Saturday, October 11, 2014

Homestead: Cats Please!

  Does every farm have barn cats, I hope so because they are such fun and very hard workers!  A good barn cat is one of the very best ways to keep mice numbers down and just generally make a barn a nice place to be. I have had barn cats around my farm from my earliest memory and they have always brought their character and attitude to my life.

 A barn cat earning his keep  [Google Image]

Now we are in town until we get the new place we just have a very pampered house cat.
 Picassa sleeping by the heater!

Even this sleepy thing can wake up and do what cats love to do, stalk things. When our landlord had to replace some valves in the back of the shower he left the access to the crawlspace open. Picassa was thrilled as in the process some mice got in to the house. It did  not take her long to solve the problem as cats have done for centuries!  Picassa 2- Mice 0!

We know we will  need cats and have been looking for places to get them. There is a wonderful program called Barn Buddies that finds farm homes for Feral and semi feral cats.

Here in town we had a neighbor who fed feral cats, two calico's! It did not take long for them to populate our street with kittens.

 This is Ernest...I can almost pet him, almost. He loves to sit in the sun on the warm
concrete of the front step. Then he can look in the front glass door
and see how the pampered house cat lives.

The families grew to 15 cats of assorted colors and gender! We knew we had to have a talk with the neighbor, for one thing he was on a fixed income and it was costing him a lot to feed them all and secondly they were not all getting enough to eat, some also had ear mites. We called animal rescue and they came and trapped quite a few, some went to the pound and some went to St Francis of Assisi, a group that finds farm homes for feral cats in this part of Virginia. Ernest found a home nearby which was nice as he is a sweet cat. There are two neutered males left and they are workers. Catching mice in the garden and in the shed out back.

In cold weather they live under the shed. One day Ralph picked up a dreadful looking heavy overcoat at Goodwill. I asked him what he wanted it for as he has good coats! He said "Oh just for dirty work in the garden." I caught him stuffing it under the shed in a sheltered corner....yes for a bed for the cats.

  A farm cat watching us when we went to get some apples. He looks ferocious but soon came over to help,
he had a purr like a tank and kept trying to get in the back of the car.
Then he heard a rustle in the grass and went hunting!

We look forward to stocking our farm with assorted barn cats. They are an integral part of any small farm or homestead both for pest control and simple entertainment. There really is nothing like a group of good barn cats!



  1. If it wasn't so coyote-ridden in my area, I'd have a barn cat. I had a humdinger for a while, but she was taken one night. My indoor cats are quite good mousers - and very busy this time of year! (That Ralph is a keeper...:))

  2. give Ralph a hug from me
    Do you supplement the barn cats diet?
    I knew a farmer who had fat inside cats but refused to
    feed the barn cats...they were so sick and so were their kittens...since then I cringe at the words barn cats
    Ferals live such horrible lives....injury disease..starvation...cruelty
    not everyone likes cats.....
    bless that Ralph and you of course

  3. My Father always supplemented our barn cats...He said "If he was going hunting to put venison on our table he wanted a good breakfast to give him energy to hunt properly, so the cats need that extra food too!". He always had food for them and taught us to do that too. He also left some of the fat from butchering for them in winter. My mother thought it was crazy but my Father liked cats more than she did! I used buy cheap cat food in 50 pound bags and open a hole in one side, then put it in the loft of the barn, free choice in winter but I did limit their intake a bit more in summer. Scraps from the table also go to the barn cats. They earn their way!