Are you a rancher? Whether you raise and care for llamas, cattle, goats, horses, or tortoises—or a mix of these and other animals—your “herd” or “menagerie” probably includes one or more cats. He, she, or they are barn cats. Most large and small ranches keep cats around for a variety of purposes—most predominantly for rodent control.
But did you know that the purpose of cats on a large property where there are barns, workshops, out sheds and the like, goes beyond keeping the rats and mice away. In fact, barn cats tend to save the owner money in lost grain and other animal feed. Cats are thought to keep the bug population down—yes, cats love to leap after grasshoppers, squash beetles, and the like.
Cats are fun to have around. They’re entertaining—even when they’re too feral to allow petting. They might keep your other animals calm by befriending them.
But if you take in a barn cat (bless you for giving him or her a home), remember that she is a living, breathing being just like your prize bull or best laying chicken or favorite horse. And she deserves proper care. Contrary to what some believe, barn cats need to be fed. Keep clean drinking water out for them at all times and a fresh bowl of kibbles. Feeding a good hunting cat will not deter him from doing his job. If you don’t feed him, and he survives, he’ll likely wander off to another property once he’s cleared yours of rodents.
Have the cat spayed or neutered, make sure he gets all of the appropriate inoculations, prepare a safe place for the cat to hide out and relax—an old dog house will do or a canvas shelter, for example. Learn what substances are toxic to cats and keep them secure.
If you’re looking for a barn cat—one hasn’t found his way to your property yet—contact one of the many feral cat organizations and shelters in your area. There are a lot of homeless cats and some of them are too skittish and wild to settle into a home environment, yet might be purrfect as a barn cat.