Cats are always coming and going on a farm, even if you do nothing to encourage them. In the past we’ve mostly had completely feral cats who wouldn’t let you get within twenty yards of them without charging off to hide in the nearest patch of tall vegetation. I’d sometimes spot the same ones regularly for a few weeks or a month, but eventually they all moved on.
But this past winter a small black and white cat moved into our barn, and she has not moved out. More days than not for the past six months I’ve seen her, usually out in the fields hunting. At first I assumed she was as wild as all of her predecessors, but at some point - I don’t quite remember when - she started warming up to me, and before I knew it she would come up to get scratched behind her ears. Not long after that, when I was reinforcing the wooden box that goes in the back of our truck when we’re transporting pigs, she decided to jump on my back, where she hung out for several minutes. It was about then that I decided to just embrace the relationship.
I’d give her a little bit to eat here and there, though she never seemed underfed. Mostly she seemed to want to hitch a ride on my shoulder, which always made me think of “Like a Rolling Stone.” Inspired by my daughter’s favorite book, I named her Potato Who Disappeared.
I was fine with having a more permanent barn cat, and things were fine until about a week ago. I hadn’t been seeing her around much at all, and I had started to wonder if she too had left or been eaten by an owl or met some other grisly fate, when Ed discovered that she’d had three kittens. I went to visit her and found her extremely thin, but otherwise in fine health, and since then I’ve been feeding her daily. I’ve also been handling the kittens enough that they hopefully won’t be terrified of humans.
But I’m not too keen on contributing to the feral cat problem, and from past experience I know that all the local shelters are over full. Luckily, the local SPCA has a capture/neuter/release program specifically for barn cats, so once the kittens are weaned I’ll be able to get her fixed. Her offspring will get the same treatment once they’re old enough, assuming they hang around that long.
If they do, I’ll make sure they don’t starve, and I’ll try to make some corner of the barn more comfortable for them to live in. That said, in an ideal world all cats would have owners to be responsible for feeding and health care, and to ensure responsible reproduction. So if anyone reading this wants to adopt a kitten, they’re pretty cute, and they’re not spoken for.