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Questions about barn cats and mice

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  • Questions about barn cats and mice

    Let me first say I'm not really a cat person. I don't hate them at all, just prefer dogs so have never had one.
    Last fall/winter, we noticed ONE mouse in the barn. Okay...didn't like it but figured we could live with it (I am just a little bit jumpy around rodents). As winter went on, started realizing there was more than one. Now we have seen babies. I don't think we have seen more than 4 at any time, but who knows how many there are.
    Not crazy about them but as far as we know, they haven't gotten into the feed (small barn, no feed room, feed in metal garbage can w/ lid). However, one horse is sloppy when he eats so he's always dropping some grain on the floor (and there are more mice in his stall than other stall...).
    We really do not like to use traps or poison, can't say I like the idea of having a cat there to kill them either, but am concerned they may keep multiplying. I was hoping they'd just go away once the weather gets warmer - is that likely? Also, we have seen several black snakes around (before the mice showed up), so perhaps once the snakes are active again, would the snake perhaps keep them away from the barn (but stay outside the barn itself)?
    Would it make sense to get one of those feral cats the rescues advertise for barn cats?
    What I'm wondering is exactly what a cat normally does w/ the mice? Are we going to find half-eaten mice around, or is it more that once the mice know a cat is around, they will go away? Is the cat likely to kill alot of birds as well? We have many beautiful wild birds on the property and would hate to see a cat we brought here kill them.
    Finally, do I have to worry about the cat itself getting killed? Don't want to bring an animal here and then have something happen to it (we have a ton of hawks around and also loose dogs that are not ours).
    I know, I'm asking for alot, don't want to hurt any animals but don't want some of them around either

    Thanks for any advice!

  • #2
    Well, I'll jump in on this one...
    First...where there is one there are many mice!!! (or gazillions)
    Cats are great to have around the barn for the rodents but also for the company they will bring..you'll see.
    Some cats are great mousers and some demand to have their tuna delivered on a silver platter.
    I would never bring an animal in and not feed it....its our duty as their caretakers...but mice are the tastiest when they are hungry. It a cats nature to hunt, chase and play with their catch...I find things very proudly delivered to me personally (in the house) from my #1 female cat...and you simply have to take it in the way it is intended...as a precious gift...even if its a baby bunny, mole, bird or small snake.

    Mice/Rats can cause lots of damage and some sort of control is usually required...I personally never use poisons for obvious reasons.
    Does that help at all?
    "My treasures do not sparkle or glitter, they shine in the sunlight and nicker to me in the night"


    • Original Poster

      Yes, that does help, thanks. I know there is no simple answer, I'd like the mice gone but without harming them in any way. I actually tried some strong peppermint soap a few people had recommended, but spraying it in the barn did nothing except make it smell nice
      And I know it is in a cat's nature to hunt (and some dogs too). And technically, that is what we'd be getting it for, and I know I can't expect it to only hunt what I want it to hunt. But yeah, it would upset me to see it catch a bunny or a bird (I know, I'm playing favorites against the mice
      I would expect to feed the cat, unless of course the feral rescue folks told us not to - am hoping they would provide advice on how to take care of it. I am wondering though, they say they are neutered/spayed and have vaccines, but if they are not tame, how the heck do you get a vaccine done yearly (ie rabies around here is yearly for dogs, assuming it is same for cats)?
      And you mention the damage, I have been starting to worry about that, we built the stalls ourselves in the barn and it's kind of annoying me that the mice constantly have large holes near the posts. Not that I think a mouse is strong enough to damage our stalls, but still, the constant holes are annoying.
      We had the misfortune of having some (okay, we thought it was only one mouse at a time) in the house in the fall and did try the poison, it was awful and neither of us have the stomach for the traps. We bought those electronic deterrants and believe it or not, they seem to have worked, but I don't think they would work in the barn.
      I know every barn we have ever boarded at always had a cat, this is our first time having them at home, I guess we need a barn cat.
      So, I guess bottom line is that we really should control/get rid of the mice, the cat may be the best way, but we will have to live with the cat possibly catching something else we don't want it to catch. Though assuming we give a feral cat a home, I would suspect they won't be giving us presents like a tame, house cat would, would they?


