Barn cats: Tips for Success

barn cats

If you have a farm or a homestead, odds are good that you have barn cats, whether you planned to have them or not. When we bought our homestead, there were 15 resident cats, according to my daughter’s count. She quickly gave all of them names, and then they started disappearing or dying.

We found the remains of a couple of them in the woods, where they’d obviously met their end as someone’s dinner. Some looked sick but were feral and impossible to catch. Others became badly injured in fights and disappeared. It was quite a sad shock for a little city girl who had only experienced two healthy, well-behaved house cats in her life.

barn cats

Most of the people who lived out here had a strict set of ideals when it came to barn cats. You didn’t get vaccines for them or get them spayed or neutered. They wanted cats on their farms to help with rodent problems, but they were not convinced that the cats would be around long enough to spend any money on them. It didn’t take us long to figure out why their cats were not around for very long.

Tips for barn cat success

  1. Get kittens. Older cats may be more likely to leave and try to return to their former home.
  2. The kittens should be from other farms. They are accustomed to living outside, and their mother has already taught them to hunt and eat rodents.
  3. Although most shelters will not adopt a cat to anyone who says the cat will be kept outside, some feral cat programs might do so.
  4. If you have a building or a stall where you can keep them locked up for a month, that will acclimate them to their new home so that they know where they’re fed. It will also give you a chance to watch them and be sure they’re healthy. (More on that below.)
  5. Get your cats spayed or neutered. If you have an intact female cat, she will stray when she is in heat, and she will attract males to your farm. If you have an intact male cat, he will go looking for girlfriends, and he will get into fights, which can wind up with one of the cats dead or nearly dead. Plus you will wind up with lots of kittens, and if a cat is having kittens twice a year, it will take a toll on her health. I make a point of always getting males because neutering usually costs about half as much as spaying.
  6. Vaccinate your cats. We learned this one the hard way after an injured cat bit our daughter, and she had to get started on rabies shots while the cat was sent away to be tested for rabies. The cat’s brain had to be examined to figure out if he had rabies, which means he had to be put down. Although insurance covered our daughter’s emergency room visit, we had to pay the $100+ to get the cat tested for rabies. A rabies vaccine for the cat would have been much cheaper and less stressful. Before you accuse us of being paranoid, I should tell you that this cat looked like he could have had rabies. He had obviously been in a fight, but we had no idea if he’d been fighting because he and another male cat simply had a disagreement or if this cat had picked a fight because he was rabid. Plus, this cat, who had been very friendly in the past, bit my daughter as soon as she tried to pick him up.
  7. Feed your barn cats a good quality food. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive food at the pet store, but please don’t buy the cheapest generic stuff out there and assume that the cats can catch enough mice and rats to keep themselves healthy. I’ve met people who say that you shouldn’t feed barn cats at all because they’ll be better hunters, but that has not been our experience at all. Plus, your cats are more likely to go to the neighbors’ houses looking for food, if you’re not feeding them — and getting in fights with other cats along the way. If they’re doing their job, there shouldn’t be many mice or rats around your farm. And if they’re that good at their job, you want them to stick around.
  8. Provide a safe shelter. Since this article was first written, I’ve received a lot of questions from people who live in the country and have had stray cats show up, and they don’t have a barn. One option for shelter is to put a small cat house in a protected area, such as your back porch. These little houses should have two doors so that the cat can escape if a predator, such as a raccoon sticks his head into one of the doors. Be careful not to put either of the doors against a wall, which would block the cat’s exit if a predator should start to come in the other door.
  9. Do NOT put out more food than the cat(s) will eat in one sitting. Do not use gravity feeders that you fill up with several pounds of cat food at one time. We made this mistake years ago and eventually discovered we were feeding rats more than the cats! I know another person who kept putting out food for his cat, even though he had not seen the cat for weeks. He thought that the cat must be there since the food would disappear every day. Then one day he saw who was eating the cat food — an opossum!

A word of caution about barn cats

barn cats

As pregnant women know, cats can carry toxoplasmosis, which they can give to women during pregnancy. Because the disease is transmitted through feces, pregnant women are told to avoid cleaning cat litter boxes or to wear gloves when doing it. Although cats with toxoplasmosis don’t get sick, it can cause miscarriages in humans, and unborn babies can wind up with birth defects.

This is also true for goats, sheep, and hogs, which will often abort. Luckily it is not seen in cattle much. Cats love to use the bathroom in loose straw in barns, as well as in loose dirt in the garden. So, if you’re pregnant, and you have a cat that uses the bathroom in your garden, you probably shouldn’t be ripping fresh carrots out of the ground and eating them raw.

In 20 years, we have never had a problem with toxoplasmosis (knock on wood). This may be because we have never had young cats in the barn when we have pregnant goats. All of our cats come from other farms where they were born in barns. They’ve probably been eating dead rodents, which is how cats are usually infected, since their mother first killed a mouse for them and taught them to hunt, so they’ve probably already had the disease when they arrive here.

However, when new cats arrive on our farm, we keep them in the barn office for a few weeks or sometimes months. When cats are infected with the disease, they will only be shedding the infectious oocysts in their poop for about two weeks, but the oocysts can survive in the environment and infect other animals for as long as a year, so I really don’t want them pooping in our yard or barn for at least 3-4 weeks after they arrive, just in case they happen to be in the midst of an infection.

Long term success with barn cats

barn cats
Patches in 2006

As I said, it didn’t take us long to realize that the common wisdom around here was not a winning strategy. All 15 of the original cats had either died or disappeared within a few months of our moving here. One of the feral cats gave birth in the middle of the barn and then ran away, never to return, so we raised those five kittens on goat milk.

We began following the tips I’ve outlined above. It hasn’t been perfect because when cats live outdoors, there is always the possibility of being killed by a predator, but because they’re neutered and well fed, they don’t tend to go far from home.

Our oldest barn cat, Patches, lived to be 15 years old, and she spent almost all of her time in the house the last four or five years. She showed up here only half grown and pregnant all those years ago. After her kittens were a couple months old, we had her spayed. She was an excellent mouser up until she was about 11 or 12 when she seemed to lose interest. Then she started spending most of her time as a lap warmer for the humans around here.

Pepper, the cat in the other three photos, is one of the best rodent patrol officers we’ve ever had, killing rats, as well as mice. He is nine years old now and even catches and kills rabbits in the garden. That sounds sad, but it’s also really sad when you walk out to the garden and see that 20 or so of your pepper transplants from yesterday have been eaten down to the dirt.

Cats play a vital role on a homestead, helping to keep the rodent populations under control. Just as I would want a valued employee to stick around for a long time, I want my barn cats to stick around and continue doing a great job for a long time. That means I’m going to do everything I can to keep them healthy and happy.

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149 thoughts on “Barn cats: Tips for Success”

  1. Deborah, you wrote an excellent article! I am also a professional writer and I really enjoyed your informative article. We are newbies at homesteading and have been learning along the way. Thank you for sharing this information with the audience!

