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  #1  
Old 07/02/08, 09:57 PM
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Western North Carolina
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keeping barn cats safe?

I've always had indoor cats. Last fall we built a barn (a huge home for mice), so we decided to get some barn cats. We got two adorable older kittens from the shelter. Just this morning, after only 10 months of living here, one of them was struck and killed by a car. We live on about 20 acres on a fairly busy road. Our property is backed up to hundreds of acres of forest. I was worried about coyotes, not so much the road. But I guess my fears weren't properly directed. Now what? Of course, I am worried about the remaining cat. Maybe I ought to fatten him up? Maybe he has to live in the house now? But what do other people with outdoor cats do?? Is this just an impossible situation?

Help!

Jennifer

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  #2  
Old 07/02/08, 10:09 PM
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Outdoor cats don't tend to live as long as indoor cats. There are greater risks. Coyotes, disease, and cars. Yet, despite these risks, some barn cats seem to survive a very long time. If you want cats in the barn, you will have to accept that they will be at greater risk than a house cat. If that is not acceptable, then yes, you will need to make the remaining cat into another house cat.

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  #3  
Old 07/02/08, 10:12 PM
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The smart ones survive and mate with other smart ones, then teach their offspring. If you're going to let them be barn cats, that's just the way it works.

Once in a while we'll have a stray show up and have kittens. Generally they all decide to play chicken with the cows and get stepped on. The ones born of mothers that were raised here mostly survive.

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  #4  
Old 07/03/08, 12:08 AM
 
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We don't have a barn cat. We have an outdoor garage cat. She's been fixed, had her shots, and is litter box trained. She is fed and locked inside the garage every night. During the day, we put her food away and open the door. She gets every mouse, mole, frog, snake, crawdad coming and going. She's a hunter, but she stays almost exclusively on our property. She is a smart cat and knows to stay away from the road and highway. She'll soon be 4 yrs old. She actually thinks she's a dog.

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  #5  
Old 07/03/08, 12:36 AM
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just like people, Darwins way,, the strong will go on and prosper,, the weak will loose out and the heard will become stronger. That is not his words but it is my way of thinking.
And from what I have delt with cats,,,, LOTS of dealiings! If you bring an establisted outside cat indoors he/she will be very teritorely inclined (spc) and they may be rough on your established indoor cats!
Leave them outside to do thier job, name them but do not kiss them goodnight.
good luck and (bite the bullet) Columbia,SC

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  #6  
Old 07/03/08, 02:12 AM
 
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I keep my cats in the buildings they are there to protect from vermin. I don't let them run loose. I never lose them to predators or to cars. If you let them run loose then they get killed. Not nearly fast enough unfortunately. Free ranging cats are a pestilence.

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  #7  
Old 07/03/08, 06:59 AM
 
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Just remember - barn cats are expendible - they make more all the time. They will learn to stay off the road or not survive. As for the coyotes - you can't really do much. I have 5 cats in the barn right now - the only one that leaves is the Tom. If he comes back, great, if somebody shoots him or a coyote has lunch - great.

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  #8  
Old 07/03/08, 07:03 AM
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Our last barn cat was 14 years old, the previous one was at least 10. Now we have 2 brothers who patrol the barn and nearby outdoor areas. They are free to go, but don't wander more than 100 feet from the barn.

Each of our cats has been neutered and is given a full range of shots including rabies and feline whatever virus. We worm them a couple of times a year. They get fed once a day, about half as much as the house cat with good quality cat food. We interact with them regularly, so they see us as friends, not enemies. We do this because they are an important part of our farm management.

By keeping them healthy, we do what we can to give them the ability to weather much of what comes their way. We once lost a kitten to the road, but we had a neighbour looking after the farm for a week, so we don't know exactly what happened. We have coyotes and racoons, but so far they haven't got any of our cats.

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  #9  
Old 07/03/08, 07:07 AM
 
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Around here in the winter - it is nearly impossible to keep them from climbing into the warm engines of cars around here if the vehicles are parked in the garage....

Just so you know - check for kitties before starting your engine. If you don't, and cat is caught in the engine, it is a very bad thing...very bad.

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  #10  
Old 07/03/08, 07:24 AM
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We had a farm cat adopt us. Last fall she showed up on our property, I have no idea where she came from. She spent the winter living in our shed. She got along fine with our chickens so I didn't bother chasing her off, in fact she seemed to like hanging out with the chickens during the day. I haven't seen a mouse in the house or barn in months, she's done a great job. Unfortunately I haven't seen her in about a week, I'm hoping nothing bad happened to her. Someone mentioned that she might be somewhere having kittens, I'm hoping another family took her in. DH told me not to get attached but I can't help myself when it comes to animals, I was really fond of her.

