Barn Cat Husbandry
What you need to know about the start-up, installation, and maintenance of mouse patrol units.
Start with healthy cats that have been :
- Tested negative for Feline Leukemia (FELV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
- Spayed or neutered, (2 or 3 barn cats are an asset, 20 or 30 … not so much!).
- Dewormed, kittens are born with roundworms and need to be dewormed at least twice, (the same goes for mature cats that have never been dewormed).
- Vaccinated for Rabies. The first Rabies vaccine protects only for one year. Please revaccinate barn cats. We are amongst the highest counties in Virginia for reported Rabies cases and cats are at particular risk. They can be hunting Rabies carriers, like bats, but also be attacked by Rabies carriers, like raccoons, foxes, and skunks.
- Vaccinated for Distemper/Upper Respiratory infection (FVRCP) with a booster 3-4 weeks later. This series also protects for one year.
- Also consider vaccinating against Feline Leukemia Virus, especially for kittens or cats under one year of age, as they are the most susceptible.
- Consider adopting barn cats from our local shelters, they often come with the above-mentioned items, all for the cost of an adoption fee!
Important things to know about cats:
-Cats intensely dislike a forced encounter with the unknown and love the familiar, (that goes for new food, humans, places, other cats … all new things!).
-Cats are highly territorial and bond with their territories, sometimes even more than with the humans who care for them!
-Cats will defend their territories against new cats, so special care should be taken when introducing a new cat into an existing group.
-Cats in an established group develop a “group scent” by which they recognize and accept each other.
To keep your new mouser from being run off or beaten up by your current residents:
- Exchange bedding and other scent-soaked articles between the newcomer and the established group.
- Keep the newcomers confined for 2 weeks, allowing for acclimation to the new schedule, food, scents, territory, and current residents. Then do a slow release.
What they need:
- Feed them! Yes please! Cats cannot maintain themselves solely from hunting.
- Feed on a regular schedule in the morning only. Do not leave feed out overnight. This is critical to avoid attracting stray cats and wildlife to your property. Avoid attracting Rabies carriers like raccoons, foxes, and skunks. Opossums are Rabies resistant but can transmit Equine Protozoal Encephalomyelitis, (EPM) to our horses.
- Provide shelter.
- Provide water.
- Vaccinate for Rabies and FVRCP every 3 years for adult cats.
- Deworm once a year, the new topical dewormers are a blessing here!
- Consider flea and tick control with Seresto Collars, they are breakaway and provide eight months of comprehensive flea and tick control.
Facilitate and make possible future vet care by acclimating cats to their carriers by feeding them in their carriers.
There is a way! Take your time over a month or longer to train the cats to accept the carrier. This is the same as training a horse to a trailer. Do this before you have to get them to the vet for an emergency!
First, take the career apart and remove the lid and the door. Then, set up the bottom half of the carrier in a cat-friendly spot, (quiet and warm sunshine), and line the bottom with comfy bedding. Place the food nearby and over the next weeks, move the food closer and closer to the carrier and then finally, into the bottom half of the carrier. After a week or so, add the lid. Then wait another week or so and add the door. This will decrease stress for all and eliminate the chief obstacle to proper veterinary care for your cats; getting there! This training works well for house cats too!
Cats are generally healthy and self-sufficient. With minimum care they can thrive in a barn environment, helpfully reducing the rodent population while adding a touch of beauty and peaceful companionship!