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Working/Barn Cat Adoption

Hi everyone! Your friend Tuki here at the Potter League. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are looking forward to the December holidays as much as I am! We birds like presents as much as the next person!

Here at the Potter League, we want to be sure all cats have a good home but, what’s good for one cat might not be good for another. There are cats that don’t do well in an indoor home. That’s why some shelters have started a ‘working’ or ‘barn’ cat adoption program. Now, even though I’m a pretty smart bird, I did not know much about working/barn cat adoption programs and you may not either. So let me tell you what I’ve learned!

Cats that are available for adoption through a working/barn cat adoption program are not typically well-suited to live in an indoor home. They may be undersocialized and prefer the company of other cats and animals. Some have been outdoor cats before being surrendered to a shelter and they can’t get used to an indoor home. There are cats who are high-spirited (some may say aggressive, but I like high-spirited!) and like to hunt. These cats may tend to bite or scratch when kept indoors. Some cats may have litter box habits that make them unable to live in a home. These cats still deserve to have a place to call home with someone who loves and cares for them – and they make great working/barn cats!

Working/barn cats can help control the rodent population in barns, stables, warehouses, even wineries and breweries, and unlike the chemicals usually used to control rodents, they are non-toxic! They can be good companions for other barn animals and for each other if you have (or adopt) more than one.

Cats that come from a working/barn cat adoption program are spayed or neutered. Most programs provide vaccinations and testing for common feline diseases, and some will microchip the cats before adoption. This can be especially helpful because most working/barn cats don’t wear collars. Collars can be dangerous as they can get caught on things and injure the cat.

Adopters are expected to provide certain things:

  • shelter in a barn, stable, warehouse, garage, winery, etc.
  • daily food and water. The cat may be catching mice, but a cat can’t live on mice alone! They still need the nutrients provided by commercial cat food.
  • veterinary care as needed, including keeping up to date on vaccinations, especially rabies which is required in most states.

If you are adopting a working/barn cat just before or during the colder months, you will need to provide a winter shelter or a heated area for them during the first winter. If they are adopted in the spring or summer, they will grow a winter coat and not need a heated area, although they will appreciate one!

Working/barn cats must acclimate to their new home and need a secure space such as a separate room or crate/cage (somewhere they can’t escape from!) for several weeks while they are getting used to their new environment. In this space, they should have a litter box, food and water bowls, and a warm, safe place to sleep. Since these cats are often timid and easily frightened, a box with a blanket where the cat can hide when scared or stressed works well to provide a safe, comfortable area for the cat. They should be somewhere they can see and smell their new home. They need to get used to any people and other animals that will be around regularly as well as a new routine so they should have a regular feeding schedule and time for interaction. They may not want to be petted or held but they need to get used to people and animals who will be there frequently.

Adopting a working/barn cat is a great way to save a cat who may not have many other options. In Rhode Island, there are two shelters that have working/barn cat adoption programs – The Rhode Island SPCA and the Providence Animal Rescue League. In Massachusetts, there are two programs as well – at MSPCA-Angell in Boston and at the Dakin Humane Society in the Springfield area.

‘Till next time,

Your friend, Tuki