Updated: Jul 10, 2020
Community cats and barn cats can be found in rural, urban, and suburban neighborhoods—near dumpsters, food establishments, or shopping centers, as well as in barns, backyards, and alleyways. They are feral or semi-feral cats that can live in any area that provides an adequate source of shelter and a food source. Overall, community cats are often well adjusted to their environment and can potentially be productive members of the community in which they live.
These cats are often not suited to indoor family life but benefit from family resources and community care, allowing them to comfortably live out their lives in a safe environment. And, to be sure, community cats and barn cats can be equally beneficial to the neighborhood in which they reside.
In fact, if you have a barn or a homestead of any kind, then you probably have a lot of use for stray cats. And, while they have the same basic needs as other pets, it’s important for owners to acknowledge that caring for a feral or semi-feral cat looks a little different than caring for a fully domesticated pet.
But, of all of the animals on your farm, the barn cat may be the only one that actually earns his keep.
The Benefits of Having a Barn Cat
They Make Great Exterminators
Rodents wreak havoc in barns and residential areas. They can harbor tapeworms and other parasites that can infect other animals. In fact, mice are carriers of about 45 diseases, including salmonellosis, pasteurellosis, leptospirosis, swine dysentery, trichinosis, toxoplasmosis, and rabies.
Rodents also distribute disease-carrying organisms on their feet, contaminate feed with their feces and urine, destroy insulation in your buildings, and destroy feed that is intended for your livestock, costing you more money on feed and repairs than necessary.
Barn cats offer a natural alternative to chemical extermination methods and, in some cases, the mere presence of a cat is enough to ward off any would-be rodent tenants.
They Are Low Maintenance “Pets”
Community cats and barn cats require very little to keep them healthy and happy—yearly immunizations and basic survival essentials. Beyond that, they need very little and usually give a whole lot back.
They Save You Money
Although it seems counter-intuitive to saving money to acquire another mouth to feed, having barn cats can make a world of difference when it comes to the cost of pest control. With each rodent they eat and each bug they deter, one less pest is consuming feed or destroying property.
The Responsibilities of Having a Barn Cat
Just because a barn or community cat will be living in your barn or outdoors, it doesn’t mean that it won’t need adequate care. To that end, here are a few steps to take to keep your barn cats as healthy and well cared for as you can.
Spay or Neuter Your Cat
There are many consequences of having a fertile female or roaming tom cat on your property. In addition to the obvious (unwanted litters of kittens) non-neutered cats tend to wander, get in fights, and bring diseases home. Cats left intact and allowed to roam free adds to the feral cat population. It’s important that you are not adding to the issue of feral cats instead of taking a formerly feral cat and giving it a home.
Seek Adequate Vet Care
Barn cat owners are charged with providing their feline friends with the best chance for a long, healthy life. Yet, in their role as hunter and protector, barn cats and community cats are susceptible to some serious health risks. Much more than inside cats, barn cats and outside cats require regular de-worming, flea treatment, vaccinations, and routine healthcare.
Because they are outdoor animals, they are more susceptible to dealing with predators and wild animals, as well as infectious diseases and intestinal parasites. So, keeping your barn cat fully vaccinated will keep them from dealing with a lot of illnesses that they could possibly come in contact with outdoors.
Give Your Cat a Place to Rest
Barn cats don’t require a ton of attention. In fact, some would prefer to be left alone and will live out their lives happily keeping your barn and homestead free of pests and rodents that will eat your grains and ruin your garden. But they do require a few basic needs to be met in order to keep them healthy and willing to stay on your property.
One of the most important things you can do to help your cat acclimate to its new home environment is to keep it crated for the first few weeks. Your new cat will be understandably frightened, and crating allows your new friend time to become acclimated to its new environment. While feral and semi-feral cats will never be “people friendly,” the more time you can spend bonding with the cat, the more likely the cat is to remain at their new home. The nicer the accommodation and the more the cat comes to recognize you as their ‘food person,’ the more likely they’ll want to stay around.
After the initial confinement period, your cat will need a place to go in out of the wind and rain and during extreme weather.
Provide the Basic Necessities
No matter what you’ve heard in the past, cats do not thrive on catching mice alone—they still need proper nutrition. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by the prevailing belief that outdoor cats shouldn’t be fed because it would deter them from eating rodents and bugs. This belief is not only untrue, but it’s not healthy for your pet. Community and barn cats still need adequate food and water. It’s often ideal to provide their meals on a high shelf or other not-so-easily accessible area so that raccoons and other wildlife will not be attracted.
Overall, cats are extremely intelligent, sociable members of farming and neighborhood communities. They are hardy, resourceful, capable creatures. Fighters and survivors.
And, while feral and semi-feral cats don’t make ideal members of the family for indoor dwelling, they CAN go on to lead happy, productive lives in the communities in which they live.
What we can do for them is ease their struggle, make them healthy through sterilization and vaccination, and provide them with suitable homes.
YOU can be the opportunity for a happy, healthy future for these often overlooked cats. All our barn cats are fixed and fully vetted. Check out all of our adoptable animals on PetFinder.