Working when they feel like it, sleeping the day
away, partying all night, and making sure you know that whatever you say
or do means not a whit to them (what IS a whit, anyway?), these creatures
who inhabit a homestead do not hop, trot, gallop, waddle or run like the
other resident critters—they saunter.
Saunter around the corner just in time for dinner.
Saunter away with a mouse after a lightning quick
hunt ends successfully.
Saunter purposefully after doing something
embarrassing, exuding “I meant to do that” from every furry pore.
Saunter right in front of your legs while you are
carting in 50-pound bags of feed, or better yet, groceries. The sack
with the breakables in it.
The fuzzy equivalent to the relation who comes to
visit, and then stays long past his welcome, not with appreciation, but
with the attitude that he’s doing you a big fat hairy favor by consuming
YOUR food and using YOUR utilities, you know, of course, who I’m talking
The Barn Cat.
Why on Earth would we keep a creature around that
seems to be in permanent teenaged morosity? “To catch the mice,” we claim
I currently have three cats in residence.
Gremlin was born here 12 years ago. His mom was
a tiny feral fluff of a kitty who had 2 kittens under the house.
Shortly after the kitties were weaned, momma cat disappeared with the cute
kitten, and Gremlin was left. Mostly wild, he’s prime Farm Cat
material, yet if confronted, nay, presented with a mouse, he turns his
back and yawns. I’ve witnessed him hastily pulling his paw away from
danger of coming in contact with a running mouse.
Petri was a friend’s cat. When Angela moved out
of state, Petri came to live with us. Angela had found Petri as a
starving stray kitten, and bottle-fed him into a sleek, panther-like
specimen. He had been denied transfer due to a fondness of urinating on
everything inside the house, so even though he had had his front claws
removed, he was dubbed a Barn Cat, and turned loose. I’ve seen him catch
one mouse in 8 years. It was slow, and looked a little brain-damaged.
Petri is a prime example of "you are, what you eat."
Oswald was born in the lap of luxury—the planned
child of two housecats. Fluffy, orange and white, with whiskers all the
way out to there, Oswald lived in our house till we started the big,
noisy, alarming parts of our home renovation, at which point he showed his
displeasure by using our bed as a litter box. After a few such episodes,
I picked up the cat, opened the front door, and unceremoniously plopped
him onto the porch, closing the door behind me.
Guess he showed ME.
Surprisingly, Oswald is the Master Mouser. He
can hear a mouse from across the yard and through an insulated wall.
If I come across a mouse in a feed sack, all I have to do is say "here
Ozzie" and he’s right there to retrieve it for me. I tip the sack
and in he darts, backing out with the offending rodent. If there are
TWO mice in the sack, that’s his specialty—it only takes a split second
longer, then he backs out with a mouse-tashe, one tail drooping out of
each side of his mouth.
For the squeamish mouse lovers out there, Ozzie is
also the most business-like cat I’ve ever seen. He’s not interested
in the least with playing with his hapless prey. It’s a quick
execution, followed by happy ingestion.
Here’s where the informational part of this
There are many myths surrounding the amount of care
and upkeep needed by the average barn cat, and perhaps the most harmful
If you do not feed your barn cats, they will be
The truth is, if you do not feed your barn cats, they
will get very skinny and leave. Or die. Or both. Cats hunt for one reason
only: the personal satisfaction and pleasure they receive from causing
something smaller than them to be very afraid, and then killing it.
Well-fed barn cats will be stronger, happier, and quicker.
Won’t it cost a lot to feed a lot of cats? Of
course it will. Therefore, I recommend not HAVING a lot of cats,
which is caused by another myth:
Barn cats are a renewable resource.
There are not many things cuter than a litter of
kittens. If you have an unspayed female cat, you will soon know the
joy of frolicking kittens. Cats reproduce at an amazing rate of
speed. A female cat will be ready to breed any time after about five
months of age. At this time they come into season, which is
accompanied by caterwauling and a very seductive (to tom-cats) way of
locomotion that looks to the casual observer like they’ve been hit by a
fast-moving vehicle causing the fracture of several vertebrae. This
attractive behavior will continue till they are spayed, or impregnated.
Left to their own devices, a female cat will have two
litters of kitties per year. The average litter is four kittens.
If half of them are female, you will have eight frolicking kittens the
first year. Twenty boisterous kittens the second year. One
hundred and twenty truly horrifying kittens the third year. And by
the fourth year, you will have to move to a new place, because the SIX
HUNDRED KITTENS will make your current place a complete wasteland.
Make some calls. Your local shelter should be
able to direct you to low cost spay/neuter clinics or programs that will
sterilize your cats and give them a rabies shot for a nominal fee. Sure,
it costs money, but nothing like trying to keep SIX HUNDRED KITTENS in
Of course, it’s highly unlikely that you will
actually be facing SIX HUNDRED KITTENS. Your neighbors may take a
few. Your friends and family may take a few. An ad in the
Thrifty Nickel may snag homes for a few. If you are really out in
the boondocks, hawks (or gators) may even take a few. And you may be
sure, if you do not vaccinate your cats, disease will take more than a
few, proving wrong the myth that:
Barn cats do not need to be vaccinated.
Of course they do.
In fact, it is required by law that they are up to
date on rabies vaccinations, which, depending on your state is either
given annually or every three years.
Additionally, cats (especially outside cats or large
groups of cats) are very susceptible to some other unpleasant and
potentially fatal diseases. Feline Distemper is very contagious, and even
though it’s rarely fatal (unlike Canine Distemper), it’s still a drag to
be surrounded by a bunch of cats with snotty noses and runny eyes.
You can vaccinate against this, Calicivirus and herpesvirus, in a combo
vaccine known as the FRP. These are considered "core" vaccines, and
are essential for all cats. A 4-way vaccine, adding Chlamydia is
also available, and for the extra few cents, a really good idea, even
though the chance of a human catching Chlamydia from a cat is extremely
unlikely. Feline Leukemia is a good vaccination to consider—if
contracted, a cat can either be a carrier who can pass it on to other
cats, or break with it themselves—and it’s always fatal.