Saturday, March 25, 2017

Caturday: Barncats

We were having an enormous rodent problem at work. The barns, the sheds, the tack room, pretty much everything resembling a structure was thoroughly infested with mice and rats. It got so bad that I could spot half a dozen mice in the barn if I kept still for more than a few minutes. I'm a wildlife advocate, but seriously, rodents suck. They eat small amounts of your food, or animal feed, and then pee in the rest of it so nobody else can use it. Gross, gross, gross.
Cat sitting in open door of red barn

As a wildlife advocate, I am generally opposed to keeping outdoor pet cats. They kill tons of songbirds, and really mess up the local ecosystem. My cats stay indoors, where they can be happy and healthy without murdering small animals. Would they be happier and more stimulated with access to the outside? Probably, but to me personally it's not worth their potential impact on the wildlife I share their neighborhood with.

That said, I do love our barncats. The local shelter adopts out nasty-tempered cats as barn cats, they are free to approved homes, and come spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. Keep them confined, fed, and watered for a week or two after bringing them home, and then turn them lose to rain carnage down on the local rodent population.

We got our first set of barn kitties in December. a set of three four-month-old littermates. They don't want to interact with people, but are perfectly content to lounge around nearby as long as we don't bother them. They tend to show up around dinnertime, and the three of them can nearly always be found together.

The impact of the cats has been tremendous. I have not see a rodent in the barn in weeks. Everyone who lives on the property has noticed a dramatic reduction in rodent activity in their homes. I spotted a kitty carrying a mouse last week. Go little hunters! Murder everything!

The cats have had an impact on other wildlife as well. I no longer see cliff swallows foraging on the ground near the feed bins, and the cats may be affecting our robust population of big fat fence lizards as well. That said, I know their range is limited, and they can't reproduce. They aren't pets allowed to roam and kill just for amusement, and the pest control they provide means no more traps or poison or spoiled feed. These little working kitties are performing the ancestral job that resulted in the domestication of cats to begin with, and that's pretty cool.

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