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      • Our oldest barn cat will be twenty this year. We have a spayme.com clinic near us that neutered cats for $40. I give all my own shots. An occasional stray still passes through that we can’t catch. They are all welcome members of the house too.

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          • I would love your thoughts on our barn cat situation. Started with 3 feral and now we’re down to 1. We have worked super hard to gain her trust and affection and she loves us. She seems lonely though- seeking her affection from our chickens and LGD’s. I have an opportunity to bring in a barn kitten from another farm, but would it be easier to bring 1 or 2 – both for our existing cat and for the new kitten who had to remain somewhat isolated for a while?

          • Hi Traci! I would get two because you have to keep them locked up for awhile, so the new one wouldn’t be all alone.

          • We have a barn cat program here. $25 spay/neuter, vaccination/worming, and mine were treated for ear mites. You just have to agree that the end of one ear is cut off so that they can be identified as altered from a distance.

        • What shots do you give? Where do you purchase ? I Want to do all our cats at home too except rabies. Thank you for replying

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          • You can buy vaccines at your local farm supply store or online through many sources that sell pet meds. Just search for “buy cat vaccines.”

      • i adopted two 8 month old feral cats brother and sister, that were in a shelter for a few weeks . They were having trouble socializing them and thought it best they be barn cats. I had them in a stall in a fenced in area, for a week, when I was changing the litter one jumped out strait up stall wall and disappeared into the barn.I think I should leave her brother caged and put out food/water for both and bed for both . hoping sister will stick around to be with brother, advice , they have only been with me a week, I was going to keep them locked up for a month.

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        • She knows where she can get free food and where her brother is, so hopefully she will come back. Cats are incredibly good at hiding! One time I got two siblings and put them in our barn office as usual. My husband thought I had only gotten ONE because he didn’t see the second one for weeks! It was so funny — two or three weeks after I brought them home, my husband asked when I got the second cat. He was shocked when I told him I had brought home both at the same time. Now that shy cat is the most amazing cuddle bug. He loves everyone!

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          • Just saw your site. I adopted a barn cat from a local SPCA. I was told to keep him confined for a couple weeks so he would become familiar with his surrounding and where his feed came from. I built an elaborate nest for him in a spare bathroom. It took less then an hour from him to escape. He lived for months in our mother in law suite but in July the door was left open all night and he went outside and has been roaming. We have seen this cat a total of four times since bringing him home. I was worried about him so I set out game camera in the apartment when I first brought him home and have watched him doing his job. He is a great mouser. I leave the garage door ajar so he can come and go BUT would love to get him to move down to our barn for winter. I don’t know how to make it happen when we don’t see him and he is as feral as they come.

          • That’s a tough one! Maybe with time, he’ll come to trust you, but there are no guarantees. It’s great that he’s doing such a good job for you.

        • Usually they pee and poop on something that is loose enough that they can scratch it to bury their poop and pee. If you keep it stacked up in full bales, they should opt to go somewhere else that’s more amenable to their desire to bury everything.

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          • I know this is years later but I have a box made that fits a child’s plastic sleigh inside. I fill it with non clumping cat litter .
            The cats prefer this over anywhere else they could go.

        • I tend to buy dry food in the mid-range price. You need to feed only as much as the cat will eat at one time. We made the huge mistake of buying one of those gravity feeders, thinking that we’d only have to fill it up every few days, and we wound up feeding a lot of rats and mice!

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    • I have just acquired some barn kittens they have been placed in a secure but roomy enclosure in the barn there pretty young but I also acquired a pregnant female which we have in a bathroom which she just gave birth on 2 of August 2019 she will be going into the barn advently along with some of her kittens but I not sure how and when to go about this any advice on when to do this and when to let little ones out of there encloser they were all originally all barn cat from a different farm. Thank you for your time and advice

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      • It really depends on what your barn is like. If you have a stall where you could put them, that would be ideal. The kittens wouldn’t be able to get out until they’re big enough to climb over the door. I’d also want to be sure you didn’t have raccoons visiting your barn, as they could get in there and get the kittens.

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    • I just got four 8 week old kittens that were born in a barn I’m trying to keep them is outside Barn cats at my house. I don’t have the barn secured yet so I have them in a dog kennel on my front porch will raccoons get them through the kennel at night?

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  2. Hi, enjoyed reading this about barn cats, pretty cats. I did one time get a barn cat,
    she took off wouldnt stay here, I found her took her back where I got her.

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  3. We have something like barn cats here. Our barn cat gave birth to her kittens in the house, she insisted that my FIL needed to be there during the birth. (She jumped up on his lap and her water broke.) The kittens, all 7 (first litter), were raised in the house with our dogs. At about 6 months they started going outside, at night they go down to the basement for bedtime. This has been their routine for a couple of years now, occasionally one of them goes off for a day or two but all 5 of them (2 we found homes for) are most of the time.

    Thanks for the information on how to avoid toxoplasmosis, I didn’t realize that you can prevent the infection.

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  4. Good tips! We don’t have an accessible out building for our cats and experimented with ways to keep them safe at night. Our solution was to put up a chain link dog kennel with a chain link top to keep them safe from coyote, mountain lion and whatever else likes to dine on cats. Inside are 2 cat houses my husband built, hammocks in the corners to give them free space and a tarp over the top of the kennel to keep them dry in the winter/cool in the summer. Oh, also a covered litter box because they do have to “go” at night and it’s the easiest way to keep the kennel clean. I feed them in the kennel before dusk and close the gate. When the sun comes up I let them out. We’ve lost many cats to wildlife and we’ve learned that some cats just aren’t cut out for outdoor living and some are no matter how they were raised.

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  5. Great article! Excellent balance – kindness and respect of the animals while recognizing practical issues! Our cats live inside with us being house cats first really, but with a daily outing to do their hunting (and they are quite successful!). If we switch to a more barn cat focused situation I will keep these in mind. Thanks!

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  6. My oldest barn cat was 23. Zeuse. Learned a lot from him. I realized He was teaching the younger cats to hunt larger prey, jack rabbits, sidewinders, and other snakes sound here. I also realized if I left good food for him, he was healthier and veI we’d the prey as toys. He didn’t hesitate to kill so he would have fresh food later. And he didn’t hesitate to kill anything that went after his food.

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  7. Could you please explain how it works for a kitten to be a barn cat. I just gave my kitten away and they are using it as barn cat, it is only 8 weeks old. At what age do you start putting a kitten in the barn? Are they safe in a barn. I’m just so worried about the kitten. One lady told me the kitten would die because it was bottled fed.

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    • It really works best if your cat was born in a barn to a mama that was a barn cat, so she could teach him how everything works. They do have a lot of instincts though, so the kitten will probably figure it out. I’d still do everything I mention in the post though, such as keeping the cat locked up for awhile so it learns where it’s home is. It would have been better for them to take two kittens. That would eliminate the desire to go looking for a feline friend.

