A barn cat is a working cat who is feral or semi-feral. They are good hunters and help to control the rodent population on a farm, orchard, ranch or other agricultural environment. These cats usually don't allow humans to touch them or interact with them anytime other than food time.
Garden kitties are cats who prefer to live their lives outdoors and often enjoy the attention of humans and love to be petted. They may or may not be good hunters. For safety reasons, it is best to have an inside area (for example, a garage or shed) for the garden cat to stay in at nighttime.
Adopting one of these types of cats is an extraordinary gift which will save a life. Currently these cats are euthanized at the shelter due to being un-adoptable as house cats. No one ever adopts them or claims them once they are put in a shelter’s cage, it is the end of the line. Being a cat lover too, we know it breaks your heart to hear this.
CSN feels that we need to address this injustice now and we look to you to help us find a way. They do not need to be killed, instead they need to be provided with a safe and secure environment where they can blossom. We want to change this inevitable death sentence. Just because these cats are not suitable to be house pets and prefer living with access to the outdoors, does not mean that they should be thrown away. With your help, these cats will live happily, thrive and even reward you with non-toxic pest control.
Typically, the cats that are eligible for this program fall in one of the following categories:
- Cats shy and fearful of people who prefer the company of other cats and animals
- Feral and semi-feral cats that must be relocated from their current environment for various reasons such as living in a dangerous location.
- Feral or semi-feral, they are not adoptable as pets and prefer the freedom of a "working life" in a rural area to that of a comfortable lap in suburbia.
- Cats whose litter box habits are not consistent enough to be inside-only cats.
CSN makes sure that these cats are spayed or neutered, up-to-date on vaccinations, de-wormed, and treated for fleas. One ear will be notched or tipped (aka ear-tipping) which is the universal designation for an altered outdoor cat.
What is the benefit of a barn cat for rodent control?
Supporting a barn cat is a safe, inexpensive way to control the rodent population. There are no poisons for children and pets to get into, no need to set nasty traps. This environmentally friendly pest control saves money and prevents horses, livestock, and dogs from being accidentally poisoned.
Is it possible to build a relationship with the cat?
You will most likely enjoy watching the cats, learning their habits, and communicating with them. It can be quite satisfying to know you have saved its life by giving it a much-needed home. Many people appreciate the cats themselves as well as the work the cats do — keeping rodents away from electrical wires, motor homes, hay, and many other things. There is nothing quite like having a daily relationship with these feral and semi-feral cats. These cats are called ferals, but they are not wild or aggressive, just extremely shy. They need safe outdoor spaces. Some of these cats, in time, will allow petting from a trusted caregiver; others will keep a safe distance but enjoy playing or sleeping in the garden while you are nearby. Most are curious about people, and will interact with you (to a greater or lesser degree) at feeding time.
What is the biggest danger to a barn or garden cat?
Outdoor cats are below predators in the food chain, and they are easy prey for owls, other raptors, coyotes and native big cats. Even with a full set of fangs and claws, the cat rarely has a chance when caught. Every neighborhood in Contra Costa County is reporting coyote sightings. Our volunteers will help evaluate your situation for potential dangers.
What do you look for when evaluating the property for a cat?
We seek a garden, barn, garage, shed or outbuildings for these cats. The barn or shed needs to have plenty of hiding spots for the cats. Rafters are a good place to go if the cats find themselves chased by another animal. Under bales of hay, in a shed or below a deck are also create good safety zones for the cats. Outdoor areas that are not too heavily manicured, with bushes, tall weeds or grasses, also help to provide cover. In buildings or shelters, two doors are best, with one as an entrance and the other for escape, so they can avoid being cornered and trapped inside by predators.
What if my barn is busy, will a feral cat like that activity?
Feral cats usually don’t stay around a busy boarding stable and don’t want a lot of attention. A somewhat friendly cat not suited to indoor-only life might do well at a high activity level barn where it will receive attention.
What is the process to place a cat in my barn or garden?
The tendency of a cat is to return to its previous location. Therefore, we teach you the time-tested procedure that will prevent that from happening. A CSN volunteer will bring the cats to your property with the cage, litter box, food/water dishes and the cage shelter they will use for a three to four week relocation period. During this acclimation period, the cats become accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells of their new environment. All you have to do is follow our instructions on caring for the cats while they are confined and then continue to provide food, water, and shelter for them after release. We will work with you to determine the best location for the cage.
What kind of care do I need to provide?
- Provide a warm, secure, dry barn or building to protect them from the elements and predators.
- Commit to keeping the cats confined to a large cage for approximately three weeks to acclimate them to their new environment before release.
- Provide a daily supply of dry food and fresh water – during confinement and after release.
- Monitor and provide for the safety and well-being of the cats as their caretakers.
- Make daily verbal contact with the cats, before release and after, so they become familiar with you.
- Provide licensed veterinary care in the event of a severe injury or illness.