Like any other farmhouse, we have our fair share of mice. Our place also has a rather robust vole population. While I have never really been much of a cat person, they do offer a rather easy and effective pest control solution.
We have two cats, Pumpkin and Licorice, more commonly referred to as “the black one” and “the orange one.” They are not really pets, but I have to say I am rather fond of the little fellas. Pumpkin is pretty friendly and social. Licorice has given me some new perspective on black cat folklore. This cat is sneaky. And… well, kind of scary! He has a shy personality and I never really know he is there. The way that cat slinks around seriously give me the creeps! Anyway… I digress.
The story of our barn cats is rather long and involved. But I think if you stick with it you will find the saga fairly entertaining. When we first bought our place there was a cat living under the barn. Perfect! Until our helpful neighbor heard through the grapevine we had a dog and decided we probably wouldn’t want the cat. She trapped the cat and took it to the local humane society. After we took ownership I called and asked them to kindly return my cat. It turns out they had named the cat “Barney” and my barn was an unsuitable home for said cat. They would not return her to me. A few weeks later they called to let me know they had taken in a stray they had deemed appropriate for a barn cat. He was a little rough around the edges, but they supposed I could take him. EJ named him Prince Charming. He was hands down the ugliest cat I have ever seen. He appeared to have been on the losing end of more than one cat fight. Old Prince Charming had a droopy eye, lots of stitches, and a very bad attitude. He was none too happy about having been put in a cage and was even less excited about being in our barn. When Handy Husband spoke to him he got all kinds of worked up. The cat somehow managed to ricochet around the cage hard enough to pop the door open and make a break for it. So that was the end of Prince Charming! And I can’t say anyone was sorry to see him go.
Undeterred (third time’s a charm?) I responded to a local add for free kittens. The kittens were wild, living under someone’s house, and one of them was missing part of his tail. We managed to catch two and keep them contained for a few days. After regular feeding for about a week, I was shocked how quickly they gentled down. We kept them in the back room of our barn for the first several weeks, vaccinated and wormed them, and eventually neutered them. With the exception of a brief stint at the neighbors, they have stayed home.
We feed them daily but are careful not risk attracting skunks and raccoons. It has been incredible how quickly they have really reduced the mouse population.
Getting two cats was worth it. They play, curl up together, and I think are generally much more content to stick around in a pair. I would recommend making sure barn cats have a dry place to sleep out of the weather, clean water, and food. While there seems to be some idea that the best mousers are hungry, I have found that our cats stick around better when they are well fed and seem to catch just as many mice.