Caring for barn cats

Cats are royalty in the barn. They provide us a great service by controlling all kinds of rodents and other varmints. But even a tough barn cat needs good care to stay healthy.

Sarah Peakheart is an assistant clinical professor with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oklahoma State University. She says cats that dine on what they catch have a good meal but their nutritional needs should be supplemented with regular cat food. Especially in winter, cats can easily become dehydrated so there should always be a fresh, clean supply of water that’s not frozen.

"You can buy heated bowls, of course. There’s also these neat little discs that you can buy that you can heat up in the microwave and sit under a bowl. Have a nice wide deep bowl, maybe something that’s not metal that doesn’t conduct the cold as much but doesn’t freeze as fast," says Peakheart. "You can also provide canned food which is high in water content and that can help supplement their water intake. They’re going to eat that so it’s not as likely to freeze on them, but you still want to have the fresh clean water."

If you store anything with an engine in the barn, make plenty of noise before starting it up because cats look for places to stay warm, like under the hood of a vehicle. Also, be sure to clean up any leaks or spills from your equipment – especially antifreeze.

"If they rub underneath it or walk through it and they groom it off their fur, then they could die of kidney failure rather quickly with just a small amount of it. So, making sure you clean up spills and put those chemicals away out of their reach where they can’t get to them is extremely important," she says. "And, keeping away other things like the fly sprays that are used on horses and cattle and the permethrin-based sprays that are extremely toxic to kitties."

Your feline friends need a cozy place to stay warm and dry, and a safe space to get away from potential predators. Also make sure they’re vaccinated, and spayed or neutered.

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