Cat Forum banner

1 - 20 of 22 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
979 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I'm tired of the indoor/outdoor debate, so let's talk about something a little bit different.

A. How do you feel about cats used as 'natural' rodent control? IE - Barn cats, shop cats, book cats?

B. Is it possible to be a responsible owner while still maintaining a "working" relationship with cats, as opposed to a "pleasure" one?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
979 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
(Separate post because it's my opinion, not the question posed in the OP)

My family has a large ranch, and they maintain a barn colony that's been around for a long time (longer than my mom's been alive). The purpose of the colony is to control rodent populations around the granaries and barns.

Currently, the population's around 10-15 cats. The animals are moderately socialized (most will greet you when you enter, 4 or 5 are allowed in the house). All the cats are s/n, and the population is maintained when new cats wander in (or are dropped off). Vet care's minimal. The cats have free access to dry food, running water, and the barn is heated year-round. Not all the cats have names, and for those that do, it's a toss-up whether they respond to their name.

This is Sam, the 'alpha cat'


He's about 12 years old, I think (I remember him as a dapper young Tom around 2001/2001). Obviously he's not in peak physical condition and his life hasn't been easy, but he's earned his keep and a spot inside whenever he wants.

That was a long ramble (because I'm bored at work), but... For me, I think working colonies/populations have a place in the world. I much prefer using a 'natural' solution for pest control, compared to Warfarin or other poisons/chemicals. However, I recognize these are "working" cats, not "hobby" cats, if you can put it that way. They exist to be useful, and there's a certain consideration of return on investment when it comes to their care. Much like a horse or oxen on a "real" farm versus a "hobby" farm, when injury or illness happens, you have to consider the $$$ of upkeep versus the usefulness.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
A- Aslong as the cat is content catching the rodents , and doing so poses no threat to the cat.

B- Yes , if you give them the essentials like food , water , medical care and suitable housing , you are being a responsible owner by catering to their needs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,676 Posts
I don't know Jaq. Heated barn, available dry food, running water, inside when you want, outside when you want, the same health insurance as most Americans. Sounds like a nice place to work. Do they have 401Ks?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,896 Posts
Around here most farms have working cats. The ones where I keep my horse are very well looked after, others aren't so fortunate but in general, most of them seem to do very well.

When my friend split up from her husband, she took a couple of the farm cats with her - they adusted very well. One lived to be about 17 and the other is still alive although he is getting a bit fragile.

The shelter I support rehomes "working cats" as well as pets. Usuay they are the feral / semi-feral ones that couldn't be neutered and released.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
979 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
I don't know Jaq. Heated barn, available dry food, running water, inside when you want, outside when you want, the same health insurance as most Americans. Sounds like a nice place to work. Do they have 401Ks?
Haha, nope. That falls into the "minimal vet care" area. If Sammy there got a URI tomorrow or came down with something, on the off chance he hung around long enough for a diagnosis (on the thrice-yearly vet visit), the most he'd get is a spot on the window sill. No grain-free, veggie-free, raw-ground-added-bone-B12-etc supplements or anything.

To be honest, I think of the barn cats as almost a different species then my Io. They deserve respect and regard, but they're around for different reasons then my cat. Io's job is to live a long time and be my fuzzy-butted companion. Sammy and his crew exist to eat the pests.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
215 Posts
Barn cats are a good thing. The best of both worlds. Not every cat is ment to be a pampered princess. I remember when i went to adopt my Binks, there was a young couple next to me who just bought a farm house and wanted some cats. The manager offered them some cats that were all spayed and nutered but to wild to be adopetd out as pets. Free of charge. Those cats found a good home I would like to think. (along with my binks, who was a stray also)
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
26,664 Posts
I've tried having "working" cats. Impossible to get them to remember to punch in. And the catnip breaks were endless. Also, 26 cat-naps in one shift?

