Effectiveness of barn cats for rodent control? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 07:23 AM Thread Starter
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Effectiveness of barn cats for rodent control?

Like most of you I imagine, I have persistent mice in my barn that multiply faster than I can catch them. It's annoying. I have an opportunity to adopt a feral cat from a local rescue. They have cats that are not friendly to humans, have never lived with humans, that are up for adoption as barn cats only. They are vaccinated and spayed or neutered. All I have to do is feed it and give it a safe home. I told them my barn is not heated - not a problem. These cats have lived semi-wild all their lives. Seems like a good idea. I like cats, but hubby says no more pets and honestly, I don't want a cat in the house. I have two dachshunds that have a high prey drive and I don't want the cat hair or litter box. But a barn cat that looks after my rodent problem and that I only have to feed (I assume they'll drink out of the horses' heated buckets), that might be a good solution. The rescue is very keen on helping me adopt one at no cost to me.

But I have to ask the question: is it really an effective way to control the rodent population or will the cat just ignore the mice? And will it put an end to my nesting barn swallows? The swallows nest up high, of course, but I imagine that an agile cat used to surviving on its own might be able to reach the nest? They'd have to literally climb the wall... but I used to have a cat who could do that just to swat a fly so I'm guessing they could if they really wanted to.

Thoughts?
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post #2 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 07:43 AM
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I use mouse traps...and a few friendly snakes who come visit when mice arrive on scene...
When evidence of snakes is in my barn...my barn has pests needing gone.
I don't like snakes, tolerate till they move, then I move usually with a scream, shriek and much yelling.
Snakes by you this time of the year would freeze to death...

You have mice problems because your fields have suddenly become uninhabitable...frozen and snow on them has mice seeking easier, warmer habitats and easy food to eat.

So, a kitty cat...
If you want a cat that hunts, you really can't feed it or feed it much or it has no need to catch and eat what it hunted...
Feral cats...tough one.
No guarantees your cat is going to be a good mouser nor that it will stick around...
Cat could be great at mouse tasting...bird catching...but may also not do their appointed job well either.
When I worked the barns we had feral cats...truly feral cats...
When no one knew they were around but the workers seeing them when we arrived early mornings they did a good job mousing.
Once a few boarders saw them and started feeding them, our mouse population went crazy since no longer did they need to hunt to eat...
Be careful if you take on a cat or two you not give them a happy home where loafing is encouraged.

Also found if we had mice you not have rats...have rats your mice problem is gone...
In its place is a much larger problem.

Make sure all your "feed", regardless of what it is you feed, is in rodent proof containers, supplements too.
I store my feed and cubes in steel garbage cans with snug fitting "tight" lids...my food is never left in bags, on shelves or where a critter can get into and contaminate it....just not going down that path of misery!
...

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post #3 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 07:45 AM
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It depends, LoL

1. It is a rare cat that will hunt rats.

Cat hunting attitudes vary and in my experience, it doesnít matter how hungry they are or are not.

I kept cat food in front on my barn cats 24/7. Some of the cats were hunting machines, while a couple of them literally watched mice eat from the cat food bowl.

Meaning if the cat has a big killer instinct, itís worth it to have one but that isnít something you will know in advance.

Barn cats, as a rule, have a short life span or sometimes they run off and can sometimes be seen camping out on someone elseís farm.

By and large, unless the family loves cats, itís not the best solution after you pay all the vet bills for neutering, vaccinations, then the cat might go missing.

My current rodent control are boxes with what I call ďquick killĒ poison bars in them. I buy the rat size and stick them under the pallets where the shavings are stored. I canít remember the brand name.

We seem to go in spurts with rodent issues. We havenít had problems in 3-4 years but this fall I am seeing some really pretty/shiny coated field mice skittering about the barn, so I guess itís time to do something about them. We have an array of natural predators who arenít doing such a good job at rodent control:)
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post #4 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 07:57 AM
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The barn where I board at has two indoor/outdoor pet cats and one little (used to be feral) guy that was born on the farm and then mama got hit by a car. All three of those cats catch (and eat) rodents. I've sat in my truck in the evenings and watched them do it. The other day, the young one had such a swollen abdomen that I first thought that something was wrong with him. He wasn't acting funny in any way though. Come to find out, he had eaten a huge rat, the whole thing!!

There are going to be certain cats that couldn't be bothered but I think you would be more apt to have luck on your side with a feral as they are used to catching their own food. I would definitely go for it. An acquaintance had a HUGE vet bill when her filly got salmonella from rodent urine/droppings getting on something that she ingested. The filly was lucky to make it she was so sick.

