When we first moved to the acreage, we got cats. Well, we had some indoor only cats that came with us from Alberta, but we got some barn cats right away, as there had been a lot of grain storage on this place, which meant there were plenty of mice. We started out with three barn cats through an SPCA program – Stevie, Bobby, and Molly.
The cats did a great job of keeping the rodent population in check, and were fun companions while we were doing outside work.
Unfortunately, Stevie had to be put down, after we found him, paralyzed, in the hay stack. We never did figure out what happened, but our best guess is that he tried to jump between bale stacks and missed. The vets did their best, but were unable to fix him up. We were pretty cut up about that. There’s really no such thing as ‘only’ a barn cat around here – they’re all pets.
When we sold the goats in late 2015, the barn, which was not heated, got to be pretty cold, and we worried about Molly and Bobby out there. We had always figured that all three of the barn cats had been somebody’s pets at some point – they were just too tame and friendly to be anything else. We ended up deciding to try them in the house, to see if it would work out okay with the other house pets. In the end, it went well enough, and Molly and Bobby moved indoors for good.
We ran into some problems in the spring of 2016, though – a couple of skunks started hanging around, and ended up getting into the chicken coop, killing several hens. We’d never had an issue with skunks before, and were kind of surprised by the whole thing. Later, though, in speaking to local farmers, we were told that 2015 and 2016 were both crazy years for skunks – one neighbor had shot over a dozen skunks in a one-month period in 2015, and almost as many in the month prior to our chicken incident.
We talked it over, and realized that, besides the goats, the only difference between spring, 2015 and spring 2016, for us, was the cats. So we went back to the SPCA, and brought home a couple more bundles of joy – Oscar and Millie:
Our assessment appears to have been right – that barn cats keep skunks away. We haven’t seen or smelled one since we brought these two home, and this is the time of year we would expect to really start seeing them. My theory is that cats and skunks occupy the same ecological niche, and that the cats, being territorial, won’t tolerate skunks in their home territory. Or maybe the skunks don’t like the competition, and stay away. Regardless, we’re relieved not to have any more skunk problems, and Oscar and Millie are doing a good job of keeping rodents under control, as well. If you are running into issues with skunks, you might consider a barn cat or two!