Barnyard Cat Health
Five tips to keep your top pest-control partners safe and healthy on the homestead
Along with adding unique personalities to our farms, ranches, and homesteads, barn cats perform the important job of keeping away rats, mice, and other unwanted rodents that can harm our animals and steal their food.
While cats are often known for their small-prey hunting abilities, just the smell of a nearby cat can deter unwelcome critters.
While barn cats often live an independent, rugged lifestyle, that doesn’t mean they’re invincible. Just like our other pets, poultry, and livestock, these felines require care and attention. Barn cats need regular vet visits and oversight to stay healthy, happy, and working hard. Here are five ways to watch after barn cats’ well-being.
1. Fixing Cats
Staying in control of local cat populations is important. Cats are helpful and nice to have around, but no one wants a herd of them roaming around their property. And beyond your land, unruly cat populations can spell trouble for your surrounding neighborhood and area. Spaying and neutering barn cats is the best way to avoid overpopulation.
Another benefit to getting your cats fixed is reducing aggressive and territorial behavior, which keeps them safer in the long term. Unneutered adult male cats are more likely to fight over a female to gain a higher place in the pecking order or defend their space.
If you’re welcoming a new litter of kittens, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet about when they should be spayed or neutered.
TIP: If you’re not sure if all the cats on your land are fixed, keep an eye out for bullying behavior. Signs include staring, howling, stalking, and puffing up fur.
2. Scheduling Vaccinations
Ensuring a long life for your felines includes vaccinations. Outdoor cats have a higher risk of catching infectious diseases and intestinal parasites than indoor cats. And along with protecting your cats and other animals, the rabies, feline distemper, and other shots can keep you, your family members, and anyone else who interacts with your cats from being exposed to malicious viruses.
Starting from the time they’re kittens, it’s important to know how often barn cats need vaccinations. To determine this, check into local regulations, which vary from state to state. Your vet is another great resource for determining your vaccination schedule. Plus, some Tractor Supply locations have PetVet Preventive Clinics, where state-licensed veterinarians provide vaccinations and services like wellness checks, microchipping, and deworming.
TIP: Save yourself an extra trip! While you’re at the vet for vaccinations, have them check your cats for cuts and scratches. Even the smallest sores are susceptible to bacterial infections and maggot infestation.
3. Fueling Your Cats’ Health
Hardworking barn cats need regular, quality nutrition. Despite what some may believe, they cannot thrive on mice or rats alone. Since cats are carnivores (unlike dogs, which are technically omnivores), look for cat food with high protein and fat from meat. Like most other baby animals, kittens need to eat more food compared to their bodyweight and more often than grown cats. As they get older, cats only need to eat once or twice a day, and they’re usually good about self-regulating.
Gravity feeders are a great solution to provide your barn cats a reliable food source. Instead of filling bowls every day, you simply fill them up the feeders every few days and cats can feast whenever they want. If you’ve recently gotten new cats or kittens, keep an eye on them to make sure everyone is getting enough food.
In addition, barn cats need access to fresh, clean water. Just like the feeders,
gravity waterers let them get a drink any time they want.
4. Sleeping Space
Barn cats need a safe place where they can curl up and sleep. And as their name implies, that’s likely in your barn. It’s important to dedicate an area that’s dry, insulated, and protected from direct sun, wind, and rain. The space should have open access so the cats can come and go freely.
Barn cats’ comfort and protection are even more critical in extreme weather conditions. During cold snaps, you can build them a cozy home out of hay bales. They’ll snuggle up in the warmth of the hay—after all, there’s nothing like a good snooze during stormy weather.
5. Avoiding Hazards
The stereotype is true: Cats of all kinds are extremely curious. That’s why it’s crucial to protect your barn dwellers from poison and other dangers. Most barns store liquids that can be harmful if ingested, including antifreeze, weed killers, and pesticides. Be sure to secure these and any other toxic substances in cabinets and behind closed doors, where wandering cats cannot reach them.
While barn cats may be more self-reliant than house cats, it’s still a good idea to do regular wellness checks on them. If something seems off or you suspect they’ve gotten into something nasty or poisonous, get them to the vet as soon as possible. It’s all part of being a conscientious pet owner.
Need to stock up on food and supplies for your barn cats? Visit your local Tractor Supply, where a friendly associate can help you choose the best products for your needs.