Barn Cats

If you own any piece of land and plan on using it for any sort of farming and animal raising, you….need… barn cats. I say this from first hand experience. As we expand our hobby farm, I am learning so much about what it takes to keep things moving along smoothly, especially how to do so naturally.

Sadly, our chicken flock was attacked by rats recently. Yep, rats. Who knew?! We lost one, and another was badly wounded. (We ended up giving her to a veterinarian to tend to and raise since she lost her wing). We try our best around here to do things naturally without the use of chemicals, so, we weren’t very keen on spreading rat poisoning around, especially since we have a dog and didn’t want him getting into it. After speaking to a neighbor about our rat problem, she suggested we get barn cats. Of course, I had to do research on this, because, I like to research everything, and I found some non profit agencies in our area who rescue feral cats and raise them as barn cats so that they aren’t euthanized. There are so many animals waiting to be adopted, that I loved the idea of giving the cats a job to keep them healthy and alive.

When you find a good non profit agency then you may find that they have the cats spayed, ensure they have all their vaccines, microchip them, and take care of their vet bills for the duration of their life. Isn’t that amazing?

Any time one of our barn cats has any sort of ailment then I just contact the agency we adopted them from, and we meet at the vet and they take care of the bill.

These cats take care of pests and rodents so they don’t harm our flock. They’re also friendly toward us.

What do you need?

Before you get the barn cats (I recommend getting 2 together so that they have a ‘buddy’) be sure you have these items:

  • a large crate to keep them in. We have this one and it’s perfect for not only 2 cats, but everything else they’ll need in this list.
  • Feeding bowl/dispenser. I recommend this one because it isn’t expensive and you can fill it up to last for a few days.
  • Water bowl/dispenser. You can use the same container from above for water
  • Disposable litter box. You can just use aluminum foil pans. You also don’t need to invest in cat litter, you can just fill it with sand.
  • Blankets or towels
  • I also recommend placing a smaller container of some sort inside the large crate. We placed a smaller dog crate inside that was closed on 3 sides with a door so that the cats would have a place to go if they got cold or it was raining. We also used this smaller crate to place them in as we cleaned out the larger crate.

What to Know

Barn cats have a job to do. For two weeks they will live inside the large crate, which is why you’ll want to make it comfortable for them. You’ll want to place the crate near the location that you most want them to protect. For us, that was near our chicken coop. For two weeks the cats will get used to the sights and smells around the area, which they will then equate to “home”, and familiar and unfamiliar sands. For us, being near the chicken coop teachers our cats that the chickens are supposed to be there, they are friendly. For those two weeks you’ll want to check in on them daily, change the food, water, and litter box daily. You’ll also want to check the cleanliness of the crate. I usually end up cleaning ours each day or every 2 days depending on how it is. To clean the crate I transfer the cats to the smaller crate temporarily, remove everything from the large crate, and hose it down.

Be sure to keep an eye on the cats and check to be sure they’re eating and seem happy. Oftentimes these cats have been feral for some time and the rescuers have no idea of their background, meaning, underlying health conditions. If you notice the cats aren’t eating, drinking, have loose stools, seem lethargic, or any thing else out of the ordinary, let the person from the agency you received them from know. Send pictures if necessary.

Before Release

After 2 weeks, and before you release them out of the cage, be sure you’ve established where the food bowl and water is going. It’s best if you place it up high so other animals cannot get to it. If you have a barn you may want to place it upstairs if that’s an option. If you don’t have a place that’s high, be sure you place it where it’ll generally stay dry. I would also recommend you have a dry and safe place for the cats to retreat to in case of bad weather. If you have a barn, screened in front porch, accessible shed then you should be good to go. If you don’t have any of those, then you can buy a small dog house. Ours stay in a dog house and they love it!

Release

After the two weeks your cats are ready to roam free. By this time they’ve established what home smells like and are a lot less likely to run away! Let the pest control begin!

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