How to Keep Your Barn Cats Healthy

Learn how to care for your outdoor mousers.


  • Even skittish barn cats will benefit from a bit of TLC, including food, shelter, and vaccinations.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Mariusz Szczygieł

I have some outdoor mousers on my property that mostly keep to themselves and sleep in the barn. How should I care for these nearly feral felines?

They’re tough. They’re loners. They rebuff your attempts at affection. It’s easy to leave barn cats to their own business and let them care for themselves. But the truth is, these integral residents of your barn do need your care and attention. They’re susceptible to disease and illness just as much as your other livestock. If you take the right precautions and care, you can have faithful ratters and mousers for years to come.

If you’re starting with kittens, take time to socialize them with everyone in the family. Some people think that socialized barn cats will want to come into the house, but that’s not usually the case. Barn-dwellers can be people-friendly and perfectly happy in the barn if all their needs are met. If you end up with an unfriendly cat — such as a rescue or a feral cat — try to socialize it. It may not come around right away, but don’t give up too easily. Some cats take years to warm up to people.

Regardless of their level of affection, to keep your barn cats healthy, you’ll need to think about vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and even feeding. Killing mice probably won’t provide them with all the food they need to maintain good health. In fact, a healthy, happy, and full cat will be more inclined to hunt, even if it only hunts for fun and not to eat the mice.



If you don’t care to purchase dry or canned cat food, another option for feeding your mousers is a natural, raw diet. This type of diet approximates what wild cats eat.

If you choose to use dry cat food, you can keep it in the barn at all times for free feeding. With both dry and wet food, you can also schedule the cats’ feedings. A great way to get the cats into the barn at night, where they’ll be protected from predators, is to feed at night. Eventually, the cats will learn to come into the barn at night for their food, where you can shut them in and predators out. Your cats may be tough, but they still need shelter.

Alli
12/3/2020 10:38:00 PM

I'm not sure what the cat fight below in the comments about, but everyone has a right to their opinion & it doesn't make you right or wrong. Who says that a "house" cat is relegated to only being an inside only cat & a barn cat is the only one who is allowed to hunt & they don't go after wild bird's or they're not allowed to OR that they are the problem. 1st off I have rescued cats, dog's, horses, lizards, toads, frog's, salamanders & so on. I have been owned by cat's since I was a baby. Feral cat's are not the only good hunters. I too have a barn full of cats/kittens, they hunt rodents & bird's (our sparrow population will not be wiped out by 1 or 2, neither will the starling population). Our cat's live around chicken's & are often seen sun bathing with them. we have 2 "house" cat's, both rescue, one as a wild or feral kitten & the other showed up, both years ago. Both love hunting, but don't like the barn cat's that hang up by the house at time's, so they don't go out often. But our female (the one who just showed up), before we moved, she kept mice down a bit in our porch area. The male along with 2 other's, got the one's that came into the house. All 3 went outside to catch bird's, mice, voles, snakes, & more. Our male is up in age, so I don't expect him to stay outside in the winter right now to hunt. I had 1 male that was also a wild kitty, that would catch full grown jack rabbit's along with his mice, voles, snakes, bird's (including a sparrow hawk once, he got in trouble for that). Cat's are not a problem, except for those who are running around unfixed adding to the feral population (in town or out in the country). The problem IS however, the laziness of human's, who want a cat or a dog, until requires responsibility. Then they refuse to get it fixed, wonders why it wonders off or why it shows up pregnant. Or they purposely breed it to what ever they can find. As a rescue person, you should know the nature of a cat & not be so close minded or naive to think that just because a cat lives inside are the only one's who kill birds, are some how inefficient mousers & are the only cat's that get hit by cars, cause I guarantee you'd be wrong. And @Denny ....... your right. Several years back, I was befriending several of the feral/wild strays that we had on our landlord's farm, as I wanted to get them fixed as I could & see if any had health issue's (some kittens did), my landlord figured out what I was doing, so he thought it was a "good idea" but his idea was to catch & remove the feral cat's (including mine). After that, his wife's pottery barn, their house, shed's garages & many other area's around the farm for places to hide rodents was over run with rat's. Strangely (& thankfully) our house wasn't, we still had mice, but not in huge numbers & no rat's, despite our rescue cat's weren't outside 100% of the time. We did lose 1 to their poison. cat's have a purpose in the world. And @info. House cats have/carry Toxoplasmosis too.


fatcatbanksters
9/22/2017 9:54:10 AM

@Denny...Both you and @Info have valid points. Info's was much better stated and will be better received as it did not resort to name calling and rude comments. I have been involved with animal rescue and welfare for over 30 years. I have barns full of spayed and neutered, feral, semi-feral, and wild barn cats. Our barn cats seldom kill birds. We have educated them not to. Just as we have taught our rescue dogs not to go after our cats. The problem is not barn cats, which as you point out, are necessary for rodent control. The problem is people who allow domesticated house cats to roam around outside from time to time. Those cats usually do kill birds, are not efficient mousers, and often end up being killed by cars...or in a rescue situation such as my barn. Barn cats are barn cats. House cats are house cats and should be kept indoors at all times. See how easy it is to show both sides of an argument and not resort to name calling.


fatcatbanksters
9/22/2017 9:49:00 AM

@Denny...Both you and @Info have valid points. Info's was much better stated and will be better received as it did not resort to name calling and rude comments. I have been involved with animal rescue and welfare for over 30 years. I have barns full of spayed and neutered, feral, semi-feral, and wild barn cats. Our barn cats seldom kill birds. We have educated them not to. Just as we have taught our rescue dogs not to go after our cats. The problem is not barn cats, which as you point out, are necessary for rodent control. The problem is people who allow domesticated house cats to roam around outside from time to time. Those cats usually do kill birds, are not efficient mousers, and often end up being killed by cars...or in a rescue situation such as my barn. Barn cats are barn cats. House cats are house cats and should be kept indoors at all times. See how easy it is to show both sides of an argument and not resort to name calling.







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