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  #11  
Old 07/03/08, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by full sun View Post
Maybe he has to live in the house now?
you cant take every cat in the county into your house and put them on life support untill they reach 100 years of age. Animals die. Leave it alone.
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  #12  
Old 07/03/08, 07:45 AM
 
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We currently have two indoor/outdoor cats that have their own door that they use to come and go as they please. Both of them are fixed so there is no stinky spraying or surprise kittens. We also live on a busy highway that has claimed a cat or two of ours and we suspect that we have lost one to predators. We are sad when we lose one, but accept that it is sometimes going to happen. Even though they pretty much always have food available in the house, they still do a pretty good job of keeping the barn and garage (feed storage area) free of vermin. The only problem we have is the occasional dead or alive "presents" that they bring into the house.
Tom

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  #13  
Old 07/03/08, 07:48 AM
 
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We have had dozens and dozens of cats over the years and only ONE has died of old age. They run out of lives, for all they seem to have nine they are sooooo good at getting themselves killed.

Get a few more, and then a few more when the first few kill themselves off. If you have a number of cats you like to have around, just keep getting more to keep that number.

But do keep them fed and vacc'ed and handled (and spayed and neutered so you dont make more than you need) nothing is more upsetting than watching a cat suffer to death because you just cant catch the stupid thing

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  #14  
Old 07/03/08, 07:58 AM
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Your first mistake is "GETTING" kittens. Barn cats are not gotten, They just show up, that way there is no attachments. Now I love our indoor cat but the barn cats are on their own. They live and do there work, breed for the next generation of mousers and they die.

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  #15  
Old 07/03/08, 08:11 AM
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as others have stated, you can't protect a barn cat. When I lived on a ranch in Texas, we went through dozens - maybe a hundred barn cats over the years. Two made it into old age. One was a big fat furry neutured Tom named "Garfield" whose joy in life was delivering his catch of the day into my shoe on the porch and yowling about his triumph -and the other was a productive bob-tailed manx queen named "Bobby" who was a mouser-deluxe and produced a long-line of great mousers.

As others have said, the strong and the smart survive -the others don't. Its a sad reality but thats life in the wild.

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  #16  
Old 07/03/08, 08:24 AM
 
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I like to call our cats "working cats" like a working dog. That helps justify the vet bills each year. It also puts a value on them so people can't say they are feral. They have a job to do on the farm just like a cow dog would.

So they are livestock, you try to give them the best life you can but their work is outside and in the barn, NOT inside the house. I don't have any mice inside the house.

The garage pair have collars, the barn pair do not. The garage male likes to go on vacation each summer (temporary feral for a few months). The garage female is rarely seen more than fifty feet from the house. The barn cats cover a much bigger area.

All four are extremely friendly, except the garage tom when he is "on vacation." During those times we rarely see him hiding in the woods and hay field at the back of the property. He runs away from you if you call him.

Never loss any to the road. We don't have road frontage.

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  #17  
Old 07/03/08, 09:34 AM
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Thumbs up keeping barn cats safe

My family has cats in there barn and they dont have rarely over 1 injury.I guese the cats will find away to take care of them selves .All you need to do is give them attension.acually,I think you wont have to do anything.They will give them selves all of that.Just let them be cats.too much info.

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  #18  
Old 07/03/08, 09:48 AM
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You need to feed your barn cats as a well fed cat hunts much better than a hungry/starving cat. If you start feeding at a consistent time, they'll be there and you can put them in the barn for the night. I would venture to guess you may be rewarded in the morning with some remains of the night's work.

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  #19  
Old 07/03/08, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by soulsurvivor View Post
We don't have a barn cat. We have an outdoor garage cat. She's been fixed, had her shots, and is litter box trained. She is fed and locked inside the garage every night. During the day, we put her food away and open the door. She gets every mouse, mole, frog, snake, crawdad coming and going. She's a hunter, but she stays almost exclusively on our property. She is a smart cat and knows to stay away from the road and highway. She'll soon be 4 yrs old. She actually thinks she's a dog.
I do the same thing as soulsurvivor but with 5 outside cats. I did loose one to the road 2 years ago and it really broke my heart. I have also lost one to a coyote I think...So that is why I lock them up now at night. The do such an awesome job of hunting and they are all sooo friendly. At night (about an hour before sunset) I call them to come eat and they all come running. Their shed is well insulated and nice and cool in the summer and cozy warm in the winter...I heat it to just above freezing when it gets really cold. They have toys, blankies, beds, scratching posts and a hammock. Liter box too. Yes they are a little spoiled for barn cats but I love them dearly and they do a great job. If I were in the op's situation I would get at least one other cat to keep the other company. I always see flyers at the vet for already experienced barn cats. The humane society has them too. I do realize there is a risk with the road...so far they are happy to stay closer to the barn and in the hay field and grove.
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  #20  
Old 07/03/08, 10:52 AM
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Feed them every day in the evening and lock them in the barn for the night. The most productive hunter is the one who hunts for fun. Get them fixed.

