Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Barnkitty, version 2.0

There's been a black stray cat frequenting our homestead for about six months now.  And of course, as soon as I noticed him hanging around I started feeding him.  I just couldn't help it; the poor bugger was eating the chicken scratch that was left over in the bowls after the chickens were put up for the night.  How hungry would a cat have to be before it eats chicken scratch?!

I started putting out dry cat food by the chicken food at night and calling "Meow-meow-meow-kitty" like any good crazy-cat-lady would and eventually he would come trotting up for his supper.  My plan was to get him nearer and nearer the barn so he would take up residence there.  I've been having a horrible time keeping the mice population under control and thought a real barn cat would prove to be most beneficial.

One night about a month ago, I went out to close up the goats/chickens and feed Outdoor Kitty and he came hobbling up, meowing piteously.  Sometime during the last 24 hours he apparently hurt his front right leg and was now having to walk on three legs.  Man, I wanted to sob.  As I still couldn't get more than five feet from him, all I could do was look for any flesh wounds or obvious signs of broken bones, but didn't see anything, not even a patch of missing fur.  The next three nights I put out a live trap and a can of stinky cat food in the trap.  I figured eventually he wouldn't be able to resist the smelly/fishy can or get hungry enough and venture into the trap.  He never went for it, so I finally gave in and just put food out for him.  I was hoping to get him to the vet not only have his leg looked after but get him neutered and rabies shots administered.  But that never happened.  His leg / foot finally seemed to heal and he's getting around on all fours now with just a slight limp when he puts weight on the front paw.

The past several weeks I've been getting his food dish closer & closer to the barn.  This would have been worlds easier if Nettie didn't hate Outdoor Kitty.  She stomps her front feet and charges him if he comes into the goat pen.  He still goes in there, but has to give Nettie a wide berth.  Once he's underneath the barn he's fine and spends quite a lot of time under there.  For a week now I've been feeding him while Nettie is busy munching on fresh hay or is locked in the milk stand eating grain so was able to put his food in the barn and he'll come up and eat.  Oh.  And I've been putting fresh-from-the-goat milk in his dish, so now he meows whenever I go near the milk parlor, hoping he'll get a dish of warm milk.

I've been moving his dish from the front barn doors, to the front of the kidding pen door, to inside the kidding pen with the door half open.  Then three days ago, I put his food dish farther in the pen and closed the door behind him.  He wasn't happy, but at least he wasn't batshitcrazy like the last feral barnkitty I attempted to lock in the barn.  He tried to climb out, but I had days before secured all escape routes with chicken wire or boards.  I also put a litter box in there and a box with some old towels in the corner for him to sleep in.  He's been in there since then and I've been spending some time in the pen with him, just trying to reassure him that I'm really a nice person (even though I've basically locked him up in a 6' x 10' box).  He cowers into his box when I come in to feed him and meows that pathetic mooowwrrrrr for a bit, but then just sits and glares at me with those pumpkin-orange eyes.  I'm hoping he'll eventually come around and let me pet him.

My ultimate goal is to get him comfortable and friendly enough that I'll be able to open a small door for him to come and go as he pleases.  I'll keep his bed, litter box and food in the barn hoping he'll find those accommodations more pleasant than sleeping outside, especially given the cold winter temperatures.  And all I ask is that he snags a mouse or two while he's in the barn.

Who would have thought that getting a barn cat would be so difficult.


  1. Ah, bless you for feeding and taking him in. I would have done the same thing. Poor baby, starving to death. Someone probably dumped him :(

  2. maybe he thought with the chicken food in his mouth the mice would run right in to eat, saving him the job of hunting for them. Good luck with getting him to the vet, maybe he is a mind reader and doesn't want to go.

  3. The poor little thing! You might try giving him some sort of covered box that he can better hide in... might make him feel a bit safer. It took my little Princess 6 months to let me get near her, but all of a sudden one day it was like a switch flipped and she crawled into my lap and pretty much hasn't left since! Now she sleeps under the covers with me and gets furious if I put her down from my lap! I don't think she was truly feral though... just lost for a long time and scared to death.

    I have a friend who worked extensively with a feral rescue cat - he got an infected tooth and they finally were able to trap him and get him some medical attention, but alas, the infection spread and he ended up with permanent balance problems, so he became an indoor cat against his will. But she worked with him every day and finally got him to trust her. She said the key was some combination of deli chicken and not looking at him - I guess in their world eye contact is a sign of aggression - and the deli chicken, well... apparently it was irresistible!

    Good luck and bless your soul for taking pity upon him.

  4. Just another example of why we love our Carolyn Renee! It takes such a long time to gain trust, but you are certainly going about it the right way. I would love to have a barn/shed/coop cat to help me in the Ratz War, but that is apparently not in the cards. I agree with EcoCatLady - a covered box would give him a nice sense of security.

  5. CR,

    It sounds like you've gained this cats confidence especially since it's sleeping in the box you put out for him. Give him time, and he will be eating from your hand.

  6. Kitty! He is awful cute, even though you can't touch him. We have a cat like that, Charlotte, but she is a house cat... We have had her since she was a kitten, and still haven't been able to pet her 3 years later. But, not to be discouraged...

    Our first barn cat (when I was a little kid) was totally feral and batshitcrazy. She finally went nuts enough and spent too many days sleeping outside and got an eye infection that was so disgusting that she couldn't open her eyes. So then, she had absolutely NO REASON not to let us take care of her properly. She finally calmed down and realized that we would not kill her, her eyes cleared up, and she was the BEST mouse/mole/vole/bunny catcher the world had ever seen. Angel lived a good long 20 years, and passes away 2 winters ago. She was an awesome barn cat.

  7. Ha ha ha! We had a black male cat join our farm this year too.

  8. Awww...what a good person you are, even if you do have the ulterior motive of making him a barn cat! ;)
    I *think* we have an orange tabby barn cat, not even sure if it's a male or a female. It lives under my milking shed. We got him/her from the neighbors as a kitten and put him down at the barn in a real big cage for a few days to establish this as home. We do get the occasional Tiger Cat sighting and something eats the food every night. There haven't been any more mice in the tack room eating Jerry's saddles either.

  9. What can I say but 'awww.' It is tough taming feral cats, but it can be done, and it sounds like you're doing it well. Hopefully your new barn cat will settle down and realize how much he likes it there!

  10. I have been successful in taming the feral cats but it takes a lot of time. I always bring food and toss it close to the cat, then closer and closer to me. I never watch them eat, instead I sit there with my back or side to them. After some time they get used to me and eventually take the food from my hand. It's a matter of time before you are petting and holding them. Good luck!

  11. It took me awhile to catch up after Christmas, but of course I see you are still at it, taking care of the wanderers LOL, reminds me of the dog :)