Shelter Me Inc helped Catherine Pierce find barn cats through Medfield Animal Shelter, and a classic barn cat adventure followed. Medfield Animal Shelter had a pair of unadoptable cats they were glad to place in a safe, alternative environment and Catherine had a barn full of horses and a problem with mice eating their feed. Shelter Me, acting as the intermediary, introduced Cathy to the shelter and then we drove out to her barn to loan her a couple acclimation cages, a nice rug house for the cats to hide in and some catnip cat toys.
Like most barn cat adventures, it didn’t start out perfectly, but it ended extremely well, thanks to Catherine’s dedication. The cats did not get along immediately after they were released into the same acclimation cage, so we separated them. Luckily, her barn’s center aisle was wide enough to accomodate two cat cages pressed together in what came to resemble a fairly expansive cat condominium. In the ensuing weeks we received absolutely wonderful updates from Cathy including a fabulous picture of the cats sitting peaceably with her dogs during mealtime. Cathy’s notes to me and Jackie at Medfield Animal Shelter represent a marvelous diary of how to successfully acclimate barn cats —
July 13, 2014 email
These cats are just perfect! Shamus has such a loud purr, and if I extend a finger he meets me halfway and gives me just the tiniest rub. He seems pretty content up on his cushioned shelf, and is eating and drinking and using the litter box. Apple was not so thrilled with the dry food we put in at first, then I remembered I had a bag from the shelter, so I gave her that. Jackie, thank you for the transition food, and especially for the little cans. This morning Apple rubbed up against me when I was cleaning her cage, not just an accidental bump, a real pet-me rub. Maybe she was saying thank you for her familiar comfort food.
There is one slight issue, Apple hisses and runs at the sides of the cage when the dogs walk by. My 2 big dogs are afraid of her and walk well away from the cage, but my little terrier is almost deaf and doesn’t seem to notice. The terrier also has the habit of trotting up and down the barn , so she went past the cage many times this morning, and Apple finally gave up. Hopefully over the next few weeks she will realize the dogs just don’t care, and she will avoid them rather than attack. After a while I’ll have the dogs lie down near her cage while I’m doing my chores, so everyone becomes bored with each other. The dogs don’t chase the house cats, even when the young cat attacks them (she’s just playing), and I can call them away from squirrels and rabbits, so I think we will be fine.
July 20, 2014 email
Shamus and Applebee are doing well. Both come up to me when I clean the cages, and expect full top-line scratches, turning their bodies back and forth to get a good rub. I expanded Apple’s space to be as big as Shamus’ by adding on my wire dog crate; she is much happier with her dishes and litter box out of her ‘living space’. She also is pretty much ignoring the dogs, unless they poke their faces up to the cage. Hopefully she will be OK for a few more weeks. I think Shamus would be OK in his townhouse cage indefinitely. He seems quite content to lie on the top shelf on his cushion and watch the world, and happily covers my fingers in spit if I reach through the bars.
Both cats are responding to the dinner bell already, it is a brass cowbell, and can be heard for quite a distance. I hope they will come running for it after they are let loose. Next week I am going to try to reconfigure the cages so they are open to each other’s space, but I will leave the 2 sets of dishes and 2 litter boxes as is so they each still have their own. It would be great if they are close friends when I let them wander the barn.
July 27, 2014 email
Things are still going well with these two. Today I combined their cages to make one big cage. What a structure it is, with the 2 double and 2 single level cages all meshed together. There was a little huffing and puffing to start with, but it settled down within minutes. Shamus seems to be the boss now, with Apple watching him carefully as she maneuvers around. They settled in for a nap, each in the other’s usual bed. Later they swapped bowls as well. I tried to take some pictures of them with my dogs parked in front of the cages, but it is too dark out now and the flash just bounced off all the shiny cage bars. I’ll try in the daylight tomorrow, it really is quite the sight!
August 14, 2014 email
I turned these guys loose last Tuesday, and a more self-assured pair of cats I have never seen! They own the barn, it was clearly made just for them, and they rule. Shamus walks among the dogs as if they are his subjects, and Applebee casually moves away from them, never in a hurry. They both are willing to let the old free-roaming hen share their bowls of dry food. She thinks she rules, but they are clearly just humoring the old girl.
They are both not afraid of people, and are friendly when they want to be petted. Everyone has been instructed to let the cats make the first move, and that is working wonderfully. Occasionally one or both will come up to the house and lounge on the wall or on the porch. There was a certain amount of hissing between Apple and the young house cat, Pebbles, but I think they have worked out a truce.
I’m not sure if they have actually caught any rodents, but I experimented with leaving chicken and horse grains out in various rat spots, and there were no takers. So if they haven’t caught any they are at least a deterrent. I couldn’t be happier with these two cats, they’re fun to have around, and are doing their job. Apple seems to enjoy all the kids who come here, and Shamus is still my special guy. I can’t wait until he lets me really give him a hug.
August 23, 2014
Here are some pictures of Shamus and Apple. They are still doing well, and the only rats I’ve seen have not been alive, certainly a win-win situation – well, for everyone except the rats.