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      • When you say locked up, you mean like a wire crate? We want a cat for rodent purposes but I don’t think I can leave it locked up 24/7. They won’t become mean and feel neglected?

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        • In our case it’s the barn office, which is a heated room in our barn, so they have a futon and a litter box, and I do visit them a couple of times a day. I don’t think a dog crate would be a great idea. That’s too small. If you don’t have a storage room, maybe you have a stall in the barn where they couldn’t crawl out. We have some stalls that we have covered with chicken wire so we can brood chickens or turkeys in there, and predators can’t get them..

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      • Hello, sorry I don’t know how to comment properly, but I really need some advice. I have a tame barn cat from another farm who had 5 kittens not long after we got her in May. One kitten was a beautiful silver kitten that I bonded the strongest with. We were truly inseparable, I even let her in the house often and knew she would one day make a great house cat. They live in the barn but still have access to outside whenever they want, but one day my silver kitten disappeared and I am absolutely devastated about it. Trust me, I looked every where, and now I’m just trying to take the time to figure out what exactly I did wrong. Should I have locked them in the barn at night? Was she old enough to be in heat and just wandered off? They have so many things outside that they can hide under so I’m very confused. I hope someone can give me a little insight on what may have happened. Thank you for reading.

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        • She is old enough to come into heat, so she could have gone looking for a boyfriend. That’s why I recommend spaying and neutering. When they wander off, they can be hit by a car or killed by predators like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, etc.

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          • my barn cat had 4 kittens 2 females and 2 males , she had them in a 10×10 stall, they are turning 6 weeks old and are stating to climb, im getting really nervous about them getting out and wandering off or getting stepped on by the cattle. This morning we closed the window. 1 wall is really high and the other 2 walls just have bull wire on the top half, should i close that off somehow? im tying to keep them all around for all their shots and to be fixed at 16 weeks, any recommendations I am a 1st time cat owner,

          • At this age, it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll run off too far because they will want to stay near their mother. However, there are no guarantees. If there is a way you can keep them locked up for a little longer, that would at least help you sleep at night. I would not be that worried about the cattle, but I would be worried about coyotes and whatever other predators you have in your area.

  8. Thank you for an informative article. As a homeopath, I don’t use vaccines for any of my animals. However, I do use homeopathy for immunization and treatment, and find this just as effective if not more as conventional treatments of any kind.

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    • Joy, I’m interested in your homeopathic immunizations. We have 3 new kittens and are worried about their shots but don’t want them to get sick being out in the barn.

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    • I agree Joy! I had a very bad experience with a skunk who came after my cat/kittens…we had to put down 11 cats…and I casually remarked to my Veterinarian that I was glad I had just vaxxed my dogs…and here is what he said…”Well, guess what? There are over 200+ strains of rabies, just like the flu…they can only guess at which strain…and the odds of you getting the protective one…is like winning the lottery…” I nearly fell over….not to mention, I lost a dog to cancer, not long after my last set of vaccines…so, I prefer homeopathic and good solid nutrition… (:

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  9. We took in four kittens. They were about six or seven months old. We had them spayed and neutered and now reside in our living room. We put several places for them to sleep and look out the windows. We have been doing this for two and half months now. We are able to pick up two out of the four. One just is quick and cute the other hisses and swipes. How do we go about training them to be nicer and friendlier? Any help would be great full. Letting them outside is out of the question. We only have indoor cats.

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    • Cats can be completely feral if not handled from birth. If they were not handled by people from birth, then only time will tell if they ever warm up to you or not. It’s like trying to tame any other wild animal.

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    • Unless you can close up your barn, you can’t keep them from leaving. If they come to your house, just don’t let them inside. If you have let them inside, they’ll keep coming back.

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      • We have a situation where our indoor cat had 7 babies in the house. Because of the time of year they were born ( middle of September) and we get cold weather for winter, they stayed inside for at least 6 weeks. From there we moved them to the garage. Our plan was to move them entirely to our quanset, but after having them in the garage and continually finding pee and poop outside of the litter box, I got fed up and put them outside. My hubby built a little shelter with bales. They loved it the first day, but now they sit at our back door and meow. Every time I let out our inside dog, they all race inside and its causing me such stress! We don’t have a barn or place to lock them up but I’m getting so fed up!

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  10. We just got 3 kittens one it is a few weeks older then the other 2 and plan to use them for barn cats, will they be ok to use with my chickens? I want to keep them in the coop area it’s been way to cold to go out there just yet ☹️want to make sure it warms up to at lease 50 at night before putting them in a inclosed area! Or do you think I can put them out there now! One is about 10 weeks the other 2 closer to 7/8 weeks!I plan to keep them confined for a month or longer to hope they stay around!! Going to make them a little loft area to be able to sleep! Please any advice would be helpful there are 2 boys and 1 girl is the older one! Right now they are in the house locked up in a room since my other 2 cats aren’t happy with them! I make many trips back to them and they love to cuddle and come running right up to me when I come in! The girl has already been out and around the chickens for a little bit at a time never left unattended!!

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    • If the cats are smaller than the chickens then the chickens should be safe, but I’d stick around and watch for half an hour or so to be sure. I wouldn’t worry about the temps. They have a good fur coat. If temps fall below zero F at night, we let our barn cats into the barn office.

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  11. Hello, and thank you for a great, informational site.
    We live in a rural area, and a few times per year it never fails that people drop cats off in the area near our home. We have a two-year-old indoor/outdoor male cat (with a cat-door) that is not neutered. I am fearful that if he is neutered, he will be more vulnerable to attacks from all the male cats roaming around. I put a feed bowl out for approximately six outdoor cats, but the population changes because of the unwanted cats being dropped off. The question remains, is my cat any more vulnerable if he is neutered? He loves the outdoors, and taking this pleasure away from him seems very cruel…Thank you.

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    • Your cat is actually is MUCH more danger if he is NOT neutered. In other words, neutering him is the best thing for him. It is the testosterone that causes male cats to fight with each other. When we first moved here, there were many unfixed male cats, and they fought a lot. I’ve never had one of my neutered males get in a fight. Fixing him will also remove his desire to go wandering for miles looking for girls, which means he’ll stay closer to home where it’s safer. Another thing that happens to wandering cats is that they get eaten by coyotes and other predators. When we first moved here we found remains of dead cats in the woods.

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  12. I think I had the problem of cats using the bathroom in my hay. I did have 2 goats that had miscarriages this year and never had that problem before. I am going to have to tarp the hay this winter to keep it away from the cats.

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    • I also learned this the hard way. I got 2 new barn cats last year. This year one of my does miscarried. That has never happened before. I sent in her bloodwork for an abortion panel. Sure enough the titer showed high levels of toxoplasmosis.

