Barn catsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
My husband and I just moved from the burbs to a 150 acre farm. The previous owners (Old Farmer and his wife) raised beef cattle and grew hay. We are still deciding what we want to do with the land. Here is the question, Old Farmer had numerous (15 or so) barn cats. He would feed them twice a day, name some of them, and really enjoyed their company in the barn and out buildings. He couldn't take them with him when he and his wife moved to a small house. So after moving to the farm, we have kept up the cat routine (we feed them cat food + table scrapes once a day). Old Farmer told us that natural selection keeps the number of cats from growing too large. One of my friends recently visited for the first time and she told me that she would never be able to have cats and "not take care of them" saying that we should spay/neuter them, take them to the vet, ... These cats really keep down the pest population and they seem happy and look healthy. We feed and provide water for them every day. Do other farm/barn owners have these kind of cats around? Should we treat them more like house pets or are they doing ok as Old Farmer says? btw . . . we have two beagles who keep the cats away from the house on a daily basis. They live to chase those cats! All except the tom cat, Gnarly, he just looks at those beagle puppies as they race by and he hisses at them. Those beagles don't mess with Gnarly!
-- Lyn E. Bennon (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2001
When I was growing up on the farm, we too had farm cats. Not a one of them ever went to the vet. On occasion there would be an excess of kittens that would have to be dealt with, but like the farmer said, they pretty well control themselves through predators, disease, autos if you live near a highway, trains if you live near a railway, etc.
My brother credits cats for keeping snakes away from the farmstead. That makes them a must-have in my book.
-- Notforprint (Not@thekeyboard.com), April 16, 2001.
We have 5 cats in the barn and they do a great job of keeping the mouse problem in check. We have spayed and neutered them. Mainly because neither of us wants to have to drown any kittens. Yeah, I know, pretty whimpy.
-- Doug in KY (email@example.com), April 16, 2001.
IF you don't spay and neuter at least some of the cats, you will likely be overrun with cats sometime in the future.
Also, I don't think it's fair to the cats to let "natural selection" take over. Plus if you have female cats in heat you will likely get wild or stray cats coming in to mate with them (it doesn't matter how far in the wilderness you live, the other cats WILL find you!
Boy I envy your new 150 acres!!! we only have 13!
-- Suzy in Bama (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2001.
We have three barn cats. Had four but one was old and died. One of the three is a female who got dropped off here. We really don't want her because she had kittens as a bonus after her arrival here. She won't come to us yet so we can't catch her, plus it costs $80 here to get her fixed. Anyway, we feed the cats 3 cups of Purina cat food in the evening. They get table scraps also. Other than that they are supposed to be "working" by performing rodent control. If you feed them too much they will be lazy and not kill pests. Oh, does anyone want kittens? Yes, she is pregnant again!
-- JoAnn in SD (email@example.com), April 16, 2001.
We have 8 outside cats now, but the population was once as large as 18! They are fed well as I love to watch cats. The population is controlled by the road, owls are other things. I don't have the money to neuter these animals. I somehow can't see spending all that money only to have them killed crossing the road. I think that they have a pretty good life and they keep the population of pests down. At least some of them do.
-- Ardie from WI (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2001.
I was warned when we started building our barn that it's common practice for people to just drop unwanted cats at local barns. One woman spays or neuters them all, gives them their shots, feeds them, and lets them roam the property. Another takes them to the local Humane Society. We haven't had any dropped off yet, but we do have a hard time keeping cats due to the road, foxes, coyotes, etc. We stopped getting them fixed and only take in male cats so we don't have to worry about kittens. We do make sure they get rabies shots, though so the kids won't be exposed to it. We have three cats out there now.
-- Epona (email@example.com), April 16, 2001.
Thanks for the responses so far . . . I thought barn cats were typical on a farm! With ~15 cats the cost of fixing them is gets high but I will not drown kittens. If we start getting too many then I will have to start spaying at least some of the females. Maybe one every month or something like that. And, I have not seen any snakes yet! Which is really amazing since the weather is cool at night and warm during the day - I expected to see them sunning on rocks. So the cats must be doing their job.
On another topic . . . I liked those sheep written about in an article in the latest countryside magazine. I don't have the magazine here and I forget the name of them (poulans? maybe). They seemed like a good animal to raise for beginner farmers.
This magazine gives me so many ideas - I just love it!
-- Lyn Bennon (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2001.
I can't imagine having 15 cats around. We have 2 and an occasional stray comes through. The problem I have just with the couple I have is the male cat fights. I would think that would be a real problem with that many. The farmer across the roads has a few and his tom cats will literally kill the litter of kittens.(to me that's more mean) Also keep in mind what you will be raising in the future. These cats most likely will at one time or other eat any baby chicks roaming the yard. (mind do) Also, if you see bodily injuries, etc. are you willing to care for them and possibly ending up having a vet bill? I'd vote to cut the number (herd) in half. Sorry if that angers some of you!
