When I was growing up, we had an insane amount of barn cats running around our property. I really mean insane–likely in the double digits, and my parents didn’t have a whole lot of livestock for the most part. Being a typical little girl, I played with the cats and it was my job to feed them every day. As an adult, I am firmly of the opinion that every barn should have one–and not just because I’m a huge fan of those little fuzzy hunters.
Natural pest control
Rats present a huge problem for barns lacking cats. Rats can carry a lot of diseases which can effect your other animals or your family, not to mention getting into the feed and other stores. In short, they’re quite the pest, and nothing is better at getting rid of rats than a good barn cat.
Cats are natural predators and will hunt mice, rats, voles, rabbits and just about any small rodent they can sink their little claws into. Most cats also will hunt birds as well.
Wait! What about my chickens?
I hear this argument a lot, but generally speaking, most cats will leave full-grown chickens alone (although I admit there are always exceptions) because chickens can put up quite a fuss and, honestly, there is much easier prey out there. Chicks, on the other hand, are a different manner and you’ll want to watch your barn cats closely.
Cats are fairly smart, though, and you should be able to teach them that the chickens (or ducks or quail or whatever small fowl you have) are off limits. I’ve known some barn cats to even sleep in the chicken coop.
Keep away other cats
Because you likely work with your barn cats on acceptable prey and other rules (like not going into the green house or eating your chickens) you won’t have as many problems. Nothing is perfect, and outdoor cats don’t live as long as housecats, but it’s still well worth any minor inconvenience, in my opinion.
Feral cats that wander from other farms or places, however, will be totally different story and can be quite a nuisance. But because cats are territorial, your barn cats they will likely chase off any newcomers or at the very least, teach them the ropes and do some of the work for you.
Take care of them, and they’ll work hard
The trick to having a successful barn cat is the same as any other animal: take care of it, and it will do its job for you. This means having your barn cat spayed or neutered to help keep it calm and also keep the population down. You’ll also want to get it the most basic shots and de-worm the cat as well.
Some people prefer to not feed barn cats in the hopes that they will be better hunters, but personally I prefer to have a little bit of food and lots of water out for them just in case. After all, you don’t want them to wander off or get desperate and take shots at your chickens. We always fed our barn cats a scoop of the cheapest cat food once a day, and it never stopped any of them from hunting.
Tell me your barn cat stories!
Do you have any fond (or not-so-fond) memories of barn cats? Share your stories and opinions about these furry hunters in the comments below!