One of the things that keeps me “Fairy Busy” is my love for animals. I have always been a softy when it comes to critters of all kinds (though I do have to admit that the creepy crawly ones give me the oogies LOL). I have worked in several pet stores and have cared for pets of all types – Furry, Finned, Feathered and Scaled! Smooth and Slimy! Big and Small! Soft & Spiky! I love ’em all!
Something I have always wanted to do, though, was to help rescue cats. I don’t know what it is about them, but I am just a push over when it comes to cats. My husband has been kind enough to humor my ‘addiction’ to them by allowing me to keep several purrballs inside our home as well as outside and, honestly, I think he’s become quite fond of the little buggers himself. (shhh! don’t tell!)
I have lived with many kitties over the years; Meesha, Dusty, Max, Smokey, Cricket, Jack, Chance, Missy, Monster, Oscar, Xerox, Pixie, Snickerdoodle, Monroe, Amy, Maize, Annabelle, Lucy, Fluffy, Merlin & Tinker. Some are still with me, some have gone over the Rainbow Bridge and a couple were just passing though with old roommates.
In February of this year, I was given the opportunity to get involved with a “barn cat rescue” and took in 6 feral cats. That’s where Monroe, Amy, Annabelle, Maize, Lucy & Fluffy came from. The barn cat organization takes in cats that are feral or considered by other shelters to be “un-adoptable”. Some of them have been abused and have become terrified of humans, some were born on the streets and never got to know humans, some were just abandoned by their previous owners, and some just aren’t “people-cats”. The cats are all fixed and checked out by a vet and then relocated to rural areas where a farmer with a barn or home owner with a workshop or non-car-occupied-garage can provide a safe outdoor shelter and food for them. The organization delivers the cats so that they can check out the new home for the cats. If they don’t feel the home would be safe, they don’t leave the cats. SOME requirements are that you are away from major roadways, have sufficient shelter from the heat & cold, and have either a donkey or Great Pyrenees dog to guard the property against coyotes or other predators.
Some people disagree with keeping “outdoor cats” and I do, too, IF you live in the city or in an area where the cats could easily get hit by a car or get in to other troubles with anti-cat neighbors. However, when you live out in the country away from all the hustle and bustle, cats do quite well outside and are WONDERFUL for keeping away all the mice and rats (and even small snakes) that eat everything (like your chicken food) in your garage, barn or shed. Rats also tear up the electrical wiring in your car while it sits in the driveway out here in nowhere land! (Been there, done that..grrr) Whatever your feelings on “outdoor cats”, the barn cats rescue gives “unwanted” cats that could have ended up in a shelter for life or on death row the ability to have a second chance at a good life.
When we received our rescue cats it was still cold outside so Peggy (the owner of the organization) was able to see just exactly what kind of winter shelter we were able to give our kitties. We have a large workshop/garage-type building right next to the house WITH a vented fireplace in it to keep it warm in the winter. Since it was chilly that day, the fire was blazing and the shop was nice and cozy. She was thrilled that two giant Great Pyrenees dogs greeted her when she got out of her van and that we live in the middle of nowhere on a dirt/rock road surrounded by nothing but cows and corn fields. About half of our 7 acre property is wooded and we have a pond.
After a quick inspection (it was obvious that we had a cat safe setup out here) and a brief Q & A session and signing of paperwork, Peggy asked us to help unload the van. We had to set up several large cages that would be home to the newcomers for the next 1 to 2 weeks while they acclimated to their new surroundings. She provided everything the cats would need during that first two weeks; food, litter, toys, dishes, etc… It was our job to get our own supplies (including food to slowly switch them to) during that time.
We had two 6′ cages and one 9′ cage set up in the shop. In one of the 6′ cages we put Monroe, a single 2 year old male kitty who was more on the friendly side of “feral”. I am not sure of his back story, but he turned out to be a super sweet guy. In the other 6′ cage went Lucy & Fluffy, two 7 year old kitties who were left behind when their previous humans lost their apartment. They weren’t exactly ready for new people and it took them several weeks to warm up. The 9′ cage housed Amy, Maize and Annabelle. All 3 of them were about a year old and had been found in downtown Dallas in a field near a highway interchange. Apparently that area is FULL of feral cats in need of rescue. Of the three of them, Amy warmed up first and became quite demanding of the snuggles.
For the duration of their cage confinement we kept blankets over the far end of their cages to keep them from getting hit by any draft that may have come through the big shop door. It also gave them a dark, secure hiding area where they could get away from us, if they wanted. The open side of their cages faced the fireplace and with the blankets trapping the heat the temperature stayed between 65-70 degrees the whole time.
After the first week, we opened up Monroe’s cage and let him roam the shop freely. He just wanted to snuggle! The following week we opened the doors of the other two cages and let all the cats have access to the shop. It was still cold outside so we decided to wait another couple of weeks before letting them go outside completely. I was mostly concerned that they would get out and not find their way back in because everything was still so unfamiliar and I didn’t want any of them stuck outside on a cold night.
At the end of the third week (she got busy and couldn’t come after the second week), Peggy returned to collect all her cages and supplies. I was so excited to show her that all but two of the cats (Lucy & Annabelle) were completely okay with us holding them and petting them. We had established a morning and night wet food feeding routine and all of the cats would come out of wherever they were hiding the moment they heard a can open. The rest of the time they had a free supply of dry food.
During the fourth week we started building the “cat door”. We have free range chickens and because of them we have to leave the shop doors closed so that they don’t poop on everything (as much as I LOVE fresh chicken eggs, chickens SUCK sometimes). We decided to use one of the windows on the back of the shop for the cats. It’s not perfect, but it works. The cats can (and do) go in and out as they please and the chickens haven’t found it!
On hot days we put a baby gate across the big door with a fan so that if they don’t feel like leaving the shop they won’t cook either. Even on the warmest days the cats spend most of their time in the shop. (Weirdos!) I do see them lounging around the yard quite often though. Two of them, Maize & Monroe, are particularly fond of my sons slide. Fluffy likes to wander the garden. All of them come out of wherever they have been playing to visit with my husband and I when we’re outside and Monroe gets downright demanding at dinner time. He’ll stand on the railing of our back porch and yell at us through the back door until we come out and pass out the wet food.
It’s been several months now and the cats are doing quite well. They play, they hunt, they live FREE. I love looking out the window or walking out the door to see them pouncing each other or chasing after crickets. They even get along with my outdoor cats that were already living here (Monster & Snickerdoodle). If funds permitted, I would rescue more in a heartbeat, but with 8 outside and 5 inside we’ve got our hands full for now. Someday, I would love to start a REAL cat rescue. I envy the lady at The Cat House on the Kings. I may be happily married with a kiddo, but I am definitely a Crazy Cat Lady and proud of it!