We are almost two years into living on our little farm and we are learning new things every day. Recently, we learned all about our pest problem… mice and rats in the barn. They dig under and into the barn, going after any little food scrap they can find, which makes it really difficult when you have lots of animal feed to store.
While Chris worked hard to clean up and secure all of our feed, we began brainstorming the best methods to solve our pest problem. We quickly decided on barn cats, since it had been a discussion of ours for a while, and we finally had a good reason for it.
We researched our options and decided to adopt from a local shelter, as they make sure all of the cats are spayed/neutered and have received all their necessary shots, which is important when you have outdoor cats! On a Saturday morning, Chris and I headed to the shelter to take a look at the kitties. We quickly noticed two young cats that seemed to be a bonded pair. We were pretty much sold at that point, as they were obviously adorable and came right up to the glass to greet us. You can see a clip of this initial greeting below.
After just a brief visit meeting the kittens, we decided they were going to be our new mousers. Instead of bringing them home that day, we asked if we could wait a week, to give us time to get everything in order for them.
The next Friday afternoon I went to pick up our new farm additions. They very quickly adjusted to their shelter in the barn, and were immediately friendly with both Chris and I. Now, just a few weeks later, they are free roaming in the barn and have adjusted seamlessly. They are sisters, and about seven months old, which is a great age for them to become barn cats. We named them Basil and Sage, as a reminder that they are protected our farm (and garden) from pests. We have yet to see if they catch any mice or rats, but so far so good.
Are you thinking of adding barn cats to your farm? Here are a few tips and pointers that we followed in our process:
1. Create an enclosed space for them to learn their “home base.”
For us, we attached two large dog crates, to give them adequate room to move around. If you have a room in your barn that you can use, that doesn’t have any escape routes, this would be a great option! One day we hope to have a feed and tack room that offers this. If they are feral, make sure to keep them in their enclosure for at least a few weeks. Friendly cats often learn this more quickly. Within a couple of weeks, try letting the cats out for supervised periods of time to make sure they don’t run off. Again, this will be a bit harder with feral cats. Let them out for longer periods of time until you are confident they will stay near the “home base” or at least return there in the evening.
2. Ensure there is adequate water and food available.
Barn cats should not live off of mice and prey alone. They require high-quality food, just like any other cat. This will help them be competent little hunters. You can provide dry food 24/7. In the winter, if the water freezes where you live, make sure you regularly provide fresh, clean water for them. If they are being fed dry food, this becomes even more important as dry food dehydrates them.
3. Provide a source of heat or insulation on cold days/nights.
If you live in a climate where temperatures are consistently dropping below freezing, it is a good idea to make sure your new cats can stay warm. You can do this by using straw bales or heating pads. We are really happy with the microwavable heating pads that we got from Amazon, They stay warm for up to 10 hours, which is awesome.
Chris also has plans to create a DIY, insulated house for the cats by using two totes, one will fit inside the other, and he will put insulation between the two, so that they stay nice and cozy in the winter. I will update this post with a little tutorial for you guys, once he gets that project going.
4. Consider Possible Predators
Our main predators here at the farm are foxes, which don’t pose a significant threat to barn cats, although they can. This biggest threat for most farms is coyotes, so it is important to consider this when debating whether or not to add barn cats. If you have a high number of coyotes in your region, it may not be safe to add cats to your farm, or you may want to implement some added protections, especially at night, to make sure your cats stay safe.
Do you have any experiences with having cats on your farm or homestead? We would love to hear about them in the comments below. If you have any other suggestions you would like to add to this list or questions for us, please let us know in the comments.
That’s all for now friends.
All my best,
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