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  13. Thank you for such an informative article. We are a few weeks away from bringing kittens home to be barn cats. I have a few (probably silly) questions since this will be new to us. When we keep them locked up for a few months to acclimate to the new barn, do we place a litter box in the enclosed area they will be staying in? Since they are kittens should they stay in for an extra amount of time? And would it be appropriate to habitually close them back up every night after they get a little older? Thanks so much for your information. It’s really appreciated.

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    • The decision of whether or not to use a litter box depends on whether or not you care if they pee and poop all over the place you’re putting them. I’m having a hard time imagining a situation where you would not want a litter box. I can’t think of a space that wouldn’t get disgusting, especially stinky from cat pee.

      I would not get kittens less than 8 weeks old, so assuming they are at least that old when you get them, there is no reason to keep them locked up any longer than an older cat. They are all equally vulnerable to being hit by a car or eaten by a predator.

      I don’t lock up my cats at night, but it’s not a bad idea to lock them up at night, especially since that’s when predators are most active. If you hear coyotes near your place a lot at night, then I’d probably lock them up.

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  14. We got two feral kittens from our shelter – 8 mo old brother and sister. They have been in our barn stall which is set up with litter box, sleeping shelters, etc. They became very friendly and we can pet them and pick them up. Brother escaped and we had seen him at night a couple times so he was staying close but isn’t going into the barn where we created a new opening for him to get in and access food and water. We’re not sure if he’s still alive since he’s not accessing food. Sister we are keeping in but wonder if it’s better to open the stall so she can go out and perhaps entice him in to eat or are we better off keeping her in longer until she gets bigger (she has grown since we got her). She is exceptionally friendly and bigger than her brother who is maybe 7 lbs. Do you have any advice for us? Oh, and we are in an area with predators. Thank you!

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    • That’s a really tough call. I’m surprised the one ran away if he was being friendly with you and especially because his sister is there. If you got him from a shelter, I’m assuming he’s fixed. Otherwise, that would cause him to wander off. Unfixed males are notorious for roaming. I’d probably continue to keep the female locked up for awhile longer rather than risk losing her, especially since you have predators.

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      • I think I scared him by trying to catch him – lost his trust. He is fixed. He showed up last night so that is good though I think he’s going completely feral. He went in the barn and ate last night (didn’t see it but the food was eaten and it’s not accessible to other animals due to the opening of the space we made for him to access, plus it was neatly eaten, not finished and no mess). Thanks for your advice- I agree and am going to keep female in longer until we get a stronger bond.

        I appreciate your help! Thank you!

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    • Any advice on how to locate a missing pair of barn cats or are they gone forever? We had two nuetered male semi feral barn cats we acclimated to our barn for 2 weeks inside, put in a cat door which they would not use unless propped up. Let them out, they hung around outside the house for a couple months and now are no where to be found. Havent touched their food so I know they arent just being elusive.
      Really bummed and hoping no predators got them. We don’t get coyotes up by the house but if they wandered too far who knows.

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      • They could be anywhere. A predator is just one possibility. They may have shown up at someone else’s house and decided to stay there. Or they could have been hit by a car, although it’s less likely that that would have happened to both of them. Good luck!

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      • Thank you for your article. I found two kittens along our gravel road a few months ago near my home in a rural area. They were just sitting by the road so I assumed they were dumped. The bigger one was very friendly and actually got in my car of his own accord. The other one I had a harder time catching but I finally did. Now I have had them in the house in a separate room for two months and I had promised my family I wouldn’t keep them as I already have three indoor cats and they don’t want any more. I’m trying to come up with a safe outdoor space for them. They still look like wild cats even though they’re both very friendly and I don’t think I could find a home for them. They’ve had shots and will be fixed soon. I have a dog kennel so I guess I will try to wrap it with chain link and put a kitty house in there like another commenter did. And let them out during the day? It’s really tough on me as now they are going to want to be inside cats since they’ve gotten used to it. I think I made a big mistake picking them up. 🙁 We have some outbuildings but none of them are tight enough to keep wild animals out. I also have 4 dogs that chase cats. I’m just in a turmoil trying to figure out what to do with them. Any other options I haven’t thought of?

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        • Sometimes people have had luck mentioning on Facebook that they have cats that need a new home. You can’t sell animals on Facebook, so be sure to word you post accordingly. You could also take them to a no kill shelter.

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  15. Hi great article!

    We just got our first barn/garage kitty, she’s 3 years old. We live in a suburb but surrounded by the country.
    My question, does she need a kitty companion to ensure she sticks around and is happy? We are interacting with her, but since she’s outdoors I want to ensure she’s happy and not lonely.

    If we DO need to invest in another kitty what do you recommend: another female around her age? A male? older kitten? Then finally help them get along? I’m familiar with intros for house cats, but this is my first time dealing with exclusively outdoor cats.

    Thanks for your guidance!

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    • Cats generally are fine alone or with a friend. The really important thing about keeping them at home is to get them fixed. Hormones will make them roam as they are looking for a mate.

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      • She is fixed, I adopted her from TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program that takes feral cats and uses them as barn or garage kitties.

        She’s very friendly, and we spend as much time outside on our patio and working in the yard and garage as possible, I just don’t want her to get lonely as she was rescued from a colony of cats and now she’s all alone.

        Do your barn cats prefer to hang around in groups or are they more happy being loners, I guess was my real question, and as you do bring in new cats how do you go about introducing them, are they no longer territorial if they’ve been fixed and you’re providing plenty of food for everyone?

        Reply
        • We’ve only had two barn cats for a really long time now, and they are almost never together unless they know it’s feeding time, then they both show up in the barn. Otherwise, I never see them together.

          When I bring in new cats, I usually get two at a time, and we put them in the barn office for a few months so they can make faces at the older cats through the window and see each other when we open the door and one happens to be outside and one inside. Sometimes one slips in or one out, but I can separate them and put the new one back in the barn office. Typically they snarl and hiss at each other, but with each encounter that becomes less and less, and eventually when one of those accidental escapes happens, everyone acts like it’s no big deal, and I know then it’s okay for them to be together.

          Reply
  16. At what age is good to get kittens as barn cats? We don’t have a bard, we live in an RV on a large piece of property. This past winter the mice got really bad . All we have is a tiny little shed for the cats to be protected. Today I almost got 3 8week old kittens but changed my mind because it gets so hot in my little shed I don’t want them to die from the heat. Do I need to get older kittens that have kinda learned the way already or would I still need the crate them too for a few weeks?

    Reply
    • You don’t want to lock them in a metal building in summer at any age because that does get too hot. Maybe get them in the fall or spring when temperatures are not so extreme?

      Reply
    • Just keep them in the barn with their mama so she can teach them how everything works. And then get them fixed so they will stay home when they reach sexual maturity. You can usually get the mother fixed when the babies are a couple of months old.

