Homesteading

15 Reasons to NOT have Barn Cats on the Homestead

Even before we moved from the city to our new homestead in the Missouri Ozarks, we made plans to get a couple of barn cats for rodent patrol. We even made arrangements with a local homesteading family before our arrival to adopt 3 of their young cats. Our family was a little hesitant about the adoptions because we haven't been “cat fans” in the past. We've never owned cats and, in fact, 2 of us are allergic to them. But, overall we were excited to have some outside cats.

When we first brought them home, they were really afraid of us. After working with them (feeding them) over the course of a few weeks, they were very tame. We had a few family rules that everyone agreed on and faithfully followed:

#1. The cats are NEVER allowed in the house.

#2. We will ONLY feed them cat food...no people food.

#3. The cats can eat anything they catch.

The cats started taking their job seriously soon after arriving on the homestead. As fall approached, we saw the cats catch more and more critters. About half of what they caught were mice and moles, but the other half were critters we didn't really need them killing like chipmunks, baby bunnies, and small squirrels. The benefits of them catching the mice and moles outweighed the drawbacks of them catching the cute, harmless critters.

As time passed and we began making progress on setting up our homestead, our opinion about the cats began to change. By mid-winter, we'd had enough and we just HAD to give them away.

15 Reasons to NOT have barn cats on the homestead:

First, in my opinion there's really only 1 reason to have barn cats...and that's rodent control. With that being said, do the benefits outweigh the risks? Nope! And here's why:

1. Barn cats poop everywhere. Under normal circumstances, maybe it's not a big deal that the entire world is a litter box for outdoor cats. But, on a homestead where you are growing your own food AND potentially selling it to the public, it's not acceptable. Our cats were particularly fond of pooping in the gardens (raised bed and in ground gardens), in our compost pile, in the manure piles, in the mulch pile, and in the top soil pile. That's all we need is pin worms from our garden vegetables!

2.  Barn cats would really rather live inside. Every single time we opened the door to the house, the cats attempted to dart in. I think they had a super secret spy camera system to notify them of when we were approaching a door. Forget leaving the door open so that you could bring multiple loads of firewood into the house. Don't even think about cracking the door for the dog to come back inside. And groceries? Your damned if you leave the door open and your damned if you leave the groceries in the car (because those suckers would be tearing into the

grocery bags in the trunk before you could even get back out to the car!!). That's not even the worst of it. I kid you not that our cats would climb the window screens trying to get into the house. Especially when I was making dinner. Have you ever been enjoying a wonderful meal with your family and looked out the nice picture window...only to see 3 cats staring at you and planning some secret Special Forces mission to bust through the window and steal your Sunday beef roast? I don't know what their deal was considering our faithful adherence to house rules #1 and #2.

3.  Barn cats follow you everywhere, and are never quiet about it. Have you ever deer hunted with a cat? Let me rephrase that. Have you ever successfully deer hunted with a cat? Or squirrel hunted? Or anything hunted with a cat? Well, we had 3 cats. And even if only 1 of them followed you into the woods when you went hunting, they would all be calling to each other so they could meet up and laugh at you because you didn't kill anything.

4.  Barn cats get caught in your traps. So, while they were following us into the woods to make sure we didn't kill anything for dinner, they were also creating a virtual map in their little cat brains of how to return during the night and get caught in our live traps. Fortunately for them, we knew it was a possibility, so we never set the types of traps that would injure or kill them.

5.  Barn cats want an education. Every morning, they followed our daughters out to the bus stop and pretended to be school children. Every morning they attempted to board the school bus. While the bus driver is actually a very nice lady, she would not have tolerated cats on the bus. So, every single school day, we had to trick them into staying on the homestead. Fortunately, they were very food motivated.

6.  Barn cats enjoy playing with baby animals. When the baby animals they want to play with are baby mice, or baby moles, or baby squirrels...it's fine. But, baby chicks or baby meat rabbits are not ok. These cats would stick their scrawny arms through the half-inch crack under the barn door and swipe around under there attempting to snag a baby chick! And, they would lay on top of our meat rabbit cages, peering into the nesting boxes while hoping for an opportunity for an easy lunch.

7.  Barn cats want to help butcher. News flash....when you are hanging a rabbit in a tree (or a raccoon, or a possum) to butcher it, don't turn your back for a second...or the cats will leap up and grab onto it with their claws and start eating it right where it hangs. Animal guts? Oh, they will be gone from your bucket in seconds after dropping them in there. We couldn't butcher any small animals without the cats running away with guts and hide.

8.  Barn cats will also steal all of your fish. Remember the old saying about taking a picture of your fish...otherwise no one will believe that you caught it? That's really because cats will steal all of your fish before you can clean them.