-- Pat (email@example.com), April 16, 2001.
Whenever we lived on a farm (and we currently do), we have had barn cats. They have always just "appeared". When we moved from the last farm to this one, we caught and moved the barn cats with us - there were only 3 or 4.
We currently have 6 barn cats and only 2 are females. There is only 1 un-neutered male and the rest are neutered. We have lost a lot of female cats over the past 2 years for some reason so we don't spay them right now. We have found that the males go feral if we don't neuter them and the cost of neutering them is minimal.
They do pretty much keep between 6 and 12 cats. We do live near a road and unfortunately lose some. We also live fairly close to town and have had some neighbors "adopt" some of ours. (Guess the food is better over there).
These cats keep the small rodents like gophers, mice and rats away and I will always have barn cats. We also have house cats and they keep the rodents out of the house.
-- beckie (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2001.
First let me say we own twelve cats. Most all of them throwaways. They are all neutered - males and females. They live healthier lives, less fighting, roaming, disease, injuries due to fighting, etc. They are all vaccinated (sp?) too, especially for rabies. I have had cats all my life. I vowed many years ago that I would not contribute to the overpopulation of cats and dogs. Did you know that with many years of effort to teach prople to spay and neuter there are still over 20,000 killed every DAY in this country, to say nothing of the additional thousands that meet who knows what kind of death otherwise? There is no way I would drown any animal, not a goat or rabbit or kitten. If something needs to be killed there are ways that are faster and much more humane. Further, it is a common misconception to say that cats that are fed won't hunt. It is in their nature to hunt. It is very difficult to exist on hunting alone due to the effort expanded. My housecats, who do not go out very much, will hunt and stalk for hours and then come in and eat. The housecats also help with the occaisional mouse in the house. The barn cats hunt lots too. One thing I have found that helps on the cost, if you have other animals and have the vet out, ask if he/she will vaccinate your cats at the same time. I also have a vet that will neuter cats when she comes out (with advance warning). She only charged me $25.00 for the last male. She will do females on site but, it's so risky she told me it has to an animal that isn't a "family" member - those go to the office where there's better facilities. Also, check with your local SPCA, there may be low cost spay/nueter clinics available. Just like your larger animals, vaccines are available and your vet can show you how and where and when to administer the shots and also supply the needles. The state has frequent rabies clinics here in NY (you can't give those shots) where it is very low cost to have your animals vaccinated. (Rabies has been a problem in this area for a long time.) I guess I feel very stongly that I work hard to give my family the best food I can and that means keeping my animals, ALL of my animals, healthy if at all possible. I feel it is a contradiction to let an animal suffer and die when one of the biggest reasons I started raising my own meat was because of the deplorable conditions under which most commercailly raised animals live. I even knock fish in the head when I fish (which isn't very often). Best wished with your new endeavor. You have lots of room to have all kinds of projects. Hope this helped a little bit.
-- T. Burnash (email@example.com), April 16, 2001.
Barn cats are an invaluable asset to the farm if you can afford to feed them. We've had a couple for years and lost the female this spring. Old Rocky can't keep the rodent population down by himself so I guess it's time to look for another. I had no problem with the number of cats you had around until you ask about sheep. Cats carry a disease that causes abortion in sheep so if you do get sheep keep the cats out of the feed they love to use grain for a litter box and the disease is passed to sheep through the feces.
-- Betsy K (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2001.
Some of you may be interested to know that outdoor cats are credited with killing about a billion songbirds the world over each year. I have 2 part time outdoor cats (neutered) who have so many bells on them they sound like a christmas sleigh coming up the drive!
-- debra in ks (email@example.com), April 16, 2001.
I hate being told what I 'should' do! I had a bunch of cats at my ranch. They had a shed with a kitty door to escape from the weather or predators. I kept food/water in there. I found they survived better by not being domesticated (handled), and nature kept the numbers down. (Only the fittest survive.)
I lived out in the boonies and the majority of the cats were drop offs. I was a long way from any roads, but they found me. It was tough not handling the babies, but I knew it was best. So, no handling, no vets, no shots. Funny thing, none were ever sick.
When it got to a 'bunch' of cats, I was no longer bothered by rattle snakes. I'm not sure how it works, but I tend to believe that the cats are not killing them; that it's something about the cats that keeps the snakes away.
Nevertheless, I think you should make your own decision as what to do and not let others dictate to you.
-- ~Rogo (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2001.
I think T. Burnash has the right idea. If you choose to have them fixed, call around there are many places to get cheaper rates. I could not afford all at once but would sure work on it. I believe they live longer once fixed.
