When it comes to barn management, sometimes it take a village…and that includes cats.
Here’s Dr. Deb Eldredge, Horse Journal Contributing Veterinary Editor, to tell us about her barn cat:
Our current barn cat is Fire, short for Firecracker. Fire was born on the 4th of July, so he comes by his name honestly. He is a friendly, usually round in body shape, male orange tiger cat. As a working barn cat he falls a bit short of the ideal, but he is cute.
Our standard for barn cat performance developed from our first barn cat here. BC (not a very creative way of naming her Barn Cat) was a brown tiger female who basically “came with the place.” BC was a serious working barn cat. She did not bother with birds – even the barn swallows who would dive bomb her daily. She stuck to small mammals and the body count some mornings was impressive. Mice, voles, rarely a wood rat – all of them were victims of BC’s stealth and hunting ability. BC was not a cat to cuddle.
Almost mind-boggling is the fact that she caught and killed three weasels. If you have ever been up close and personal with a weasel, you know how tough they are! But BC would not allow any intruders into “her” barn. She did accept a fellow barn cat who was dropped off at our farm (Cooper was the sweetest and most handsome cat of all – a beautiful silver tiger) and she tolerated the dogs, but it was clearly her barn and she ran it.
BC died of kidney failure in her old age and Cooper disappeared one night – possibly the victim of coyotes or possibly wandering off to happily join another household (we like to think that even if it is unlikely).
Fire is a great cat in many ways. However, he is a typical male cat – not the best of hunters. My husband claims he is just a really nice guy and hates to kill anything. Of course, that still doesn’t justify carrying a live chipmunk INTO the barn and releasing it! Still, our grain bags and bins have no evidence of mouse invasions and our tack is intact. Maybe just his presence is enough to keep the vermin away.
I think where barn cats truly shine, along with their pest control (or not), is being a companion to the other animals. Whenever we have had an animal who had to stay inside for medical reasons, Fire would be nearby. He hangs in the barnyard with Spice the donkey and Frodo the mini horse or strolls through the pastures with the horses or sheep.
In the winter he rarely leaves the barn. Jumping down from his heated sleeping spot on top of the water pump to eat his daily can of cat food, get a quick drink and zip outside for bathroom duties is the extent of his activity some days. Still, we don’t see or hear mice anywhere in the lower barn. There may be a few in the hayloft but we can handle those.
In the summer Fire checks the pastures daily and periodically comes up by the fenced yard to torment the dogs. He dodges the barn swallows but has only bothered them once or twice. All in a day’s work of course!
And if you hold a purring cat in your arms as you do late barn chores, it is clear that a barn cat is good for you too.