Slackers. All of them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
362 Posts
I agree that controlling rodents naturally is better than using poisons. But..

when injury or illness happens, you have to consider the $$$ of upkeep versus the usefulness.
means the cats are only cared for when they are useful. They have a better life than some cats but not an ideal life.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,194 Posts
I agree that there is a time and place for that...far away from roads and any dangerous predators. That seriously narrows down the area where I'd be ok with it though.

One other thing I'll mention...I don't think it's a good idea to get a kitten that was born to an inside mum and then thrust them outside. The only way I could see myself ever having a cat that went outside is if they adopted me and were comfortable outside, old enough to care for themselves, and I was in a location that was friendly and safe for outside cats. I would never dream of letting any of my current kitties outside on purpose, outside of a pen or something, they just aren't savy.

The Humane Society here does a 'barn buddies' program but I'm not a fan. Basically if the cat has litterbox problems and is surrendered they go to this program. No thought is given to whether they're used to outside, have caught mice before, or their level of care other than some sort of basic shelter and some food. It's a good idea, but it's seriously lacking in reality. They don't use ferals/semi ferals, those just get euthanized immediately.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
215 Posts
I've tried having "working" cats. Impossible to get them to remember to punch in. And the catnip breaks were endless. Also, 26 cat-naps in one shift?

Slackers. All of them.
Ha! Ya, I am happy if they can catch the occasional random housefly!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
978 Posts
The Humane Society here does a 'barn buddies' program but I'm not a fan. Basically if the cat has litterbox problems and is surrendered they go to this program. No thought is given to whether they're used to outside, have caught mice before, or their level of care other than some sort of basic shelter and some food. It's a good idea, but it's seriously lacking in reality. They don't use ferals/semi ferals, those just get euthanized immediately.
The shelter I volunteer with actually has a barn out in the country. We take our feral/semi-feral cats there. They get shelter, food, and water. It's better than being in the city and they can't be housed indoors due to being feral.

We actually only euthanize if they are incredibly aggressive or beyond ill.

Someone wanted to adopt one of the kittens that I've taken a liking to. They said they would keep it outside and I threw a big fit about it. They ended up not adopting it after my objections. The cat was born in the shelter and has never been outside in it's life. I'm bringing it home for a weekend soon and hopefully my aunt and uncle will adopt him. They have a cat that looks exactly like him named Butterscotch. I've named this kitty Baby Butters. :crazy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
979 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
In regards to predators, unfortunately I think there's no place that's truly "safe" from predators and dangers. Around here, in addition to the local wildlife (coyotes, hawks, eagles, snakes, and until recently some boar that got out of hand) there's always the dangers of traffic (even if minimal), farm equipment, drunken teenagers, and the other animals (a docile cow or mule will still trample a slow cat on a bad day.) I'm sure there's equivalents almost anywhere.

Basically if the cat has litterbox problems and is surrendered they go to this program. No thought is given to whether they're used to outside, have caught mice before...
Not that I don't agree with you, but I'm sure that this is the case with some of the cats that "appear" around the barn (anyone familiar with rural living will understand what I mean). Some make it and some don't. The reality is harsh, but they have a better chance (even if it's just a chance) in a barn colony than a high-kill shelter.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
979 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Well, rabbits and birds could also be considered pests when one has crops to consider.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
135 Posts
I've had a couple of cats who chose to be working cats. They just loved killing rats and mice! They were as much pets as all my other cats. At that time they had free access to outside, a ginormous garden, surrounded by houses with other ginormous gardens, and lived long and happy lives. I think they cleared the whole neighborhood of rats, as they would initially kill up to ten a night, but the catch gradually tapered off.

One of our cats, who was given to me when I was only seven and she was only a couple of weeks old.....her stray mum and all the rest of her litter had died....who was a very treasured and pampered darling who thought she was human, and never dreamed of catching ANYTHING, efficiently and hair-raisingly, teamed up with her son to kill about twenty very deadly baby brown snakes which hatched in our garden. He would distract them while she crept up behind them and killed them by biting the back of their necks.
It was like a perfectly choreographed and terrifying dance that they had rehearsed for years.