I'm really writing to share a story. Many years ago there appeared a WILD cat in our barn. She would attack you. We fed outside cats & she figured out where the food was. She had a few litters. She calmed down a little & we took her to the vet to get fixed. That was 20 years ago...have to go, I hear her yelling out back. The food bowl must be low...cats get cranky in their old age, but we love her! DW
-- DW (email@example.com), April 16, 2001.
When we move here nine months ago it came with a mama cat and two weaned kittens. One kitten got itself run over on the highway(naural selection) and the other I befriended just enough to take him to the vet at five months to get neutered. Mama cat is too nasty most of the time...well she got pregnant and I plan to give away the females and neuter the males. I feed them once a day to keep them around to keep down the rodent population. THey bring my dead moles, mice and an occasional bird. By keeping down the rodent population it naturally keeps down the snake population which is important downhere in the Ozarks.
-- Storybook Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 17, 2001.
The humane society in the next county from us in which there is a large city offers low cost neutering and spaying twice a year - November & February. I found out that you did not have to live in that county to take advantage of the offer -$10.00 each cat, male or female. Vaccinations are available as well, $10.00 also. I heard about the program on tv, but our feed-store lady knew the details and pointed me in the right direction. Anyway, ask around for similar offers in your area. We have had so many cats dropped off at our place and kittens born but we are slowly trying to take care of the problem. So far I've been able to keep our cat population down much lower than our other rural friends. I am now buying cat collars with bells on them to keep the birds safer, too. I love kitties, but... By the way, do any of you have any advice for keeping the cats from using the nice, mellow dirt under the bushes under my parlor windows as a litter box??
-- Jean (email@example.com), April 17, 2001.
It is very easy to neuter a male cat yourself using elasticator bands when they are about six months old. Cost a couple of cents each. Just ask a neighbor with experience on calves to show you how.
-- Ken S. in WC TN (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 17, 2001.
To keep cats from using a particular place as a litter box: Save your orange rinds, dice them and scatter them over the area you don't want the cats to use. Cats don't like the smell of oranges.
-- Eleanor Shulman (email@example.com), April 17, 2001.
I'm not sure what the question was....?
A friend of mine and her husband just bought their place, 40 acres with old barns, a falling down wreck of a house, and about 30 feral cats thrown in for free. I asked her why she didn't get rid of the cats, because there were cat feces everywhere and the cats were all visibly ill -- squinty, gummed up eyes, sneezing snot,the whole deal. Well...they were kind of attached to them now, and the kittens were 'SO cute!' (at least until they got squinty, gummed up eyes and started sneezing snot too...) and natural selection seemed to be thinning them out when they'd find dead stinking cats in unpleasant places around the barns, in the walls, etc.
Personally, I think it's time for an intervention in their case -- get rid of every kitten they can lay hands on, and neuter every cat they could lay hands to; if not just get them to the Humane Society. Apparently this is a problem that an awful lot of farms are experiencing -- one of my horse magazines even devoted space to what to do about all the sick cats at barns. THey advocated feeding them raw liver (or lightly cooked) and eggs as a preventative, since it is the malnourished cats (ones fed on kibble diet, esp. cheap ones )that tend to get sick.
Hopefully, you won't experience Sick Cat Syndrome (prevalent enough it's even named now?), because it's a pretty nasty scene finding those rotted corpses all over, not to mention all the cat **** all over the place. (of course, to be fair, the dog **** all over the place isn't very pleasant either, with three dogs)
-- julie f. (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 17, 2001.
Jean - thanks for the info on the humane society's low cost neuter/spay programs. I will definitely contact the societies in my area. At 10$ per cat, I could do that. The vets were telling me that even group rates would be 50-60$ per cat.
I place rose bush trimmings around areas where I don't want cat poo. The cats avoid walking on the sharp twigs. A month ago, I had just planted three new rose bushes . . . and came home the next day to find a perfectly placed pile of cat poo right in the middle of one of my newly planted roses! I was NOT happy! After searching web sites and reading about many possible solutions to this problem (ranging from bullets to spraying pepper water on the roses to looking the other way) I tried this one and it has worked for me.
Ken - yes, the guy who inspected our house mentioned that as an option. I am not quite up to doing that yet. Maybe in a few years after I have been dealing with this issue for a bit longer.
-- Lyn (email@example.com), April 18, 2001.
One thing I would say is don't start feeding them on your porch or anywhere near the house. You said the dogs kept them away and that's good. Our barn cats here always seem to get too hooked on food scraps, and just hang around the porch all day waiting for me to throw something to the chickens or bring them something out.
