We have cats in our barn because we don’t want to have cats in the house. And we don’t have cats in the house—only one.
We like cats. It seems like I’ve always had a cat around, even when we didn’t have a dog. When the kids left home we figured we wouldn’t get anymore cats after the cat died. So for awhile we didn’t have any cats in the house. That lasted for about one month, when one of our barn cats figured out where we lived and moved in. We let it stay in the basement. That lasted about one month until we got a large dog. We kept him in the basement, and allowed the cat upstairs. The cat decided it had the run of the house, and would have, except we learned to keep our bedroom door closed. Cats seem to know where the comfiest beds are!
There were quite a few cats in our barn when we moved here. In particular, one big orange cat has left a legacy of orange cats still around. For some reason, a number of people who know us decided that since we had so many cats, that a couple more wouldn’t be noticed. Myth number 1. So they would bring us their stray cats or just any cat they didn’t want any more. We would explain that we didn’t want any more cats. Our words fell on deaf ears. So we insisted their cats would have to stay in the barn with the other cats. “No problem, my cat used to be a barn cat. He’ll mix in fine with the other cats.” Myth number 2. Established barn cats will drive off all strange newcomers. At least a couple of such newcomer cats have disappeared, probably to try to return home. And another couple of cats became feral, but have stayed nearby because they could always find food in the barn. Myth number 3 is “my kitty is perfectly house trained and would never poo in your barn”. You would think it would be easy for the perfectly house trained kitty to do its business outside, because the door is always wide open. Nope. We have the neighbourhood’s largest kitty litter box around. The cats seem to prefer it; I suppose they don’t like going outside in the rain. The “perfectly house trained kitty” is still around; I see its mistakes on a frequent basis. The mystery is why can’t it find the open door, or the kitty litter box?
Of course everyone knows that cats are excellent hunters, and will totally keep down populations of rats and mice. Myth number 4. So why do we find rat poops near the cat food dish? So why have we even seen rats near the food dish? We have reduced the amount of food we feed the cats. I don’t think that’s made the cats prey on the rats and mice more. I think the cats just eat the food before the rats get there! The very best cat hunter that we ever had was a smallish tortoise-shell tabby female cat. I don’t recall where she came from, but I do recall seeing her dragging a dead rat almost as big as she was. We did find her nest filled with little kittens and she defended that like a cat 4 times her size. That mother cat must have heard us talking on the telephone because she had moved most of her babies when came out to collect them to take to a cat shelter! Fortunately we heard the babies crying for mommy for food and we managed to locate the litter. Mom cat got fixed. We have always insisted that any cats brought to our barn would be neutered. But sometimes we wonder if this is best. That mom cat was never much of a hunter after being spayed.
Right now we have the fewest number of cats in our barn that there’s ever been. The cats get old and die. They usually die somewhere near where they sleep. We usually know when the sad event is near because the cats stop caring for themselves and get pretty rough looking. It is really difficult to decide when or if to put the kitties down because they are our friends. Even the most shy feral cats have learned to trust us and allow us to pet them. One cat that had been brought to us and had gone feral, had continued to be friends and come when called. This winter she seemed hungry. So we fed her, and showed her the food dish in the barn. I guess the cat that had driven her off had died, so this time the tawny tabby has stayed. I hope she stays around come spring because I like having cats in the barn.