Jayne Gould is correct that Alley Cat Allies and similar organizations offer effective Trap Neuter Release (TNR) services to feral cats that are unlikely to become in-home pets. These cats likely do reduce the rat population.
Unfortunately, outdoor cats — including feral cats — also kill vast numbers of rapidly disappearing birds. To quote Cornell University’s “All About Birds”: “In North America, cats are second only to habitat loss as the largest human-related cause of bird deaths. It’s estimated that cats kill 1.3 – 4 billion birds each year in the U.S. alone, with 69% of these kills attributable to feral or unowned cats.” Since the 1970s, the United States has lost nearly three billion birds, about one third of the total population.
I propose the village explore how to combat rats by increasing our population of opossums. Yes, opossums! Rats fear and actively avoid opossums and their territories. Opossums eat vast numbers of ticks and other insects that plague humans and their pets. Opossums are part of our native ecosystem — unlike domestic cats, feral or owned. They may not be the cutest animal out there, but they are incredibly effective.
Be kind and supportive of your neighborhood opossum!