Cat ranching not a good business plan

barn kittens

It’s too bad cat ranching isn’t a lucrative business model. I love cats and cats love me, and our ever-growing barn cat population has been evidence of this. In fact, we once had a mother cat with a litter of kittens bring her babies back to our barn, carrying them across miles of open range when we tried to rehome her to a neighbor. 

Sadly, cat ranching is actually a very expensive habit, and even my cat love has limits — a limit that we officially reached last summer when a barn cat coup occurred and several ousted barn cats became porch cats in self-defense. A porch full of friendly barn cats trying to rush the sliding glass door every time someone exited or entered was the official bridge too far. 

Cat population

Consequently, over the last year, we’ve been trying to decrease the barn cat population here on the ranch. Luckily, we’ve been able to access a wonderful program with low-cost spay and neuter clinics at a vet one town over. 

This works great with cats we can catch, but not so great with cats we can’t, and while many of the cats here are quite friendly, we have several that we rarely see during daylight hours. They prefer to hide from humans, haunting the shadowed corners of outbuildings and the fields beyond our yard. Even a few of the friendly ones are just too darn smart and have thwarted our attempts at capture. 

More kittens

Still, we thought we had the situation more or less under control until we discovered a mama cat who’d had given birth up in the rafters of the shop, but couldn’t figure out how to get the half-grown babies down. Then a few weeks later I heard a tiny, mewling voice in the crawl space under my writing shack. The tiny voice was answered by a loud, confident meow. 

“Uh-oh!” I thought to myself. But it sounded like just one kitten. “One more kitten isn’t so bad,” I decided. 

Fast-forward a few more weeks, and late last night I once again heard the tiny mewling, except it wasn’t under the writing shack, but just outside our sliding glass door. I got a flashlight, peeked into the darkness, and sure enough, was greeted by two sweet and very small faces. Their mama had apparently decided she needed some help and had brought them to us. 

I made them a little blanket nest and set out some food. “Two extra kittens isn’t so bad,” I said to myself as I climbed the stairs to bed. The next morning I relayed the story to the kids. “You should go check the porch and see if they are still there,” I told them, and they tumbled out the door, still clad in pajamas. 

“They are still there!” came the almost immediate report. 

“Both of them?” I questioned.

The kids glanced at each other, a little confused. 

“There are way more than two,” my son replied. So our porch is now home to the mama and her five wee babes. 

Grandma cat

The cat we’ve called Mama Cat for years has been hanging out on the porch too. She was one of the cats we were able to catch before the last spay clinic, so while her mothering duties are officially in the past, she is now claiming a new title: Grandma Cat. 

When the mama takes a break to relax in a sunny spot alone, Grandma takes over, stretching out under the picnic table so the kittens can drape themselves across her. Her purrs of contentment sound like a distant motor; she likes being a grandma. Meanwhile, the man of the ranch is pretty sure he just saw two more kittens skittering under a feed bunk in the barn. In other words, it’s very possible that this year, the year we decided to get a handle on the barn cat population, we will see our largest kitten crop yet. 

Oh well, our failure has its advantages. The snuggly sweetness of a new batch of porch kittens has been delightful, and at least these babies will be tame enough to catch when the next clinic comes around!

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