      Reply
  17. We have had barn kitties for years. We take good care of them and they take good care of our barn. My husband doesn’t agree with the way I feed them or should I say that I don’t agree with his way. I like to feed them fresh everyday. He likes to put a very large bowl filled up lasting several days. I feel that it gets dirty and that it is not healthy. I would be grateful for your opinion. I have agreed with everything you have suggested! Thanks so much!!

    Reply
  18. About to adopt two barn cats from a rescue. We have a two story barn that we only use for storage. No other animals out there. I can seal off two rooms of the barn for the cats for awhile until they acclimate. The rescue said they would bring crates to leave the cats in for a month. Which do you think is better to help the cats acclimate the crate or free roam of two decent size rooms? Also we’re in upstate ny and the winters are cold. What type of bed or warming location do you recommend for them?

    Reply
    • Leaving cats in a crate sounds terrible. I’d give them the two rooms to live in, with a litter box. If there are no animals, I’m assuming there’s no straw, which makes warm bedding, so I’d just put an old blanket or comforter out there for them to sleep on. They’ll be fine through the winter in NY. Your weather isn’t much colder than IL.

      Reply
      • Thank you. They’ve had access to the two rooms for about 2 months now. I opened the middle door today to give them access to the front of the barn and the upstairs. The lady I adopted them from said not to let them out for the first time the day after it rains or the day before it rains. I really want to get them able to go back outside before the winter comes and the fall weather is not coroporating. What do you think?

        Reply
        • After two months, you should be able to let them go out, and they should stick around. They should know where they get fed now. I don’t know why it matters if it rained yesterday. And who knows if it’s going to rain tomorrow.

          Reply
  19. We are getting a home on 3/4 acre within the city. I am allergic to cat dander (very allergic). But we will be storing the RV on the property and I will have veggie gardens galore. I want to get a pair of barn cats and set up a place under the back porch for them. I can run electric and put a warming pad under straw for them in a small dog house surrounded with straw. Being by the back porch I can easily set out food and water for them without having to handle them. How do I acclimate them if I can’t bring them indoors? Should I wait for spring and put them in the detached garage? Will under the porch be okay for them in the north Iowa winters? Are they okay outside like this year round? I want them to be handled by hubby so the grandkids will be able to pet them when they visit, but since they can’t come inside I worry they will become truly feral. We also have two mainly indoor dachshunds that go out to potty that I worry may not get along with the cats. How do I do this to keep the mice/rabbits/etc away? (Can you tell I’ve never owned a cat before?)

    Reply
    • If you are in a city, you probably have leash laws, so there’s no guarantee that the cats will stay on your property, which could mean you would wind up losing them if they are picked up by the city.

      If you do decide to go forward with this, they do not need a warming pad. They do fine with straw bedding to stay warm, assuming they have good shelter that doesn’t leak, so they can stay dry. I’m in Illinois, and our barn cats are fine all winter. Running an extension cord outside could wind up starting a fire if a mouse (or cat) chews through the insulation on the cord.

      Cats must be handled from birth, or they will be feral. If they have been handled until you get them, they will not become feral from lack of you handling them.

      The cats will keep the mice, rabbits, squirrels away — or they will kill and eat them if they catch them. It’s just what cats do. It’s in their instincts. When I see them with prey, it always makes me think of the line, “Don’t play with your food,” because that’s exactly what they appear to do.

      Reply
    • I don’t worry about it because they drink out of the goats’ water buckets, which are heated, but you can also buy heated water bowls for dogs and cats.

      Reply
  20. I just came across this article and it’s very helpful. My biggest question I’m going back and fourth on is should I get kittens from a shelter for our farm or from a family who has the mom and lives outdoors. The kittens will eventually be primarily outdoor cats bring them in at night. Any suggestions about this?

    Reply
    • Kittens from a shelter might adapt, but I wouldn’t get adult cats that had spent their entire lives indoors. However, a lot of shelters will not let you have cats unless you agree to keep them indoors all the time.

      Reply
      • My local shelter contacts me when they have cats that cannot be socialized. I have a large barn and they have their own area both up and down stairs. They all come spayed/neutered and with rabies shots. I presently have 9 and my concern is that some of them can’t be caught or handled at all. What happens if they get sick or when they need another rabies shot? I recently had one get sick and I was able to get close enough to get her by the scruff of the neck. It was a bad sinus infection and she had lost a lot of weight. She has been living in my bathroom (I have 5 dogs) for three weeks while I fatten her up and the cold weather passes. Had it been one of the others they may have died because I cannot get close enough to catch them. Right now there is one that seems to have an eye issue – dried yellow stuff. Cannot catch her. They have toys, scratching posts, a treehouse, tunnel, lots of beds, blankets, 2 litter pools – it’s a cat playground. I worry about contagious respiratory infections too. This started out as a way to give them homes rather than have them euthanized. But now I am attached and worry about how to best take care of them. Open to any and all suggestions.

        Reply
        • You could buy a live trap at a farm store (like Tractor Supply) that is made for catching raccoons. You might catch the right one, but you could catch them one by one and lock them up until you have the one you want. It’s like a little cage. You put food in it, and when the cat steps on the trigger, the door closes.

          Reply
        • I have a drop trap for situations like yours. You sound like a compassionate person trying to do things the correct way. I have several ferals that are in danger where they currently are . This has led me to looking into relocating them to such a situation as you describe. However, they aren’t kittens and the issues you raise about disease and predators are very real. Makes me think I better leave them where they are. Danger is danger – no matter the location

          Reply
  21. I appreciate your newsletter and look forward to your tips. We are planning on getting chicks in the next few weeks. We also have goats and other animals. We have decided to get two barn kittens and hopefully there will be no problems with the cats and chickens later on. Do you have any suggestions on how to blend them without harm to the chickens. We have a resident rat snake in our barn but he rarely is seen and not at all in the winter. This year because of mild wet weather the rodents have been awful and we have used traps. Thank you.

    Reply
    • I would never trust a cat with chicks. We keep our chicks in a secure area until they are about 4 months old. They start out in a brooder then we move them to a chicken tractor, and at about 4 months, the pullets get moved to the henhouse. Many, many years ago we tried brooding turkey poults in a rabbit cage, and they were disappearing gradually. We had no idea why until one day I walked into the barn and saw a stray cat with his paw stuck through the wire and eating the poult. I still find it hard to believe that he was able to do that and think of how horrible a death that was for the baby turkeys. Our current barn cat (and many previous barn cats) kills squirrels and baby rabbits in addition to mice and rats, so I basically assume he’ll kill anything smaller than himself. He totally ignores our chickens, but they are bigger than him.

