Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Still Mousing After All These Years

Squeak, the barn cat - twelve years old
This is Squeak. That's not his real name, but that's what I call him because of the silly noise he makes when he's trying to talk me into getting the cat treats out of my tack trunk.  He has trained a bunch of us at the barn very well.

Squeak is one of three barn cats at the boarding facility where my husband and I keep our horses. They were all from the same litter of kittens many years ago. They are neutered and at least twelve years old.

The other day I was sitting on the bench removing my riding boots (Squeak likes to help me with the laces) and I asked him this question. I said "Squeak, would you have been better off dead?" He looked at me with horror and I swear his squeak went up three levels.

"Cause, you know Squeak, a lot of people feel that having a cat in a barn is inhumane. That it would have been better off to kill you than adopt you out to a nice barn home."

I daresay that I think Squeak and his two brothers are VERY happy barn cats. They behead mice and leave them for us to discover. They dodge barn swallows. They sleep in the hay on warmer nights and on the coldest nights they have a kitty door that goes into the laundry/feed room where their beds are. They have plenty of food, water and a never ending stream of visitors to feed them kitty treats. They can often be found on the laps of visitors watching riding lessons. They have the largest litter box in the world (the indoor riding arena). And if they could speak I'm sure they would assure you that they would rather not have been dead these last twelve years.

This farm is only one of many that I have either worked at, boarded or visited over the past 25 years. I can probably count on one hand the number of poorly cared for barn cats that I have seen on horse farms. But unfortunately we still have shelters here in Wisconsin and around the nation that will not adopt out cats to a barn home. They have an "inside cat only" policy. (Thumbs up and a big thank you to the shelters that DO have Barn Buddy programs.) 

"Inside only" cat policies cause cat deaths. It may be fine for the cat that is waiting for an inside only home - but not so great for the one waiting in the wings to get onto the adoption floor. And barns NEED cats - how else do you manage mice and rats - through the horrendous use of poisons that cause a slow and painful death and endanger other pets and wildlife?

I talked to a lady at the dog park the other day. Her husband, a retired farmer, had gone to a shelter to adopt an indoor cat. They looked at his address, knew he was a farmer and assumed he was lying and that he was going to let the cat live in the barn - so denied his adoption. Good grief! So now adoption counsellors are trained in lie detection? Why not just take a chance and save a life?

If you have an inside cat, great! I'm not advocating that you let it outside. There are risks involved with outside cats, especially those in urban neighborhoods. But there are also risks involved with having indoor cats - including obesity and the diseases that accompany it.

It's time for shelters and rescues to get over the concept that a cat is better off dead than to have a good home on a farm. Especially those that have been surrendered for litterbox issues or for not getting along with other cats in the home.  Squeak and his brothers vote yes to barn life!


  1. Thank you for adding your voice to the controversy. I appreciate your candor and support the barn adoption alternative for the homeless cats facing certain death in a shelter.

  2. We are a TNR Group and we have a Barn Cat program called Missouri Barn Cat for ferals that must be removed from their homeland. Our farmers and stable folk just love our feral barnies. We have zero problem releasing into farms, stables, plant nurseries, and warehouses.

  3. This is a really good post, what a great shout out for Barn Cats. Squeak is gorgeous and proves that with good basic care, somewhere safe to sleep, barn cats thrive and enrich the environment of any farm or stable. In the UK we have Cat's Protection who are always willing to adopt out ferals, and semi ferals to stables and livery yards - they provide guidance on how to set things up so the cats stay and are safe too. It's a real success.

    To me it's no contest, death in a shelter or a wonderful active life at a barn? The latter wins every single time!