The Starter Farm

A cat worth its weight in gold

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You would think they were a dime a dozen in the country, overflowing every shelter from coast to coast in every small town in America.  But in these small towns, unlike their big city cousins, these precious gems are the rarest of the rare with a waiting list a mile long begging for the chance to give them a home.  A purebred bloodhound dog with a razor sharp nose perhaps?  The newest Labradoodle from the most sought-after line? Or maybe the silkiest Siamese straight from 101 Dalmatians? No, I am talking about the feral cat, aka the perfect barn cat.

            A barn is under constant attack from mice, rats, birds and gophers.  Managing these pests to protect feed supplies and to keep barns clean is an ongoing issue on a farm. The best way to keep these critters under control is to put an expert on the job.  The barn cat is a perfect predator.  One cat will wait hours by a hole just waiting for a trespasser to show its face and then strike at the right moment.  Barn cats will feed themselves by just catching prey but don’t expect a true feral cat to lie across your lap for a scratch under the chin.  Real feral cats will avoid people or threats at all costs because they have a true survival instinct to stay alive.  In the country, these predators can become prey for owls, hawks, dogs, coyotes and even people so it is important these golden felines are on their toes.

            About a year ago we decided that we needed an enforcer to assist in keeping our barn clean of such varmints and we found two.   Louis and Clark were discovered in an old drawer in an old factory on a random trip looking for farm supplies, a perfect start to a Disney movie.  Their mom abandoned them; probably a teen mom wanting to hide her pregnancy from her family, at least this was the story in my mind.  These two little creatures were so small that each one fit conveniently in a wine glass, usually our closest measurement tool available nearby.  Too small to eat on their own, Mary Ann bottle-fed them every few hours to ensure their survival and eventually they grew to become healthy little kitties.  Life was good for a couple of weeks and then the realities of farm survival emerged.  Clark fell asleep under a friend’s car and met his demise on our friend’s departure.  We all felt terrible but realized that we could no longer call our remaining cat Louis without a Clark.

            Boozer is a hybrid barn cat.  He’s a pretty good hunter, sometimes lazy because we feed him, but overall he does his job.  Our intention was to make him feral but with Mary Ann’s nurturing disposition and my penchant to hug him daily he is about as feral as a trained seal.  Kids adore him for his ability to be as malleable as needed and his knack for purring like a well-oiled machine.   He’s not all pet though.  He’s figured out how to survive as an outdoor cat with many outdoor enemies.  He’s wary of strange dogs, knows not to hunt the chickens, stays hidden during the evening on the lookout for owls and is a very good team hunter when we drown out gophers.  Unfortunately, he’s pretty good at catching birds as well. He disappears and reappears.  We’ve discovered Boozer is quite the star of the neighborhood as neighbors talk of his visits and offer to adopt him.

            Basically we got lucky.  We have the best of both worlds, a cat that serves the purpose of a feral/barn cat and a cat that won’t try to scratch your eyes out if you pick him up.  We do talk about getting him a new friend down the road but worry that our expectations are a bit too high right now.  Oh, and Boozer’s name?  Let’s just say he really enjoys his milk!

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