They drove me crazy! I would carry theirs all the way to the barn for them, but as soon as they were done, they'd head right back for the porch, not wanting to miss me going outside! When I went out the screen door, I had 8 cats circling my feet and screaming and couldn't even take a step without tripping over them. I tried everything to make them leave the porch, but nothing worked. They were tooooo tame, my fault, I would hold them. They followed me everywhere I went, like frantic, crossing in front of my path back and forth.
They always had food, I wormed them in their food, and they were never skinny or hungry, they just wanted me to cater to them. I would say don't tame them or spoil them at all! Thank goodness there was a lady with a large horse barn that was needing cats for the rat problem, she got our cats! The best independent hunters we have ever had were females. The tom cats in my experience are lazy. Leave them wild, and take the kittens away as soon as they are 6 wks and give them away. Keep the ones that you know hunt. Your 150 acres sounds neat!
-- Cindy in Ky (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 18, 2001.
Our cats like to sleep around the porch too. They hang out there during the day and then when we get home from work, the beagles keep them away. The lady we bought the place from suggested keeping them away too - so picnics in the summer would be possible without having to contend with all of the kitties! I wasn't sure at what age to try to give the kittens away . . . six weeks sounds good to me. Yes, I just love the farm . . . and the house (built in 1885 and needing alot of tlc) is right in the middle of the land so we have complete privacy. It is my dream come true!
Thanks for the advice, Lyn
-- Lyn (email@example.com), April 18, 2001.
Wow, your place sounds great! We too, at one time, had a LOT of barn cats, seventeen of them in fact. All thanks to one wild female that someone either abandoned nearby or dropped off. We tried to catch her for several years, baiting traps, etc. This one female had so many kittens that I couldn't give them away fast enough and talk about expense of worming, shots, etc for the ones that we did tame. So I went to the Humane Society and got a trap and baited it with tuna fish and caught three the first day and a couple each day after that until the all but one was removed. I love cats and hated to take them to the pound, but I couldn't keep my tame cat healthy because of the diseases the others would carry. If you can afford it, I would go the spay - neuter route if you don't want to get over run with babies. My females could have a litter and before they were even weaned good, be pregnant again. I now have one very sociable tame Tom and one very wild Tom which I can't get my hands on. Both live in the barn and there are no females in the vicinity. One of these days the wild one will get tame - he already has stopped running when he sees me in the barn and will actually come over and stand a few feet from me. Both cats are healthy and lively although neither will hunt anything except the cat bowl. The wild cats did develop a "sick cat syndrome" whenever the population got too large and that would thin them out some, but it was a lousy thing to have to watch. Rather not have the wild ones around than have to come upon dead and dying cats in the barn. The strange thing about that syndrome is that my vet didn't really have a name for it, just said that when there are too many cats they would develop this disease and it spreads quickly from one cat to another. Some would live and others would die from it and as far as I know there wasn't a vaccine. It isn't distemper or leukemia, does anyone out there know the real name?
-- Cindy (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 2001.
I stayed at a boarded at an old, rundown farm once as a kid. They had too many cats. At times the cat population was up to and above 50 or 60. The place was removed from the road, and predators other than the very occasional fox were none existant. The farm owners hired a couple of kids to come out and shoot the cats. I can see why they hired them, but it would have been nicer if they had taken care of the problem when they had "only" 15 or so. Spaying clinics are often free- listen to the radio and they will occasionally announce. Same with rabies shots. Drounding a kitten is MORE humane than the "putting it to sleep" method. And certainly cleaner than shooting them. My wife used to work at a pound. The method to put a cat to sleep was to take a pole with a needle on the end, and jab it at the cat, hoping you hit the heart while cat was still in cage. She says they bounce off the cage walls quite a bit and are obviously suffering as they go. Vet methods for your pet are not the same as pound methods, I might add. Now, those cats... well, the ones that were left i believe saved my life that winter. Not that this really has to do with anything, but I was running from the law (ooh, nothing serious, just stupid teenager stuff) and as chance would have it, it was 30 below zero and I decided to hide out in the old barn. I came up through the woods and snuck in. I was nearly frozen. All I could find to cover up with was a thin old blanket. So I did the best I could. Then the cats came. The first one there was name Lucky bc he had been hit with 357 round in side and lived. He must have gone and put the word out, he came in then left, then came back with all the 15 or so remaining cats at the old farm. I was covered in a purring blanket. They stunk, they were covered in fleas, scatches and scabs. And they saved me. I would maybe have lived through the night. But in worse shape than I was in- those cats, if nothing else, saved me a miserable time of it. So keep some cats around, in case any cold folks on the lam decide to camp out in your barn=) or something like that. PS, im not wanted any more, so dont go calling americas most wanted.
-- kevin in nc (email@example.com), April 22, 2001.