      Reply
  22. Is it safe to get 8 week old kittens while your goats are pregnant? (they won’t kid until July.) Also, if i use a sealed off stall with a litter box for them during that initial 3-4 week separation period, should i do anything to the stall to sanitize it? Could toxoplasmosis still be present after they leave the stall and therefore not be used as a kidding stall? Can kittens get toxo. again after that 3-4 week period and infect my goats? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • If your stalls have dirt floors, they can’t be sanitized. And I wouldn’t bet the farm that you could sanitize a stall with a concrete floor either. Using it as a kidding stall is a moot point because the doe does not get toxoplasmosis when she is in labor. Once kittens have toxoplasmosis, they won’t get it again. So, the gamble is … have they had it? If not, then yes, they can get it.

      Reply
  23. Great posts. Ive gotten total 8 cats from ‘catch/release’ from local shelter for our barn. First two, one stayed about a year, other one gone early on. Then got two more. They were caged together so they git along. Girl doesn’t know shes feral, boy briefly shows on occasion, but scared of people. Last two ( one wasnt keeping rodents population down), apparently are running girl out. Im upset because ive gotten attached to her. I hadnt seen her fir two days, , i thought something happened to her. Today she dhows up looking skinny. I think shes afraid of the two new cats. All female, all spayed. Ive put food out in separate places . Is there anything else i can do to help her with this situation?

    Reply
    • I usually keep new cats locked up in an away from from the other cats for a month or two until they get used to each others presence. When we keep them in the barn office, they can see the other cats through the windows and when I open the door, so they know they’re there. It doesn’t completely eliminate fighting, but it greatly reduces it. And the longer the cats is on the farm but separate, the more mellow everyone gets about the situation.

      Reply
  24. I obtained two Pygmy goats from a friend. One aborted within days of coming to my farm, the second goat had her baby, appeared to be fully formed but was still born.
    Bloodwork confirmed toxoplasmosis . There were several cats where these goats came from
    The vet said they would be fine for following pregnancies and they were.
    Where there is feed, there will be rats. I have chickens as well so there is always a little corn around I try to keep feed cleaned up as much as possible . Rats carry disease. cats do as well.

    Reply
  25. I have a coworker looking for kittens to make barn cats but my kittens are born from housecats who have never hunted. Should I give them the kittens in that case or try to find other homes for them?

    Reply
  26. They will figure out the hunting as there is a lot of instinct involved. They just might be more likely to kill rodents for sport rather than to eat them. Cats are always ready to “attack” any little thing that moves in front of them. Just think of all the cat toys out there.

    Reply
  27. I recently moved to livel this homestead lifestylel 6 months ago. My 7-year-old7 cat has been on and off an indoor/outdoor cat his whole life. He’s happy to be indoor-outdoori and has been killing mice and gophers left and right. He stays relatively close to our current home site but we’ll be moving in 2 weeks, about a mile away. He doesn’t particularly like our two dogs nor other cats, I fostered a kitten 3 years ago and he was beyond stressed out. Our neighbor’sn cat has two kittens they are 4 weeks now and said they’d be ready in 4 weeks to take home. We definitely need more mouse and gopher help in the garden but I don’t know how my 7-year-old7 cat will react. Should I get 1 farm cat, or two? Hope you have some wisdom to pass on here! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • I’ve been in that situation a couple of times, and I always get two kittens and keep them locked up in the barn office. They can see the other cat through the window and sometimes when I’m opening the door to go in and out. They gradually get accustomed to each other’s presence. If one runs in or out when I open the door, the little scuffles become smaller and smaller over time. Once they tolerate each other, I let the kittens out.

      Reply
  28. This has been such a helpful post. My husband and I live in Tucson on some land and have been talking about getting two feral “working cats” from a shelter. We don’t have a barn and we are interested in building our own structure/small barn for them. Any recommendations on how large it should be? We also want to customize it to keep them happy and safe (LOTS of coyotes out here). Any suggestions?
    Also, my husband is concerned that if we close them in at night to keep them safer, that they then won’t hunt as much. Any thoughts? Thanks so much.

    Reply
    • You could use any type of outbuilding, such as a garden shed. However, I’m curious what kind of hunting you want them to do. Usually people get barn cats to keep the mice and rats from overtaking the barn, but you said you don’t have a barn, so I don’t understand why you want them. If cats come across mice or rats at any time of day they will kill them, if they’re inclined to be a good mouser.

      Reply
  29. We live on about two acres in a development but have been having trouble with mice. We have the chance to get kittens or a mama cat. Would it be smarter to get a mamma cat and one kitten or get two kittens? If the mom strays then would the kitten go with it? Maybe a mom cat would be harder to acclimate?

    Also we have a golden retriever who is very sweet but not uses to cats. What is the best way to acclimate the two?

    If you recommend shutting them in the barn/shed to acclimate for a few months will they just not mouse that whole time? It’s something we need help with right away- hence the cats ha!

    Reply
    • If the mama is an experienced mouser, I’d get her with a kitten. Otherwise I’d get the two kittens. Kittens are naturally great mousers, but mama would get started faster. However, if mama has never moused in her life, she could be rather lukewarm about the whole thing.

      If you’re not worried about any pregnant animals getting toxoplasmosis, you could let them out after a week or two when you’re outside and then lock them up again. After doing that a few times, you could leave them out. Once they know where dinner is, they usually stick around.

      I always introduce dogs to new animals on a lead so that I have control. Once he’s had a couple of drama-free encounters with them, you can usually forget about the lead.

      Reply
  30. Thank you for your helpful article!
    We are about to get 2 8 week old kittens next week to help with mouse control around our country home. Kittens came from another farm. We have a large (closed) shop on the property and plan to build an enclosure for the kittens to learn their home base.
    Is it a good idea to let the kittens spend some time outside each day so slowly introduce them to the outdoors? At what age would be recommends to let the cats have freedom to use the cat door to spend time either inside or outside?
    Do cats share a litter box or are they territorial about this? Same with food bowls?
    I am new to farm life and cat life- insights are very much appreciated, thank you!

    Reply
    • I’m glad you found the article helpful! Sounds like you are getting siblings, so they should have no trouble sharing a feed bowl and litter box. I wouldn’t let them outside at all until they know and love you, and you know you can catch them. Their age is not as much of a deciding factor as how long they’ve been on your property. Since these cats were born on another farm, I’m assuming they’ve been outside from birth, so it’s really just a matter of getting acclimated to you and your place so they don’t think they need to “go home” like in the movie Homeward Bound. Most real life stories don’t end as happily as that one did.

      Reply
  31. I have three barn kittens that are 4 months old. We had them locked in the garage at night and let them out in the day however my husband said they should be outdoor cats and should be roaming at night so he put in a cat door which they will not use unless it is taped up. After reading your article, I think we have been very lucky we have not lost any since they have been night roaming. Thank you for your article and now will be arguing about keeping them in at night!!

    Reply
  32. I had our 4 kittens spayed , neutered, vaccines and micro chipped . They have been inside for a couple months in a closed area . My 4 kids adore them and okay with them often . They are very friendly . I have a place to keep them in our barn area to acclimate them . I purchase break away colors for them with their chip info .
    Is using collars a bad idea? The are breakaway ???