I think the barn cats you describe are pretty much living in cat heaven. A pretty natural life but with a safety net and comfort, cats don't whinge and whine and expect a long and safe life. The ethological studies of barn cats suggest a rich and complex social life (though the ones studied were all, as far as I know, breeding colonies, where generations of mothers and daughters maintained close and mutually beneficial bonds), they get to use their hunting instincts, which seem to give their lives great excitement and joy, to the full
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,851 Posts
Animals in the wild have a harsh life, it's a constant struggle to survive... compare that to living at a barn and that's huge step up. They have shelter and - should be - provided with some food and water.

Cats have been used to get mice since... forever... it's probably the whole reason they're domesticated.

In some perfect world we'd all live until we're too old to function. Reality is much harsher, especially for non-humans, and no amount of outdoor vs indoor, city vs country, working vs full-time lap cat will change that. It's too idealistic.

So I have no problem with barn cats here. No vet care? A great deal of the people the world over don't have doctors and can't afford them, either. Again, very idealistic sentiments to find issue with this.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
352 Posts
An interesting post.
My four garage cats are "working cats" of sorts. Mice, sure; moles yep; the occasional rat.
They're ferals and sort of fell into the role as they'll never be house cats.
If they were employees the company would be bankrupt as the cost, both financial and emotional, far outweighs any services they provide.
No matter though. The interesting part to me is how the working relationship is maintained. Try as I might, I couldn't just consider their value as a function of "services provided" only. I grew up around farms in Kansas and have an appreciation of human/animal working relationships vs companions and it certainly can be odd. The book: "Some We Eat . . .. ." comes to mind.
What would be a human analogy? Slave? Indentured Servant? Certainly the relationship between "owner" and "owned" in such situations run the gambit as well.
Interesting.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
57 Posts
My heart always says that cats are indoor animals that shouldn't be thrown out into the harsh world, but after having my Siamese who loves escaping and running off, I have to acknowledge that sometimes a cat just isn't meant to be an indoor animal. If I had a farm/ranch, I would leave it available for any stray cats. I would often consider just building indoor/outdoor kennels like they have for dogs and keep the cats in there, but I know in reality it probably wouldn't work.

I would personally catch each and every cat I could to make sure s/n are done and also to get vet care and shots. Seeing as I have my own pet cats, I would like to limit the possibility of transferring rabies or other icky stuff to my indoor cats. And, if a working cat got to the point that they wanted to be indoors, I would consider it. This would be especially true for seniors.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
I'm tired of the indoor/outdoor debate, so let's talk about something a little bit different.

A. How do you feel about cats used as 'natural' rodent control? IE - Barn cats, shop cats, book cats?

B. Is it possible to be a responsible owner while still maintaining a "working" relationship with cats, as opposed to a "pleasure" one?
A. I've always been very involved with horses, and most barns around here have barn cats. They do great jobs keeping the rodents down, and as long as the cats are taken care of and HAPPY to be outside, I think it's okay. I don't think I can do it anymore, personally, though. We had barn cats at our house, and one day my boyfriend ran over my sweet Mickey leaving my house /: it was devastating, and I witnessed it. It's been 3 years and I still tear up about it. He had always been so smart about cars, but all it takes is one time :( and he was a great cat. Just so sweet, and was always by hour side like a dog when you were outside, even rode my horse with me a few times. Anyway, I just get too attached and couldn't handle another death by car, or predator either.
B. definitely. As long as the cats have all their needs met and are happy.


Sent from my iPhone using PG Free
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
A colleague has horses in stables and she had a couple of outdoor/working cats there to keep down the rodents. They have food and water and vet care when needed. However she noticed about 6 months ago that she hadn't seen them for some time and their food etc wasn't being eaten.

Eventually she presumed they had gone missing and went to her local rescue centre to see about replacements. The lady at the centre was delighted to rehome two of her feral cats (mother and daughter) - both neutered and vaccinated free of charge. Last I heard they were doing a great job - but the other cats turned up again so now she has four :) (I don't think she minds though);-)
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
Top