I "educate" mine about cars. I bring them to the spot I think they are most likely to get in trouble at and I have DH or a friend roll up in a car and rev the engine and honk at them. Usually it takes once and then they scatter from where they know cars are going to be. I teach them roads are evil places, full of loud scary cars, water hoses and barking dogs who would chase them home (my old dog would chase the cats on the command "get that cat!!", I taught him just for that purpose, he later figured out it was his job to break up cat fights and run off stray toms) Bad things happen within 10 feet of the road but they are fed at home and there is plenty of hunting and laps there so they don't generally go far. As far as coyotes, lock them up from dusk till dawn. Your local bird population will thank you, the mice in the barn will not.

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  #21  
Old 07/03/08, 11:03 AM
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Thumbs up keeping barn cats safe

I agree with michiganfarmer on this one.100 years of age is a long time.Do they have lifesupport for cats?It would be a big waste of money to make it and the electricity to run it.Mifarmer,Mitaylor.

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  #22  
Old 07/03/08, 10:03 PM
 
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The only probably with barn cats is that they dont stay at the barn. At night they roam the woods in search of food.They eat the young rabbits and the quail. When I was a coon hunter and my dog treed a cat(in in the woods, obviously hunting) he was well rewarded. A black snake would be a good solution to rodent problems.

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  #23  
Old 07/04/08, 02:06 PM
 
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Thanks for the replies....What a spectrum of opinions! I think I will opt to lock the remaining cat in the barn at night with a litter box. And we will find a new friend for him, too. I've waited for a couple of years for a barn cat to just show up, but it never happened, so I had to "get" my own.

Thanks!
Jennifer

P.S. I wouldn't have an intact cat, male or female. Way too much reproduction!

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  #24  
Old 07/04/08, 03:24 PM
 
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Someone mentioned the humane society. As I've mentioned before, we went there ten years ago to get a kitten. We were rejected because we put on our application that she would be let out of the house. Lady said too many ways to die. I asked if they would kill the kitten if not adopted and she said yes. Moral of the story - kill them before something else does?!! Life is inherently risky. Better to live well and die than to be completely safe and live.

There are alot of bored, neurotic cats cooped up in apartments who will live a long time. Humane society is quite happy about that. I figure cats are born to hunt, and nothing makes them happier. So what if they die doing what they like!

Otter, I'd like to learn more about why a full cat hunts better. Seems hunger would be a good motivator. We do feed ours, but sometimes I think it makes her lazy.

Also, my understanding is cats don't need company like other animals. In fact, territorial disputes can lead to inappropriate urination (spraying, etc). Ours is quite content by herself.

Anyway, after leaving the "humane" society, we went and got a farm cat and Mindy is still with us a decade later. Here is her latest gift at the front door - nice big gopher which is my enemy number one.

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  #25  
Old 07/04/08, 06:34 PM
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Glad to hear you spay/neuter. The only way to protect outdoor cats is to live WAY off the road. Our two barn cats were both house cats until they decided to move to the barn (both neutered males). Our barn cat now lives in our bedroom and refuses to go outside. Cats have minds of their own!

Good luck with your barn kitty. Shutting it in the barn at night will help, but things happen. One of our barn cats seems to need a vet visit once a year for an "accident"...fish hook through the roof of his mouth, abcessed bites (he ends up with an abcess about once a year) and one year he attempted to jump up on a storage shelf, missed and knocked himself out (I thought he was dead). Hmmm...wonder how many lives he has left?

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  #26  
Old 07/04/08, 07:13 PM
 
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We have two barn cats, feed them in the barn only, water kept in the barn, they are locked up inside barn by 7:30 pm at night to keep safe from coyote. We let them out around 7 am. The Vet suggested (and we did follow his advice) that we feed them only once per day (actually at night when we lock them up) and that encourages them to kill mice in the day time. They do kill mice and rats. Good luck.

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  #27  
Old 07/04/08, 07:23 PM
 
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Anyone ever hear of putting opossums in your barns for mice/pigeon problems? I can see the benefits. No rabies, no sentimental attachment (how attached can you get to a giant, hideous rat?), they don't scratch things up, I doubt you'd see them much. I suppose they could kill chickens, but cats can too.

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  #28  
Old 07/04/08, 10:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Lorax_Of_Gilead View Post
Anyone ever hear of putting opossums in your barns for mice/pigeon problems? I can see the benefits. No rabies, no sentimental attachment (how attached can you get to a giant, hideous rat?), they don't scratch things up, I doubt you'd see them much. I suppose they could kill chickens, but cats can too.
I'd rather come across mouse poop than opossum poop! Anyway, some opossums are hosts for a parasite that makes horses very sick. Plus, I've had (I think) a 'possum eat one of my chickens.

