The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Barn cat

Barn cat

Five years ago, Strider turned up in our barn, sick and in need of a home.  Since then, we've managed just fine with two cats --- Strider does all the hard work around the farm and Huckleberry lets us spoil him.  But Thursday afternoon, the cat balance got out of whack.

Another plaintive meow from the barn turned up this little critter, who is still too scared of me to let me check its sex.  The barn cat looks pretty healthy, but was starving and quickly downed nearly a quart of dry cat food over the first 24 hours before starting to slow down to a more normal eating pace.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the feline.  It meows plaintively at me, begging for something even when there's still food in its dish, but it's too scared to come closer than three or four feet away from a human, and that only when I sit down and look in the other direction.

Two cats in the house is really more than I can handle, especially when they both want attention at once.  (Mark's more of a dog person.)  So Mark and I are agreed that this little feline wouldn't fit in.  But I'm not sure if I can catch it to give it away, so I'm a little stuck by the cat in the barn.  Does anyone local want a cat in need of serious TLC?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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one way to keep rats down is to have a lot of semi-feral cats that you don't feed. My exwife grew up on a farm. I remember my first trip there in spring, when a tidal wave of cats poured out from under the porch stoop to see who had arrived. They claimed to only feed left overs to the cats. They had no rat problem, even though they raised hogs and kept grain stored in a silo.

Comment by tom Sat Mar 8 08:43:23 2014

Nobody "owns" a barn cat-- they're free spirits who may prefer to make your property their territory. They do quite well outside all year. We have 5 on our 2/3rd ac property and they survived our nasty winter (60 in of snow & 20+ days with sub-zero temps)just fine.

I put out free choice dry cat food and 2 cans of canned food each day (chickens gobble up what the cats leave behind). They are still good mousers because they naturally stalk and catch anything that scurries along the ground like a rodent, even if they're not hungry.

Comment by doc Sat Mar 8 10:59:20 2014
I'd keep your cats outside. Make a spot for them in your barn or shed,old blankets. Feed them once a day and they will kill the rats you have.If you feed them too much they won't hunt for you.But get them spayed. Otherwise instead of rats you will be overrun with cats.Males are cheaper to spay. But in some rural areas, vets do a bulk spay special on a certain day of the year.My only issue with barn cats is they like to kill baby chicks that are free range. I lost several guinea chicks this way. Now I keep the chicks and the mother penned up until the chicks are older.And now I have much better mom hens, Dark Cornish and English Game. They will attack any predators. Good Luck.
Comment by Ruthlynn Savoy Sat Mar 8 12:19:27 2014
Hey sweetie, will your SPCA take her? Ours has fixed feral cats available for free to good outdoor homes. But it sounds like maybe she's not feral and just traumatized?
Comment by Heather Sun Mar 9 12:22:37 2014
I agree that barn cats are never really "owned." Every barn where my sister has kept her horses has seemed to have an itenerant population, some requiring plenty of human affection and some requiring none, thank you very much. As long as the newcomer passes the Huckelberry and Strider interview process (those can be very stringent!), you should be able to keep her(?) around.
Comment by Emily from Bristol Tue Mar 11 16:37:09 2014

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