9.  Barn cats love a fish fry. One thing I learned from my mom is that the smell of fried food in the house is horrible...especially fried fish! Well, to take care of that problem, we deep fry fish outside. But, did you know that when you have barn cats, it is a 4-person job to deep fry fish? One person guards the raw fish, one person guards the fryer, one person fries the fish, and the last person guards the cooked fish. I'm sure by now...you know why.

10.  Picnics outside? Forget it! No additional details necessary.

11.  Barn cats are easily enticed by flickering fire. Whether that means a bon fire, a brush fire, or the grill...the cats would leap at the dancing flames of a fire. You'd think they'd be smart enough to know that certain death would follow if they were successful...but they always tried. Yes, they did burn themselves.

12.  Barn cats sometimes disappear, but never for good. Occasionally, one of the cats wouldn't show up for breakfast. We would think, “Maybe it ran away?! Maybe it got hit by the mailman?! Oh, no...maybe it's having babies somewhere...God, help us!” But then, somewhere off in the distance, we would hear a faint cry. Muffled. Persistent. Then we would realize, yep, the dang thing is locked in a building somewhere. The stupid cats would sometimes sneak into the garage or one of the barns undetected and then get locked in there overnight.

13.  Custom holsters are required. I think if you ask any cat owner how to get a cat to stop doing something, they will say “Spray them with a squirt bottle.” And, while I admit that squirting them with water does work, carrying a squirt bottle around every minute of the day kinda cramps my style. Don't think I haven't tried different types of holsters to carry that weapon...I mean water bottle...around in. A gun sling doesn't work well. Neither does a side holster. I've had moderate success hooking it onto my belt loop...but it falls off every time I bend over. I think I've tried and considered all options. None of them were worth a patent.

14.  Mineral deficient? We really tried to be good cat owners. We wanted them to be healthy. They were immunized. We de-wormed them. We fed them cat food and they caught plenty of rodents for additional protein. But, you know how when you are pregnant (or someone you know is pregnant) someone always mentions that there are women who crave “dirt” while they are pregnant? Because of some kind of mineral deficiency? Well, our cats ate every other kind of animal's feed on the homestead. Some of it, I could understand...like dog food. Similar, right? But, chicken feed? Goat feed? Alfalfa pellets? Rabbit pellets? Scratch? Man-alive, those cats stole feed from every animal on the homestead. I think our monthly feed bill has decreased nearly 10% since we gave them away.

15.  Barn cats are counter-productive with composting. By now, this shouldn't surprise you. Barn cats eat rodents, baby animals, feed, guts, animal hides, fish skin...why not the rotting food from the compost pile? No matter how far down you bury it, those cats would get it. No matter what you topped it with...even dirty chicken coop bedding...they would get it and eat it. Most times they wouldn't even wait until we covered it up. It was a 2 person job to take out the compost...armed with the squirt bottle in your holster. One person dug while the other held the bucket. Then one person dumped the rotting food and covered it up quickly as the other shot the squirt bottle as quickly and as many times as their hand could possibly handle. We always thought “maybe this time” we out smarted them. But, every single time as we walked away, we would look back and see them digging away through the chicken poop down to the bottom of the compost pile for the rotting kitchen scraps.

Finally, after 7 months, we'd had enough. We found a nice young lady who thought she wanted outside cats, too. Here you go, lady! No re-homing fee necessary! Need cat food? Buh-bye!

Don't get me wrong, they were cute. They were soft and liked to cuddle, sometimes. It was fun to watch them chase the bailing twine as you dragged it behind you. It was amazing to see them run up trees and dig moles straight out of the ground. But, I'll tell you what. Not a week has gone by that one of us hasn't said, “Gosh, I sure am glad we got rid of those cats!”

Thanks for stopping by and letting me go on and on about cats.

Take care, and may God continue to bless you every day!

Sarah

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2 comments

  1. Annie 4 March, 2017 at 09:43 Reply

    I have to agree with you about having cats on the homestead. We used to have one and she was great at keeping the rodent population under control. Unfortunately, she also liked to dig in the garden, poop where she wanted and eye our small chickens as if she really wanted to eat them. It’s too bad because they are a great addition, however…..

  2. Dana 4 March, 2017 at 13:20 Reply

    When we moved to our place last May, there was a little wild kitten/cat here already – I have taken to feeding it some dog food each night, and now it is not terrified of me. It is still not friendly as such, but it comes when I call. On the upside – it keeps away the mice and it it too scared to come near the house other than at dusk to wait be fed (in the paddock). So far it is a good compromise. But I don’t see us ever getting a ‘pet’ cat for most of the exact reasons you have described!

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