      • #4
        Mice are destructive and reproduce quickly because they are low on the food chain.
        I have always had enclosed bait to kill them. No problems with cross poisoning.
        A cat that is a good killer WILL kill your birds. The fledglings are especially in danger. I am one who is not in favor of spay/neuter-release programs for feral cats due to this reason.
        There is no "nice" way to get rid of mice, but a black snake is the best option if you have one on the property.
        Proud to have two Takaupa Gold line POAs!
        Takaupas Top Gold
        Gifts Black Gold Knight


        • #5
          cats are natural mice hunters...you can't go wrong with one, and although I have heard that some aren't really interested in catching mice, there is usually a guarantee.

          My barn uses poisons and it makes me a little nervous too, because the same mice that crawl among and eat the poisons sometimes eat the feed too!

          i can't say the cat will not kill the birds. that is instinct of course...they are predators, but i think if the cat is fed well and have plenty of mice to hunt, he may not be too interested in leaving the barn area to try and catch flying food.


          • #6
            Please beware of mouse poison and cats --- secondary poisoning can occur - the mouse eats the poison and your cat eats the mouse (with a belly of poison)--then you will have a sick cat or can actually lose the cat due to the poison. This happened at one of our local feed stores - the owner was not educated as to secondary poisoning. She was devasted to lose her cat.
            Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


            • #7
              I'm not a real cat person, but I'm even less a snake person. If you are providing a free buffet (mice), SOMETHING is going to move in to eat them. I'd much rather it be a cat. The snakes will NOT stay outside your barn. They will come in with the mice - and the horses - and one fine morning you'll step on one, which will ruin EVERYBODY's day.

              Get the cat. Now. Before the weather gets warm enough for the snakes.

              I would recommend feeding it on the low end of the recommended amount while the cat is supposed to be feasting on mice, and then gradually increase the cat chow as you no longer see signs of rodents. You want the cat to stay around and continue to discourage the occasional random mouse that wanders in, but not to be hungry enough to go looking for other outside critters like birds and bunnies. It will still happen, but not too often.
              Incredible Invisible


              • #8
                If you had snakes last year that means you had MICE big time. They will only be around like that if they have food and they did in your barn. I would get a cat if I were you. And just think of the birds and other stuff that it gets as part of the food chain
                www.gypsystoychest.com Adult Toys and Home partys


                • #9
                  The smell of a cat around does deter mice to some degree, but not entirely. Most cats will kill (and genreally eat whole) mice even if they are fed (and they *should* be fed!). Skittish feral cats won't leave you "gifts" most likely, just chomp what they kill.

                  Some cats can kill a bird on the wing but most only aspire to such a feat. Of the 10 or 12 barn cats I've known at various barns, only one could do it, and she was a mighty huntress indeed.
                  Proud Member: Bull-snap Haters Clique, Michigan Clique, and Appaloosa Clique!


                  • #10
                    yes you will get partially eaten mice, bunnies, birds, chipmunks, moles etc....
                    our barn cats are probably the most spoiled animals in the barn, and I don't really care for cats myself,but they do their job well and are rewarded for it!!
                    BTW when we get a new cat we set up a little cat "condo" so the new cat is safe and confined for a few days...kinda like when a new horse comes and goes into their own paddock before going out wit the herd