Jennifer
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  #29  
Old 07/04/08, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by DJ in WA View Post
Otter, I'd like to learn more about why a full cat hunts better. Seems hunger would be a good motivator. We do feed ours, but sometimes I think it makes her lazy.

Also, my understanding is cats don't need company like other animals. In fact, territorial disputes can lead to inappropriate urination (spraying, etc). Ours is quite content by herself.
No Problem. It's a question of energy. A cat who has to hunt for every meal doesn't have that much energy to burn. They are like a wild animal in that they only expend energy to fill a need. A predator hunts more then they catch, so if it takes on average 4 hunts to kill a mouse, they'll only hunt the mice they need, they can't afford to waste energy on hunts that might not succeed. This is part of the reason it is so awful when a fox gets in the hen house. The poor hard working creature goes "I'm RICH!!! Woohoo!!!!!" and kills everything in sight, no hunting necessary.

If you feed a cat, then they have energy to burn. They are free to hunt for the joy of it. Just like many of us find we spend far more time on an activity when it is a hobby then when it is your job. If you NEED to make widgets all day, you don't want to make widgets when you go home. But if you're hobby is making widgets, then you turn widget making into an art, you obsess and perfect it and even join online forums to discuss widget making when you're not making widgets. So it is with cats and hunting.

And, to bust another myth, cats actually are social creatures. They are not as social as dogs or even lions, but they do form a loose pride with a few tight relationships. Cats are also unique among animals in how easily they make friends with and find pleasure in the company of creatures not their species. Not to say that other animals don't, but it is surprising to those that observe just how frequently this supposedly non-social animal has social interaction, not just with their own kind, but with other creatures. As I say this, I have a kitten madly purring on my lap. The puppy is trying to kill a pillow, and ignoring me entirely. The kitten's mother and brothers are nearby, but he chose to visit with me. When he's done with me, he won't seek solitude, he'll sniff around and finally curl up on another cat, since we won't let him sleep with the chicks in the living room. Definitely social.
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  #30  
Old 07/05/08, 08:32 AM
 
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I'm probably going to be looked at as a bit wacky....but that's ok.

I do cat rescue and all the cats....usually between 30 and 40 have access to house and barns. In the summer, no one ever believes that I have more than three or four cats as all are off hunting and exploring. Winters are different as many choose to lounge in the house. It's amazing how many...most in fact...choose to be out during a lot of the cold weather and then come in only to snooze. Because all can come and go as they please there are many risks and many don't make it to elderly....however they do have great lives if they are smart.

Things I do to improve their odds:

Every cat starts in the house so they know if they are frightened or cold they can come in and be safe and comfortable. This has completely eliminated any cats climbing in car engines as they come in the house to get warm.

Every cat is spayed/neutered and up to date on rabies. Neutering males reduces their desire to roam and also reduces fighting...which causes injuries and spreads disease. They also get their kitten vaccinations which includes Feline Leukemia and a couple of boosters during the early years. These vaccinations have greatly improved the overall health of the colony which in turn has improved their desire to hunt and reduced vet bills.

They are all wormed at least twice a year if there are no problems but problems are dealt with individually. We also Advantage everyone as eliminating fleas also reduces the occurance of tape worm. Ivermectin once a year deals with ear mites and internal parasites.

We have feeding stations all over the farm which reduces the need to go far and wide looking for food. They still hunt...and provide offerings to us regularly. This doesn't eliminate their wanderings however between neutering and having a comfy place to hang out...they are less likely to wander too far too often. We do have the occassional cat that loves road trips and there isn't anything we can do about that. We hope they stay safe but sometimes they never return.

We never provide anything of cat interest near the road. All cat related things...food, beds, toys, human attention...are either on the back porch or in the barn or at our camp farther into the property. We never do much of anything in the front yard...or even chat with visitors while they sit in the driveway in their car. This discourages hanging out with us in the front of the house...near the road.

Yes, we do loose some and I hate that....but we know that the cats that come to the farm got a little bit extra time here on earth. Some, the smart ones, have gotten many years and that makes it worth the effort and expense.

As for being expendable. I guess you could say that as the cat overpopulation problem is horrific. There will always be cats as long as cat owners choose not to spay/neuter. But we look at all animals as part of God's creation and we feel we have a moral obligation to at the very least care for them humanely. Having barn cats doesn't mean you must spend thousands of dollars and yes, sometimes you will loose one. But those who have barn cats that are cared for responsibly should be happy in knowing that you probably provided or are providing an otherwise unwanted cat with a pretty good life. I am grateful for the time I get with each cat and understand that there is no way to protect them from every risk in this world. I often wonder if they would be as happy locked in a house....once they know the joy of being free.

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