If they are truly feral, I would get a couple of them. Contain them (separately) and feed them for a couple of weeks so they won't take off before they are used the the area and then turn them loose.

Edit: Feed them minimal. You can't just not feed them at all or they will leave once there is not enough food to sustain them.

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Last edited by LoriF; 11-29-2019 at 08:08 AM.
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post #5 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 08:11 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks all.

To be clear, the cat will be spayed or neutered and vaccinated before he comes to my barn. There is no adoption fee. These cats are unadoptable to the usual homes as they are not human-friendly. This is not a pet nor will it be treated as such. However, I cannot have an animal and not feed it. I was worried that a well-fed cat might not catch mice, but I'm thinking that if it learned to hunt, it may still do so even though it's not necessary. But will it leave dead mice in the hay? That's just as bad as having droppings isn't it?

No rats here by the way. They can be a problem in the cities, but not out here in the country. Not enough food I guess? Just really tiny mice. They're pretty cute really, if they weren't such a nuisance. They have proven smart, and very hard to catch. I spent weeks trying to catch this one mouse with a mouse trap. It managed to steal the bait from the trap every time. Hubby ended up catching it with a sticky trap which I hate. Don't want to do that again.

And the only thing they have to eat in my barn is hay. I keep everything else in the house. There isn't a shred of food. I think they just come in because it's dry and safe, and they do eat some of the timothy heads in the hay (I see the scattered seeds). It's not a full-scale invasion, but there's always a mouse or two around.

I also thought perhaps having a barn cat would serve as a deterrent to these mice. Maybe they wouldn't feel quite so safe nesting in the barn if there's a feline around.

Still, it is another responsibility to take on... I wouldn't treat it as a pet, but I will still feel responsible for it as I would for any living creature under my care.
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post #6 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 09:05 AM
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I have a feral tomcat that lives in my hay barn. I keep dry cat food out for him along with water.

He leaves the mice at entrance of hay barn,only partially eaten. Some are untouched but dead. The wild rabbits no longer take up residents in hay barn.

He's an excellent Hunter and well fed. He's been living in my hay barn for last 2 years. Took him to have him vaccinated this summer.

He seems to stay around always in one of the barns. Will probably lock him up in tack/ feed room tonight, weathers going to get nasty.

Out riding my horse.
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post #7 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 09:11 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rambo99 View Post
I have a feral tomcat that lives in my hay barn. I keep dry cat food out for him along with water.

He leaves the mice at entrance of hay barn,only partially eaten. Some are untouched but dead. The wild rabbits no longer take up residents in hay barn.

He's an excellent Hunter and well fed. He's been living in my hay barn for last 2 years. Took him to have him vaccinated this summer.

He seems to stay around always in one of the barns. Will probably lock him up in tack/ feed room tonight, weathers going to get nasty.
Isn't there a risk of botulism if a cat is leaving half eaten mice in the hay loft? I worry that I wouldn't see them. And my daughter is completely grossed out at the idea.
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post #8 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
Cat hunting attitudes vary and in my experience, it doesnít matter how hungry they are or are not.

I kept cat food in front on my barn cats 24/7. Some of the cats were hunting machines, while a couple of them literally watched mice eat from the cat food bowl.
This! Our cat used to be a hunting machine! Despite being well fed, he was the bane of the local fauna, including possums Luckily in his senior years he has slowed down considerably and now just watches birds...

There is a theory that a hungry cat makes for a bad mouser, as hungry cats have less patience and rather try to steal some food somewhere else...
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post #9 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 09:30 AM
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Cats will hunt just to kill stuff, so no need to not feed them. You just need one with a good hunting instinct which I'd expect them to have if they were feral. You will find mouse bodies though.



If these cats are scared of humans, I would wonder how inclined they would be to stick around the barn if you guys are out there often. It's not a very large building, irrc. If you have other seldom used outbuildings, they'd probably take to hiding in there, otherwise they might go find a quieter home.
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post #10 of 46 Old 11-29-2019, 09:41 AM
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Our chickens do a better job. Feral cats are great if you don't get attached and they actually stick around. Those I know that went that route have had them run off or die through accident. Those I know that have cats to control rodents don't have them fixed or selectively fix so there is always a litter at some point during the year. There seems to be a high mortality rate on a working farm. Either way they are not selective and any population they can catch is effected.



We encourage the natural predators like birds, snakes, fox, coyote and bob cats. As long as there is a rodent population to support the numbers then no problems. For decades the uncle would selectively reduce the population to keep everything balanced but when the neighbors took out most of the predators we were over run by rodents of all kinds until the population recovered.
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