Monday 5 April 2021

Rescued shelter cats suited to a barn cat life

The Bangor Daily News has a nice article about barn cats and domestic cats suited to the barn cat lifestyle. It's a reminder to me that some domestic cats like the old-style way of living. And this is the old-style way of living because it's the way people related to domestic cats long ago in the past. It's a question of individual cat personality as some cats are really suited to being left alone to their own devices. All they need is veterinary care, a food source, a warm place to go to when it gets cold and some general interaction with their human caretakers but to relatively low level that are normal.

Rescued shelter cats suited to a barn cat life
 Rescued shelter cats suited to a barn cat life. Photo in public domain.

One rescue centre in Brunswick, USA, Midcoast Humane, have a Barn Buddy programme designed specifically for these types of cats. They are cats who are shy around people and who typically prefer to live outdoors. They going to be happier, this rescue organisation believes, living in a barn or warehouse or in the backyard provided they are given food, freshwater, a place where they are protected from predators and the elements in the snug den to curl up in when it gets cold.

The rescue organisation refers to them as independent and self-sufficient loners and one hopes that they are also experts at catching mice and other rodents. They might need some patience. They certainly need kindness and over time they might learn to trust people more. Perhaps they end up coming into the home in the long term.

The point being made is that these cats, with this particular type of personality, are better suited to this way of life and I think we should remind ourselves that they exist. Perhaps sometimes (and I am guessing of course) they are pigeonholed into a full-blown domestic cat lifestyle which is unsuited to them. This may lead to them failing as a conventional domestic cat which may in turn lead to relinquishment of the cat back to a shelter where they might be euthanised as having behavioural problems.

Rescued shelter cats suited to a barn cat life
 Rescued shelter cats suited to a barn cat life. Photo: in public domain.

Kate McHugh-Westfal of the Midcoast Humane shelter said that: "Cats are versatile workers. There are lots of different options for cats who are much happier being outside or want little or no interaction with humans."

I mentioned domestic cats with particularly independent personalities but of course this group of cats may include feral cats or semi-feral cats. Or perhaps cats who have been deemed to have behavioural problems when brought to the shelter for the first time. They are checked out for being spayed and neutered (and if not they have the op), they are vaccinated and microchipped, ready for their new life as a barn cat.

They are usually at least six months old because the shelter believes that cats younger than this can be socialised and adopted conventionally. McHugh-Westfal believes that kittens and young cats develop their feelings during the first 16 weeks of life. If you can get a feral kitten before then you can develop them to be a good indoor domestic cat.

One aspect of the Barn Buddy program is that it is turning the problem of domestic cat predation on native wildlife species on its head. Lots has been written about how to prevent cats preying on wildlife but in this instance they are working cats whose job is to prey on what humans consider to be vermin and pests. It's a particularly nice solution for that reason.

They recommend that when a barn buddy is first adopted they are placed in a large dog crate where they should live for two weeks. Then once they are let out they recognize the location as home and where their food source is. They also recommend that there should be at least two working cats together at the same time because it helps to prevent them wandering off because they have a friend. The key, they say is that they should have plenty of food and water at all times. The rest, they can deal with themselves. 

Another plus for the cats is that they can make friends with other domestic animals such as the horses and livestock. Barn cats and horse go together really well.

These cats are being loved but in a way which is best suited to them, they say. For them, being inside a home would be a bit scary and make them anxious and unhappy. Letting them live outside is the best course of action for them.

I recently wrote about a couple who, because the wife was allergic to cats, were forced to let their domestic cat live outside or his life in the backyard in the garage. It sounds sort of cruel but it actually worked out very well. You can read about that story if you like by clicking here.

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