Farm Life

Dealing with rodents on the farm – Meet our barn cats

There isn’t anything much grosser than rodents making a home in your home. I’ve had my fair share of rat and mouse encounters in places where they shouldn’t be, so as soon as our offer was accepted on our future farm, I started researching and looking for barn cats. 

Barn cats are typically feral or semi-feral cats that live primarily outdoors, taking shelter in barns or outbuildings that help with rodent control. Although there are other means of rodent control such as poison and traps, we have pet dogs and plan to have other animals in the future and didn’t want to deal with one of them potentially getting hurt or sick. 

Right away, I discovered that our local Humane Society has a barn cat program which consisted of former barn cats, or other feral cats that have been spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and needed new farms to live at. I kept this in the back of my mind for when we moved to our property, but in the meantime, we ended up adopting Birdie.

Meet Birdie

We were still 11 days from closing on the farm when my husband decided to take a bike ride.

Climbing a tree to rescue Birdie.
Climbing a tree to rescue Birdie.

We lived in a pretty rural location that included roads that would extend for miles without a house in sight. During his ride, he heard a very audible meowing. He pulled over his bike and continued to listen, pinpointing the meowing to a spot up in a tree. He called me and told me to bring some gloves and drive down and meet him. Gloving up, I started climbing the tree where the sound was coming from and quickly found a tiny calico kitten perched in a branch next to a bird’s nest (hence her name). Spooking her, she jumped into the heavy brush below.

After two hours of “meowing” back and forth, we finally spotted her back in the tree. So back up the tree I went, and back down the bushes, she went.  At that point, it was completely dark out so we left.

Birdie after a flea bath getting some snuggles on day 1 of bringing her home.
Birdie getting some snuggles on day 1 of bringing her home.

The next morning I had the urge to check if she was still there…and sure enough, she was! 

This time she was about 50 feet up in a different tree.  I ran home, grabbed some gloves, a backpack, and my husband. I climbed way up in the tree getting within 1 foot of her before she spooked again and jumped from branch to branch, Tarzaning down the tree.  We were able to spot her quickly on the ground and found her halfway stuck in a hole with her little booty sticking out like Pooh bear. I was able to FINALLY grab her and bring her home.

She got a flea bath, a big bowl of food and water, and I set up a kennel for her with blankets and a box to hide in. Within a day, she was letting us hold and pet her and would purr nonstop. 

Birdie is now about 5 months old and still loves to climb trees or perch on our shoulders while we are outside working.

Meet Shredder

All along, the plan was to adopt two barn cats when we moved to the farm, but now that we had Birdie with us, we only wanted one more. I received an email from the Humane Society that they had barn cats looking for homes, so I quickly filled out an application and set up an appointment with them. 

The woman helping us was very friendly and informative giving us information about how to help barn cats adjust and what care we needed to provide.  She let us know that based on our application they had a cat in mind for us that they thought would be a good fit. We went into a room of kennels with towels over the doors and were told not to stick our fingers in them… We were told that the cat we had been matched with was about 1-2 years old, was very handsome, but not to touch him.  Lifting up the towel revealed a long-haired, siamese looking cat, with icy blue eyes. He gave us a hiss and growl and we said we would take him.

Shredder soaking up some sunshine right after letting him out of the barn for the first time.

We made him comfy in our barn where he would need to say enclosed in for a few weeks to adjust to the sounds and smells of his new home. This also helps cats learn that your property is their home, and where they can find food and water.

Every day, my husband and I would go visit and talk to him and be given a hiss and growl in return. After a few weeks, it was time to let him out of the barn. We did not have high hopes of him sticking around because of his not-so-friendly demeanor. We didn’t see him for a couple of days, but then he started showing his face more often.  Now we see him almost daily and he will approach us and rub against our legs. I call that progress!

Meet Hook

Lastly, meet little Mr. Hook. Hook was not in our plans, but we are sure glad he weaseled his way in. About farm 6 weeks after adopting Shredder, my friend posted on Facebook seeing if anyone was interested in a tiny, feral orange kitten found in the middle of the road. I immediately messaged her and she said she was on her way over.

Hook on the day we got him.
Hook on the day we got him.

Boy or oh boy was I shocked when I saw the state of this kitten. He had to be around 7-8 weeks because his eye color had developed, but he was skin and bones and fit in the palm of my hand. His fur was thin, revealing his flea-bitten skin underneath, and he was infested with hundreds of fleas, had a big ol’ round belly filled with worms, his legs bowed out making his walk more of a wobble, and his tail was broken in 3 spots, forming a hook.

Hook loves being toted around in our jackets  while working on the farm.
Hook loves being toted around in our jackets and pockets while working on the farm.

Thankfully, I’ve watched a lot of Kitten Lady on YouTube and knew some basics to get this guy in better order. After two flea baths, an hour of flea combing, and a big meal, I set up a nice cozy kennel with blankets for the little guy. I ordered dewormer online that would arrive in a few days. 6 weeks later, Hook is still on the smaller side, but he has put on weight, the fleas and worms are gone, and he is a happy little fella that follows us around the farm. We think he went through a serious trauma before we got him, and I doubt he will ever be a normal cat, but he has brought us many laughs and lots of love.

And that’s a wrap on our barn cats! They must be doing their job because in the areas we found rodent droppings when we first moved in, we have not seen anything. Plus, they are fun additions to the farm.