                    • #11
                      If you have seen one mouse, then you have a lot of mice. If you have seen a lot of mice, then you have a gazillion mice! I had a gazillion mice in my feed room in TX. I also had a lot of trouble keeping cats. It was very dangerous living there for a cat. Between the crazy neighbors with guns that like to target shoot ( glad I got out of there) the coyotes, hawks, road (never saw a dead animal on the road, but that could be because of coyotes, hawks, etc) and horses. If I got adult cats, they would run away or disappear quickly. I tried the keeping them in the tack room for days, but as soon as I let them out, they were gone. If I got kittens too young, they would get eaten or stepped on. It was awful. I finally got some older kittens that lived into adulthood and stopped my mouse problem. Then I moved to VA. I brought the cats with me. Here cats have no problem! Anyway, my point was that the feral cat thing doesn't always work. Sometimes if you haven't had cats before, your farm may be inhospitable to cats (otherwise, you would probably have acquired them by now!). I currently have 8 cats (all fixed, they tend to multiply anyway). I don't have any mice. We live in a very open area, so we don't have many chipmunks, squirrels, etc. The cats will occasionally find a mole, but I don't see body parts around. I would say, get a cat and see how it goes. Just keep in mind that getting an adult cat may not work, and you may need to get kittens. But then it takes a while before they will mouse. In TX, I had many fat black snakes. They just can't keep the population down if it gets really high. I don't think they eat very often, where a cat will keep killing the mice whether it eats them or not. Good luck.


                      • #12
                        If I were you, I'd forgo the cat thing and just put some D-Con (or similar) mouse poison in the barn. Since you don't have a barn cat, no worries about secondary poisoning should kitty eat a poisoned mouse.

                        Alternatively, if you do think a black snake is readying to move in, I'd welcome it! I've had many barn-owning friends who have had the good luck to have a black snake claim their barn for their own, and they rarely ever saw it. No more mice either.

                        I used to have two barn cats (both strays that just showed up one day, a few months apart). They were best buddies, until one of them disappeared. I love cats (have always had one or more as strictly indoor house pets), and I was very upset when my one barn cat disappeared. So many horrible things can befall an outdoor cat. I like to tell myself a neighbor took him in as he was a gorgeous tuxedo with the softest coat and sweetest personality. He shadowed me everywhere outside.

                        After my 1st barn cat's disappearance, I still let my remaining barn cat stay a barn cat; that is until he got extremely ill after consuming the head of a bunny (the headless remainder which he left under my truck... ). It nearly killed him, and he had to spend 2 weeks indoors to recuperate, after which he joined my other indoor-only kitties and has never expressed ANY desire to go back outside.

                        I will never have another barn cat, unless one just "shows up", in which case, s/he will probably be integrated into the house.

                        I love not having my bird population decimated (yes, my former barn cat was an avid "birder" in addition to predator of mice, voles, baby snakes, and any other small live prey he could get his claws and teeth into).

                        I love not having to shell out $$ for tapeworm pills on a regular basis (vet said the tapes came from eating the wildlife) or $$ for Frontline/similar flea control products. No more having to pay for annual vaccinations.

                        No more worries about what could have happened to barn kitty if he isn't right there every time I go outside. No more screaming cat fights outside when another cat would come passing through (usually done in the middle of the night). No more vet bills for treating abscesses and other wounds as a result of those occasional cat fights.

                        I love knowing my cats are all happy, healthy and safe.

                        Equus Keepus Brokus


                        • #13
                          I don't want to deter you but be ready in case you are lucky/unlucky like me.... (depends on how you look at it)

                          My barn cat is a gorgeous bobtail tabby... he looks like a mini bobcat.

                          He is a savage killer though. He kills LOTS of mice and field rats. One day I found him eating a full grown wild rabbit... I didn't think my husband believed me so I looked for the rabbit's head because that's usually the only part that Smokey doesn't eat. Unfortunately I found it.... earless. That cat is ruthless and I feed him everyday!!!

                          He has killed a few birds but mostly just the rats/mice. I know it's gross what they do but when I find his "trophys" that he leaves for me I remind myself that he's a very skilled hunter and he's doing what he was put here to do


                          • #14
                            One other thing regarding mice in barns:

                            About 3 years ago (after having no barn cats for several years), my barn was overrun with mice. I keep NO feed in the barn, but they were very adept at getting at feed when (yes, WHEN) my horses were eating. Those little suckers would either jump right in the feed tubs or wait on the edge to clean up any leavings as soon as my horses would lift their heads up to so much as look around. I had to scrupulously clean the feed tubs before feeding to clean up the mouse droppings and mouse pee. Very gross.

                            I would see lots of them running along the beams, even being bold enough to come out on my barn table and sit there, staring at me. They were everywhere.