    Reply
  33. I do everything you suggested, for introducing kittens to a barn. My question is, at what point can we let the kittens out full time and not worry they will become food for raccoons or fox? They have been on our enclosed porch, with daytime visits to the barn, for about a month now.

    Reply
    • There are no guarantees that they won’t become dinner for a predator, but if they’ve been there for a month and you continue to feed them daily, they should stick fairly close to home. If they are sexually mature, they also need to be fixed. Otherwise they wander to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, and the farther they wander, the more likely they are to find trouble.

      Reply
  34. This was great information, thank you. I received 2 barn cats, brother and sister. I was told they were 8 wks old. However, after further research and talking to others we are in agreement that they were only 5 wks old. I plan on keeping them in the barn for a month, but they will still be so young! Will it be okay to let them out at that point? I do let them out to play in the fenced back yard when weather permits.

    Reply
    • That is very young to be taken away from their mother. There are never any guarantees, but if they’re that young, I’d want them to be locked up at night when raccoons and other predators are most likely to be out looking for dinner.

      Reply
  35. We just rescued 2 adult neutered male cats from a barn cat shelter program a couple days ago. They are totally feral and terrified of us. The shelter told us to keep them in crates for 3 weeks to acclimate but we have an interior room in our barn that I’d like to open them up in. They are not bonded and have never been “out” together – do you think it’s safe to let them out into the room together?

    And, I’m hoping that since they are so fearful that they won’t try to run out the door when we come in/out but if they did we would certainly not be able to catch them… any thoughts?

    Thank you!!

    Reply
    • If they are strangers to each other, I’d leave them in crates next to each other for at least a few days so that they can get accustomed to each other before you let them out together. If there is a place for them to hide in the room, that’s probably what they will do. When we got two new cats about 8 years ago, one of them hid immediately. In fact, after two weeks my husband asked me one day if I had gotten another cat. I said no and asked why he was asking and he said because he saw a second cat in the barn office. LOL! He thought I had only gotten one cat initially because the other one was hiding for two weeks! That cat is now the biggest cuddle bug ever!

      If they are going to fight, they will probably go at it as soon as you let them out of the crates together, so I’d suggest wearing long sleeves and leather gloves just in case you have to break up a fight the first time you let them together. The longer they’re near each other though, the less likely that will happen. If they are hissing and growling at each other through the crates I wouldn’t let them out together.

      Reply
      • Thank you! They are currently only hissing and growling at ME when I reach in with food, fresh litter, etc! They are so scared of everything I doubt they will leave the crates while I’m around so I’ll probably just have to hope for the best

        Reply
  36. Hi Deborah, I’ve been following you for a couple of years now and you are always my “Go to” for info. We recently moved to our homestead and are excited to get going with all we have been planning the last several years. Its 22 acres, 12 is pasture and 10 is heavily wooded. We have now seen some of our predator’s : 2 great horned owls (looking to mate we were told) several red tailed hawks and bald eagles. We also have coyotes, that have been working their way around the property, can’t seem to catch them in our security cams YET. We have 4 barn kittens, however the barn isn’t built yet, not till March. I got the kittens from a farm when they were 8 weeks old. They are now aprox.4 1/2-5 mo. old. They are 3 male 1 female. They were all S/N and vacc. The first week in Dec. I have them in an insulated shelter full of straw w/ a heated crate mat and heated water dish. I feed them 2 times a day and have lots of play time everyday with them. They are very sweet and ” furry purr monsters” . I lock them up at dusk and let them out at dawn. the question is this: When can I stop locking them up at night and let them be? I’ve been worried about the predators, but they stay close to the house, they have been venturing a little farther on their own lately and I think they are getting more confident. They were born on a farm and have always been outside, so I don’t want to keep locked up if not necessary, most articles I’ve read and says keep lock up at night till 6 mo old. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Owls can kill small kittens, so you’d want to keep them locked up until at least six months for that reason. Coyotes can even kill adults though. If they’ve been there for a couple of months and are bonded to each other that should hopefully keep them close enough to home to reduce the risk of predation, but they’re never 100% safe. The farm I got my new kittens from four months ago has already lost all of their siblings to predators.

      Reply
  37. We are in the process of buying our dream cabin! It’s very rustic and off grid. We won’t live here full time but will visit quite often. The previous owners have disclosed problems with pack rats, they have controlled it by living in the cabin full time. We would like to get two barn cats to help with this problem and to be outside pets. There is a chicken coup we can fix up for them, but I’m not sure how to care for them when we aren’t there full time…… I’m thinking automatic feeders? We would wait until spring and then plan to stay there while the cats acclimate to their new home. I love animals and want to do what’s best for them

    Reply
    • If the rats can get into the house, I’d just put the cats in the house with a few litter boxes and a gravity-fed feeder and waterer(s). A truly automatic feeder needs to have a human around so that in case it gets jammed or just quits working, you will know and can feed the cats. Having them outside won’t help with a rat problem in the house. This is why we have to put cats in the barn office on a regular basis. If people have kept rats out by living in the house, then the cats need to be in there 24/7 because I’m sure it’s quite the buffet for rats — much better than anything they can find outside.

      And I should probably add this to the main article — if you put one of those gravity fed feeders outside, you will just be feeding the rats. We had one of those years ago, and it was huge for two cats, and it would be completely empty overnight. Then we realized we were feeding mice and rats! If you have any type of feed, whether it’s chicken feed or for cats, if there is not a lid on it, rats will climb in there and help themselves to the buffet.

      Reply
  38. ”However when a new cat arrives at our farm we keep it in the barn office for a few weeks or sometimes months. When cats are infected with the disease, they will only be shedding the infectious oocysts in their poop for about two weeks, but the oocysts can survive in the environment and infect other animals for as long as a year, so I really don’t want them pooping in our yard or barn for at least 3-4 weeks after they arrive, just in case they happen to be in the midst of an infection.”

    I have a question, after that time is the risk of toxoplasmosis gone?

    We have talked about having barn cats. Has it been your experience, will they kill my chickens?

    How do I introduce them to my guardian dogs? I’m not convinced they wouldn’t think the cat/s aren’t predators.

    I don’t have an enclosed area that a cat/s could live in for a month. Would a huge dog crate in the basement be okay?

    You are always so helpful thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • It really depends on whether or not the cat has been infected with it. It’s like chicken pox in humans. Unless they’ve had it, they can get it. But if they grew up in a barn, they’ve probably had it, which is another reason it’s a good idea to get a cat that came from someone else’s barn.

      We’ve never had a cat kill chickens. However, I make sure that they can’t get to chicks. Years ago we had a terrible time getting turkey poults to survive, and someone told me that you have to raise them in a wire-bottomed cage, so we put them in a rabbit cage. They started to disappear from the cage with no trace, and one day we walked into the barn and found a stray cat eating one while pulling it through the wire. My experience with barn cats or feral cats is that they will attack anything smaller than themselves.

