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    Why Cats Are A Homesteader’s Best Friend

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    Why Cats Are A Homesteader's Best Friend

    Living on a homestead provides many opportunities to add an animal or two to the farm. Many of us raise chickens, rabbits, or pigs and probably have a good old herding or guardian dog in the mix as well. While all of these animals are often useful and fun to raise, another animal is well worth its weight in gold on the homestead:

    The barn cat.

    Cats are the kind of animal that you either love or hate. However, any experienced homesteader can tell you that a good barn cat helps out a lot on the farm. Even if you don’t particularly like felines, you can’t argue their hunting skills in ridding the homestead of rodents. Learn more about how cats are a homesteader’s best friend and why you should add one to the farm this year.

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    Hunting Experts

    Cats are known for their ability to track and stalk small rodents. Even indoor cats often play with toys that mimic the movements and sounds of mice and rats. Their ability to kill mice is especially helpful during harvest when the mice in the fields tend to find the nearest building to shore up for winter. While you can set traps for mice, cats are better at hunting and killing the pesky little rodents.

    Don’t count out the larger rodents as well. Those of us raising larger animals like pigs, cows, or horses know that rats often come along with the territory. These larger animals require more food which is a natural pairing for rats. A good barn cat isn’t afraid to take down mice or rats alike.

    How to Care For a Barn Cat

    There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to caring for a barn cat. Whatever you choose, it is important to keep your cat happy so that they stick around.

    Warm Shelter

    Cats on the farm are called barn cats because they often find shelter within larger outbuildings. Your cat may hang out in the barn, a shop, a machine shed, or some other space that keeps them out of the elements with plenty of freedom to hunt. 

    Make sure that your barn cats are protected from the wind, rain, and colder temperatures. Those homesteads located in northern areas should provide plenty of hay for cats to stay warm. For super low temperatures, a heated cat bed, packed container, or extra blankets can be helpful to ensure that the cat doesn’t freeze.

    Food and Water

    Some homesteaders do not feed their barn cats any kind of food. However, you are more likely to keep a barn cat interested and around the homestead if you offer some kind of steady diet. Try feeding them a little bit of food but don’t feed them too much. Providing a little bit of food will keep them fed but also provide room in their belly to encourage them to hunt. 

    Clean water is always crucial for any animal on the homestead. Cats are pretty good about finding water sources, but you could provide a bowl of water in the barn as well. Many cats will find the water for other animals on the farm, like chickens, pigs, and cows, and drink water from puddles or creeks. 

    Respect Temperaments

    Barn cats are notorious for being feral cats that are often not socialized and skittish. These cats may have been born on your homestead but didn’t get human interaction until they were much older. Few barn cats are super friendly and want to be petted or loved. Either way, make sure that you play to the temperament of the cat. Don’t try to force a skittish cat to become one that you could ever hold or pet. 

    If your barn cat is scared of you, consider spending a little extra time around them when feeding or working in the barn. Offer treats or saucers of milk to grow trust between you and the cat. A friendly barn cat won’t slack on its hunting job, so you might as well enjoy the cat if you can.

    Cat On Bale Of Hay In Barn

    How to Find a Barn Cat

    If you want a barn cat and are looking for a particular breed, you probably need to look for an indoor cat. Barn cats are notorious for breeding and sometimes interbreeding, based on their ability to procreate quickly. There are a few different ways to find a good barn cat for the homestead.

    Ask Around

    If you ever need a barn cat, start asking your neighbors and friends in the area. Many barn cats are not spayed or neutered, which results in plenty of surprise litters every year. Kittens are usually free, or a very small fee as the owner would like to get rid of the litter quickly. If you choose to pick up a few kittens from the same litter, make sure to choose the same sex so that you don’t end up with a surprise litter yourself.

    The Cat Finds You

    One of the easiest ways to find a barn cat is that the cat will find you first. When you live on a homestead, farms around you likely have some kind of barn cat hanging around. A cat will venture onto your property and may stay if you offer food and meet their basic needs. While you may welcome a new cat to the farm, it is often harder to get rid of barn cats if you don’t want or need them.

    Barn Cat Rescues

    Animal shelters and humane societies usually don’t allow cats to be adopted if you plan on keeping them exclusively outside. While this is unfortunate, some barn cat rescue groups around the country specialize in finding homes for those cats that are considered unadoptable for indoor life.

    These barn cat rescue groups place barn cats on farms and homesteads that can offer shelter, food, water with owners who understand typical barn cat temperament. Check with your local county or animal shelter for barn cat rescues.

    Cats are a homesteader’s best friend in the sheer amount of rodents that they kill each year. While some cats will bring the dead rodent to the door for your approval, you may also find half of a rodent in the barn. Cats will also entirely devour their prey, so you may never know how many mice or rats they remove from the homestead.

    It is important to note that barn cats often have a shorter lifespan than other cats. Many end up dead on the road or are hunted by larger predators. After a few years on the homestead, you’ll probably go through a few rounds of cats. 

    Another tip to know is that if your barn cat is really friendly, you may want to call it an outdoor cat if you take it to the vet. The label “barn cat” automatically means a cat that can’t be caught or handled, but that isn’t necessarily the case for all cats on the homestead.

    Having a cat on the homestead is an excellent addition to anyone who needs rodent control and enjoys a few cats hanging around the barn. 

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      1 thought on “Why Cats Are A Homesteader’s Best Friend”

      1. Cats are cool. They are great rodent catchers for sure.
        May I add to your article? Humanely trapping all cats outdoors and having them spayed and neutered greatly improves their quality of life. Vaccinating them helps too. Being sick and dependent upon catching food to survive don’t work into good odds. A reasonable food supplement and annual vet care helps them remain active, healthy and pest catching.
        Outdoor cats always need secure nooks they can barely fit into, as dogs will chase them into exhaustion and even kill them.
        If they have a litter as an outdoor cat the odds for their survival become pretty grim.

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