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Found abandoned kittens - help with keeping "barn cats" needed!

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  • Found abandoned kittens - help with keeping "barn cats" needed!

    About a week and a half ago, DH heard a faint mewing in the barn....long story short, we discovered two small, weak kittens. Fast forward to now with help from COTH's own Jaegermonster who does a lot of rescue and foster work (thank you!), little "Tiger" and "Bear" have both nearly doubled in size. We think they are about 5-6 weeks old. I've been keeping them in a plastic dog crate at night and in an ex-pen (covered, for their own protection) during the day. They get meals four times a day, canned kitten food and soaked kibbles, warm water since it's been getting awfully cold here, and they are getting their first deworming tonight. They are getting so much stronger and their eyes are just starting to change from the striking blue color.

    I have some questions about keeping them as barn kitties. We've lived here nearly 4 years and haven't had any cats in the barn before. While we've never caught any, I know there have been coons in the barn. I'm worried for the kitties. How do we transition them to live outside of the dog crate? They will get too big to be cooped up in there and will eventually need to be out. We don't have a separate, totally enclosed tack or feed room. I'm worried about coons and the cold. Not really about coyotes - they don't come near the place since Chuck and Larry (the mini-donks) moved in But the cold - will they find a warm place on their own? Should we build them some sort of a nest box type of thing? Where should we put their food so we don't attract other critters?

    They will be going for some first shots in a few more weeks, and to be tested for FIV/FeLV.

    Sorry this sounds stupid....every other barn I've been to has a more "inside" place the barn cats can go. Thanks for any help!
  • Original Poster

    Mods - I think I probably should have posted this in "The Menagerie". I haven't been on in quite some time so I think I just plain forgot. Sorry, and please move it if needed. Thanks!


    • #3
      thanks for saving those kitties

      I have two ferals established in my barn. Not babies, but they do fine. They have a cozy corner with old saddle pads for warmth. I feed them when I go out to feed. They eat while I am tending the horses. I don't leave extra free choice food around (raccoons). Personally I would continue to use the biggest dog crate I could find for at least a couple more weeks. And yes, I would give them a nest box.


      • #4
        If they have places to hide and shelter themselves, I would just let them be. Every kitten I've had has made the transition to "barn cat" with zero intervention on my part. We do have a labrador that lives in the barn so no varmints. I'd think a raccoon wouldn't seek to bother a cat unless there was food left out.
        Click here before you buy.


        • #5
          They should be a solid 8-12 weeks before you start letting them out. If you have a local feral cat rescue in the area, inquire with them about renting a transition cage. Otherwise, you can easily make a transition cage using hog panel pieces (small opening kind) wired together with a top, or chicken wire, etc. Just get creative and make something that will allow them to move around in an area in your barn but confined. Then gradually allow them out when you are around the barn. As they get older, you can extend the period of 'turnout' and then put them back in at night. Finally, as they become teenagers, they can be out 24/7. Put food where a racoon is unlikely to get to it, if possible. And keep the food location consistent. They can be spayed fairly young --- I think they have to be 2 pounds.

          Thanks for helping them. I have several barn cats and they are worth their weight in gold for the rodent control they provide! During cold weather, I have a cat heating pad (find them at Foster Smith) on a timer in a cat bed in the tackroom.


          • #6
            I hate to say it - sounds a bit uncaring - but I've always waited to do the spaying/neutering until they have passed the coyote test at about - I dunno - 6-8 months. They learn to have escape routes into the hay barn.
            Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


            • #7
              I have a 7yo "feral" barncat.
              She & her brother wandered onto my property the first Summer I was here - also around 6wks old at the time.

              I thought I was keeping them safe locked in my toolshed during the day (barn was still being built) until a neighbor pointed out to me wee kittehs climbing the fence to get back in to the shed
              Somehow they survived and were moved into the barn after about a month.
              I never did more than turn them looose in the barn with food & water.
              They figured it out and stuck around.

              Forget Foxtrots's Coyote Test - my little guy survived the raccoons, possum & neutering only to become roadkill when he was just 6mos old.
              No guarantees with outside pets

              I do provide a covered fleece catbed for my girl & use those handwarmers to keep her warm when it gets really cold.
              I store hay in my barn and she makes herself a nice little hideyhole in the stacked bales too.

              Just remember to put any food dishes somewhere vermin-proof at night.
              I nearly petted a possum before I figured that one out
              *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
              Steppin' Out 1988-2004
              Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
              Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


              • #8
                Our barncats have had no trouble with raccoons. We've seen them sharing a dish! If you are in an area where raccoons are a rabies vector, well then you'll want to be watching out for them and making sure they don't start coming to the cat food buffet.

                I now have palatial cat cages for isolation or indoctrination, but I sure spent quite a bit of time isolating the new ones using a big dog crate. I found that (a) they loved it and (b) when initially let out, I could lure them back into it for overnight with a can of squishy food. Then out in the morning. Did that for a couple of months -- the pair of kitties would come RUNNING when I'd say "time for bed kitties!"

                If you have the time and the interest in building them a little warm nest of some sort, go right ahead. I doubt they need it, but why not? They ARE animals that enjoy their creature comforts. I am happy to oblige, I get such joy from their little furry selves!
                Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.


                • #9
                  Link to making a cheap cat shelter for cold weather.
                  Note- put a flap on one side that will swing open both ways, and a flap on the back side that will only open out, so if something (racoon/skunk/a big mean cat/dog) comes in the front, the cat can escape out the back, and not be trapped in there with it. Make sure you don't place it against a wall, so they cannot use the "emergency escape flap.


                  Dr Foster's and Smith sells a cat mat that will retain heat from a cat's body. I'd put one of those in there and push some hay around the sides, inside, to make a "nest'.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank you all for the suggestions and tips!

                    Jetsmom, that link for the All Weather Shelters is fantastic! Since our kitties will be encouraged to stay in our barn (and that is where we store our hay and bedding), do you see a need to build one of those? Is having a dry place out of the wind and elements enough? The "cat mat" sounds like an excellent idea.....maybe covered with some fluffy fleece to make it extra inviting


                    • #11
                      I bought all kinds of cat beds, only to discover that my kitties MUCH prefer making little dens among the bales in the hayloft. Or sometimes I'll find one encased in a shipping boot or some other odd place. Their FAVORITE perch, though, is on the backs of the blanketed horses.
                      Click here before you buy.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by asb_own_me View Post
                        Thank you all for the suggestions and tips!

                        Jetsmom, that link for the All Weather Shelters is fantastic! Since our kitties will be encouraged to stay in our barn (and that is where we store our hay and bedding), do you see a need to build one of those? Is having a dry place out of the wind and elements enough? The "cat mat" sounds like an excellent idea.....maybe covered with some fluffy fleece to make it extra inviting
                        If the cats can burrow down into the hay, I'd think they would be warm enough.
                        The Dr Foster's self heating beds really are great. I saw them recommended on here, and bought 2 for our barn cats. They don't need any extra fleece as they are soft and furry.