Sunday, December 20, 2015

New barn cat, Buster

Those of you who don't follow us on Facebook may not know that yet another cat showed up on or doorstep. Literally.

Our cat dramas always play out like novel. First, a neighbor knocked on our door about a cat that she saw at their house, daily, about a quarter of a mile away. A gray cat with white face and toes.

Two days later I let Bear out before I ran into Ithaca, and went I came home just after dark, he was nowhere to be found. When I headed down to the barn he came trotting out to meet me, looking over his shoulder. His fur was ruffled, and when I got him into the house, I realized he was covered in feces. His own. Bear quite literally had had the shit scared out of him in a cat fight.

It must have been rather humbling for him. In his younger and slimmer days, Bear was a terrorist in his own right. But he has been sleeping his plump life away in the house, and I'm sure he's not a match for a big young tom cat. I set him up in the bathroom to clean up.

At the time I wasn't sure if he had tangled with a raccoon or a cat. I had found a dead raccoon on my lawn with porcupine quills in his snout earlier in the week, so I figured there was a rabies issue in my neighborhood (Warning: dead raccoon photo below)

I didn't want Molly-the-dog or any of the other cats to be licking on Bear for a few hours in case he had tangled with a raccoon, so I had to shut him away. In looking him over, I noticed gray fur caught in his claws. Feeling a bit like "Cat Fight CSI" I wondered about the neighbor's "gray cat at large" report.

The next day was bright and sunny. Gremlin was on the catio, but was huddled next the the cat door, staring at something intently. I went outside to look around, gazing out across the lawn. Suddenly I realized the object of interest was only 10 feet away. A gray cat was staring at me from behind the tree. I went inside and got some food. He ran away, but soon came back.

I set a trap the next day and had him within a few hours. Soon he was in a cage in the barn, hiding in a feral cat den.

I hoped he would turn out to be friendly, but as we waited for his neuter appointment it became clear that while he was used to people, he wasn't having any of this petting stuff. So two days after he was fixed, FeLV/FIV tested, microchipped, eartipped and vaccinated, I let him loose right where I captured him, figuring I would starting putting food down in the bottom of the barn daily for him. There are already cat shelters down there "just in case." At the vet I named him "Bully", since he had beaten up Bear, but it seemed like a mean name to give a cat, so I renamed him "Buster."

Two night ago I heard cat fight noises outside and I went down to the barn in the darkness. Buster was there, staring at something behind the lawn tractor. Buster headed off into the barn when he saw me, but something ran around behind me into the grass. When I shined the flashlight after it, another gray cat stared back at me. Damn! Another cat to catch! At least I knew Buster had "stuck" and hadn't headed for the hills after being released.

Then the very next day, the neighbors who adopted Bandit, a previous "barn cat" I had trapped, called. Bandit was limping and sleeping a lot. What do you bet he tangled with Buster or this other new cat? I'm taking over a crate for them to get Bandit used to, since he ought to have an updated rabies vaccination anyway.

There's never a dull moment when you own a big red barn that seems to yell out "dump your unwanted cats here!" I wish people realized when they drop their cats on a farm, they are costing a responsible landowner (if they choose not to ignore the cat) hundreds of dollars. Luckily I get a discount and Buster was only $120 for all the work I had done on him. But for a normal landowner, the same level of care likely would have cost up to $300.


  1. I'm kind of curious, since you mention barn cats--how does one responsibly keep an outdoor cat? The logistics puzzle me. (My boy is indoor-only and always has been.) We would love to adopt a feral/unfriendly cat who needs a home, but I honestly have no idea how to navigate vet visits, etc with a cat that does not like to be handled. Do you have to trap the cat every time? If so, doesn't he or she get wise to that eventually?

    1. Hey Helena, that's a great question and I've decided to write a whole blog post on it. Coming soon! :)