      I know some LGDs are less accepting of new animals than others. I even heard of one that killed a new ram lamb that someone bought. I’d suggest introducing the kittens the same way you would any new animal. Do it under supervision with the dog on a lead. Do it multiple times in short doses — like 5 minutes at a time — while the cats are in isolation.

      I don’t like having them in the house at all because then they want to come back in. A dog crate would not be a great option for 3-4 weeks, especially for two cats. If you are going to have them in the basement, I’d just give them the run of the basement.

      Reply
  39. Looking for any advice to help our feral/barn cats. Two feral sister cats had kittens at my daughter’s house. When the kittens had been caught and adopted out, I took the two sisters, had them spayed, shots, chipped, and brought them home. After they were acclimated they were allowed to roam and come and go as they pleased. We have a safe space (glassed in porch area with a micro-chip cat door) for them where they have food and water and room to sleep. One of the cats, Dot, sticks around most of the time and has become more tame, less feral. Her sister, Mama Kitty, after a while began roaming further away and coming around less. We see her every few days. Over time, Dot began chasing Mama Kitty away when she comes around. At first it was just a little, but not actually chasing her away. Now Dot doesn’t even let Mama Kitty in the porch. We believe Mama Kitty is getting some food from a neighbor lately as well. Is there anything we can do to get Dot to be less territorial?

    Reply
    • I’m sorry I’m not aware of any way to make a cat less territorial. It’s strange that she’s acting like that towards her own sister. We used to have a cat like that, and she never changed — not even in her old age when she was 13 or 14 years old.

      Reply
    • If your cats are like mine, they mostly want to go in there when I’m in there, so I lock them up in the barn office while I’m gardening. If that’s not your problem, I’d suggest trying to figure out what their motivation is to be in there and try to eliminate it — or give them what they want in another place. Maybe plant some catnip away from the garden?

      Reply
  40. You had a really good article. We moved to the country, got six cats and now we are at four. We try to keep our cats inside at night and let them out all door, do you think we should keep them out all the time (would that make them tougher for night prey?). We love them all so much and also understand nature, but it’s always difficult when we lose one.

    Reply
    • This is definitely a personal decision. As you’ve recognized, they are more likely to get the little noctural predators at night, but they can also wind up as prey.

      Reply
  41. Great article, thank you. This is my 1st time with barn cats. I have 2 that are crazy wild. Right now they hide in the weeds and the alfalfa field. They come out at night to eat in the garage. What do I need to do for them come winter? I can provide them a safe warm place in the garage. Or I have a doghouse outside with clean bedding. Should I do both? Any ideas on which they will prefer?

    Reply
    • I don’t usually worry about our cats until temperatures are falling into the single digits. Then we usually put them in our barn office, which is heated to about 55 degrees so that the water in there doesn’t freeze. If yours come into the garage to eat, would it be fairly easy to just lock the door on them?

      Reply
  42. Will my new barn cat be chased away by the barn cat already living there? she is fixed about 1 1/2 year old and I`ve got her locked up . (she has the whole upstairs of our barn to her self right now)I`m planning on keeping her there for a month but I`m worried once i let her go down stairs my other female barn cat will chase her away.

    Reply
    • When I get a new cat, I bring the existing cat(s) into the place where the new cat is staying for supervised interaction. The response totally varies based upon the personality of the cats. I used to have a cat that would takes months to get okay with new cats — and she lived to be 13, so we went through this a lot. My current cats sniff and stare and may growl a little, but that’s it. Each time I do an introduction there is less growling.

      Reply
  43. Great article! We have a 3 acre property that we just purchased. Working on renovating a house from the 70’s and everything is pretty run down. I was given a mama cat that someone discovered on their property who has 4 little kittens. We are picking up these critters today.
    I have a small barn where I plan to keep them and feed them. My kids want to be friends with them of course and have asked to keep them inside the house for the first few nights.
    Can you give me any helpful tips on just bringing them home today? Anything special I should do to prepare the barn? (there’s no electric in there). Do you think it’s ok to let kids keep them inside or is it best to take them immediately to where they’ll be living?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • If the kittens have their eyes open and are old enough to know where they are, if you ever let them in the house, they will forever want in the house and could wind up screaming at your bedroom window in the middle of the night. (Want to know how I know this?) It’s really best if you put them where they will be living from the start.

      Reply
  44. Hi. I have adopted an outdoor abandoned siamese cat. I absolutely can not have an indoor cat so she sleeps on my covered front porch in a basket with a towel. all good so far. healthy and happy. winter is approaching and I’m considering a small warming house. or letting her have access into my storage room (with a water heater). would I need to get a cat litter box if the cat sleeps in the storage room or will it probably still go outside even if its raining? no snow here in nor cal. thank you for your reply.

    Reply
    • That totally depends on the cat. Personally I never lock up a cat without a litter box. I have one who prefers to go outside to potty, but once or twice a month, he uses the litter box in the house. I’d rather err on the side of caution.

      Reply
  45. I would love to learn about the variety of ways to protect my barn cats using homeopathic remedies for worms and to boost their immune system. Also, it would be great to share tips on feeding ( economical brands etc.) multiple cats. All my cats are now neutered and ear tipped. I hope to keep them around the farm. We live in Canada so most commercial food is expensive.

    Reply
  46. We have 2 young siblings that have become so friendly, I’m inclined to want to bring them into our house (!) My heart aches when they try to follow me in, and I shut the door on them. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • I know how you feel! We also have two cats like that, but we already have two that are indoor-outdoor, so if we let these last two into the house, there won’t be anyone in the barn, and we really need them out there to help keep the rodents under control. If your cats don’t have a job outside, then you can certainly let them inside. One benefit of cats like that is that they usually prefer to go potty outside, so they usually only use the litter box if it’s raining or snowing, and they decide the litterbox is preferable to go out into the elements.

      Reply
  47. Love your article but have question. I was given 3 sister barn kittens and I’ve had them in the barn for over a month and a half adjusting, they are 13 weeks old now. I am giving them their vaccines and will be taking them for their rabies soon. My concern for the girls is that we live on a country road that has oil tankers, farmers, and farm equipment on it that they go 70 mph on the road. The barn is 40 yards from road and whole yard is fenced in. I’ve already loss 2 male cats to the road. What can I do to train the girls to stay away from road and stay on 5 acre property with 4 dwarf goats and 14 chickens in the backyard area to play with? I have plenty of rodents to hunt and farm animals to keep them company. Need suggestions about that road though. Thanks

    Reply
    • Unfortunately I don’t have any secrets for keeping cats away from the road, especially when your barn is that close to the road. If you have another building that is towards the back of your property and you set up their feed there and provided a nice place to sleep, hopefully they’d be more likely to gravitate back there rather than the road.

      Reply

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