Feral Felines make Great Barn Cats
Forgotten Feline’s Barn Cat Program Really Works!
by Stephanie Schreiber
Do you have a mouse, rat, gopher, mole, or vole problem, but are concerned about using pesticides around your livestock, your food crops, your pets or your children? Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County can provide natural, poison-free rodent control for your rural property, with our Barn Cat Program!
Forgotten Felines has been helping Sonoma County residents control their feral cat populations since 1990. With our weekly spay/neuter clinics, we are preventing untold thousands of unwanted kittens from being born, reducing the numbers of cats euthanized in shelters, as well as reducing the taxpayers’ burden for housing and caring for stray cats. Currently Forgotten Felines has feral cats that have been displaced from their original outdoor home and are looking for a new spot to live out their lives. Each cat we place is healthy, spay/neutered, and vaccinated against rabies and the basic cat viruses.
The Barn Cat Program evolved naturally from our feral cat spay/neuter efforts in the county. It was a sporadic and infrequent occurrence (that we would have cats needing placement), until 2008 – when the economy went to heck and people started losing their homes. We began receiving an unprecedented number of calls from realtors, with cats left behind at foreclosures. Many of the cats, both tame and feral, were starving and most were not fixed. We realized that these cats needed help beyond what we usually provide, which is altering and vaccinating. These cats literally had no home to return to, and the realtors had neither time nor resources to manage the problem. So gradually we began to trap, fix, and hold these cats in anticipation of finding them a barn home. However, we had to wait until someone actually called and requested them.
The next step we took was adding a Barn Cat page to our website. Then a volunteer started posting on Craigslist. We created fliers and brochures, and started placing them in feed stores, where the ranchers and farmers shop. It was a gradual process. As the receptionist I was on the front lines, getting the desperate calls about the cats’ plight, and also the calls from rural property owners seeking rodent control. I started offering to do the site checks, then the relocations themselves. Finally Jennifer Kirchner, our Executive Director, presented me with business cards saying I was officially the Barn Cat Program Coordinator!
We also receive periodic calls from our county’s various shelters, informing us of cats that have been surrendered that have tipped ears, indicating that they have at some point been trapped and fixed. I then have the opportunity to see if a spay/neuter client of ours lives in the neighborhood where the cat was trapped, and, potentially, get the cat home. Often I cannot find a caretaker -- and we cannot pull the cat out of the shelter unless we have a barn home lined up, so that is another source of cats needing relocation that we help whenever possible. We are constantly seeking more ways to let rural property owners know about this helpful service -- providing rodent control for them, and a life-saving second chance for the cats.
WHAT ADOPTING BARN CATS ENTAILS:
The new guardian must care for the cats in a cage for one month, and agree to feed the cats daily after their release. There must be adequate shelter for the cats or they will not choose to remain on the property. If there are dogs present we need to know that the cats will not be chased or harmed.
FIVE SUCCESS STORIES:
Willow and Wizard (a tabby-tortie and an orange tabby) were two feral kittens brought to the Petaluma Animal Shelter. The shelter supervisor took them home to socialize, but they stayed fearfully shy, and were not considered traditional adoption candidates as pets. When we got word of a barn home opportunity out on the coast where the caller wanted a pair of siblings, we thought of Willow and Wizard. The property owner held them in the cage for their transition period, and released the cats after. She immediately reported in to me, exclaiming that Willow was sunning on her deck, while Wizard was hiding underneath. Both were showing every sign of sticking around. They will have 40 acres to play, hunt, and just be cats!
Jet and Rocco were two black brothers up for adoption in our shelter room, but they were extremely restless and bored, with too much energy to be cooped up. They spent a lot of time gazing wistfully out the window. When we received a call from a rancher couple seeking two friendly barn cats, we knew Jet and Rocco would be perfect. They would have 20 acres to patrol, yet get lots of attention from the homeowners, as well as the visiting grandkids! They are living a wonderful, happy outdoor life as ranch cats, earning their keep by hunting, and having fun while doing it!
Shelly and Abby, two beautiful sisters (a lynx point Siamese and an Abyssinian-tabby mix), were surviving by dumpster-diving behind Beverly’s Crafts in Rohnert Park. Without our intervention these two girls would have been trapped and taken to the shelter. The shopping center was an unsafe place for them, so after our volunteer trapper brought them in to be spayed, we kept them until a barn home became available. They ultimately went to live on a lovely property on a ridge off of Mark West Springs Road, with lots of trees, high grass and a creek. Their caretakers have reported that the girls are very happy, hunting and playing and enjoying every minute of their “second chance.”
Beau is a gorgeous Blue Point Himalayan purebred male that showed up at a feral colony in Santa Rosa. For various reasons it was decided that Beau needed his own home. A wonderful couple in Bennett Valley with a beautiful hilltop property were seeking an outdoor cat – it was a perfect match! He loves the flower gardens especially, as you can tell by his photo. They say he is an excellent hunter.
The Donahue Kittens were three feral orphans living under a woman’s house after their mom was killed. The kind woman fed them for several months and then called us when she was getting ready to move, not knowing what to do with the kittens. We trapped and fixed them, and a fabulous barn home opportunity came along shortly – they are now living on an 82-acre organic blueberry farm in Sebastopol!
How do I know they will be hunters?
There are never any guarantees, but hunting is a natural instinct for cats. The cats we have needing placement have already lived outside, and chances are high that theywill hunt.
How do I get them to remain on the property?
Once the perfect cat or cats are selected for your specific situation, they will acclimate to you and your property during a four-week transition period in a temporary humane holding cage. After a month of adjusting gradually to their new surroundings, and learning that they will have a constant source of food and shelter, they should remain at their new home upon release.
What is needed for the transition?
· FF supplies the cage, cover, linens, litterbox, and scoop.
· You supply daily food and water, clean litter, and daily litterbox scooping.
· The cage needs to be housed inside a structure or protected area where the cats will continue to be fed and watered daily after they are released.
If they’re hunting and eating mice, do I still have to feed them?
Absolutely! A daily meal of dry cat food and a bowl of clean water is required to secure the cat to your property. Even very well-fed cats will hunt.
Are there costs involved?
We request a $25 donation per cat which helps offset veterinary services and also includes delivery, set-up and pick-up of all equipment, post-release.
Forgotten Felines is not subsidized. We depend 100% on donations. To support our many programs, we welcome support from the public. Our award-winning thrift store, Pick of the Litter, is located at 1701 Piner Road in Santa Rosa, and shopping and donating there is a wonderful way to help the cats!
For more information on our Barn Cat Relocation Program, or our Feral Spay/Neuter Program, please contact Forgotten Felines at (707) 576-7999, or email@example.com. Please visit our website at www.forgottenfelines.com.
Stephanie Schreiber is Barn Cat Program Coordinator and Receptionist at Forgotten Felines