firmly believes that Ginger was the best solution to the overpopulation of rodents. “It’s the nature of what it is,” said Rhoades. “It is important, especially with rabbits, to keep the population down.”

About eight years ago, the college horticulture program was faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to bring hazardous chemicals into the students’ workplace. The chemicals would not only cause harm to the vermin but also to any neighbourhood cats who decided to go hunting, as well as students who could be sensitive to the pesticides. “The other alternative would be chemical control,” said Rhoades. “That would affect more people than a cat would.”

As opposed to spraying the plants with pesticides, Ginger is not only a healthy alternative but is also very cost effective. “She goes through a bag of food every few months.” said Rhoades.

Ginger does more than benefit the horticulture program. For many years, she has also provided the veterinary program with a long term patient that they can become familiar with and develop a relationship with. This will benefit them in their future careers working in veterinary offices.

Not only is Ginger a fierce predator but she is also the class diva. “When she’s getting petted she lets you know what she wants,” said Rhoades. “If you’re talking to someone and you’re petting her and you get sort of distracted, she’ll start butting you with her nose.”

The students love having her in the building and professors have found it very rare that anyone has an issue with her presence. Once and a while though, a student has allergies or a fear of cats. “Every three years or so you get someone,” said Rhoades. “If somebody has allergies, we try to accommodate them.”

For the college, having Ginger to watch over the horticulture territory has been a very positive experience. “She doesn’t impact the students’ educations much,” said Rhoades. “But definitely morale.”