                            Now, I'm not sure what happened, but all I know is that shortly after I started my mare on Hyalun and both my horses on Spirulina (at the same time), my mouse inhabitants disappeared. Completely. Not a one to be seen anywhere. No dead bodies to be found either. I did see two about 6 months ago, but only for a couple of days; they've not been seen since.
                            Equus Keepus Brokus


                            • #15
                              cat or trap

                              One barn where I board has mice - I set up traps inside baggies loaded with peanut butter and that caught a bunch of them and now seems to deter them from that location. They are still sniffing around other areas - so I am moving the traps. I just open the trap while it is still inside the baggie to dispose of dead mouse.

                              My preference would be to get a cat and feed it - I have two former farm cats in the house(who love being able to come inside out of cold/wet) who still mouse like crazy, and will take small bunnies or a bird that's on the ground. Primarily small rodents though.

                              My former barn cats (have 6 now, 4 are in garage) are a mix of friendly and too-wild-to-pet. Even the 'wild' ones will stay pretty close though at feeding time - they get used to you if you have a safe place for them. Try to find a feeding place too high for dogs that they can reach - so they are comfortable eating and also so dogs don't devour the food.

                              'hunter' cats don't need to be hungry to hunt. Feeding them will keep them on your side.
                              Forward...go forward


                              • #16
                                Ughhh, I hate rodents! And my SO hates snakes, so snakes are not really an option for us. He doesn't particularly like cats either but knows I do and that my cats are my babies, so he deals. I don't like poison because of my other animals, and I am one of those cruel people who enjoys catching them in traps or on glue boards...but I hate having to dispose of them. I have always had barn cats, and before I had my horses(and cats) at my house we were having mice and rat(BIG rats!) problems. Mostly because of the property-owners junk, but they came to our house. We even had a rat get in the house....*shudder*. So, once I moved the horses home, I brought my cats home, and currently I have 10 barn cats. Well, 7 stay around all the time, 2 stay in the pasture area(they don't like the 2 newest kittens), and 1 stays by another barn on the property and *I* must go visit him. I do NOT see live mice or rats anymore. I have seen my cats dragging around rats as big as they are from an old building in the front of the property. I keep them well-fed(2x a day) and they are completely spoiled, so hunting is just fun for them. They generally eat what they kill, but I do find some bodies and inedible bird parts around sometimes. They don't really kill many birds, since mice are much easier targets. I occasionally get rabbit parts, but my SO tries to catch the cats before they kill bunnies(he says those are his to kill). Funny thing is that they won't touch my pet rabbits, even if they are loose in the yard...the cats run from those rabbits!

                                If I had all the cats since I originally had them at the barn, I would have about 20 now, but quite a few fell victim to disaster...snakes, SO's dogs(that are now gone), the road, disappeared, attacked by who-knows-what, etc. And one I gave away because he was dumped and had no claws. These cats are my pets, so it's always hard to lose one, but my current cats(except the two newest kittens) have all been with me between 3(the youngest 4 that I have had from birth) and 8 years. I haven't had a kitty casualty in a few years, though I have had to deal with abcesses, a tail amputation and a dental that left that particular cat with 7 teeth(he's the fattest of the bunch too). I am currently having some issues with 2 roaming tomcats and possums, but I am working on catching them to get them out of my barn.

                                The good thing about cats is that they are pretty self-sufficient, just feed and let them go about their business if you want. Especially the feral catch and release ones. Of course, my cats are under-foot and wanting attention all the time, but they like to go off and explore sometimes and are not as demanding or as much work as my indoor dogs! Try a couple of the feral catch and release ones, at least it won't be a big deal if they disappear and they will probably help with the mouse population.
                                "A horseman or horsewoman must have only one thing (and each in his own way): a passionate, obsessive love for the horse. Nothing more." George H. Morris


                                • #17
                                  I've had awesome luck with semi feral female kitties. They seem to be the better hunters.
                                  "I think animal testing is a terrible idea, they get all nervous and give silly answers."
                                  -fry & laurie


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thanks, I really appreciate everyone's opinions/experiences.
                                    We are in a quandary for sure. Just do not like killing anything if we can help it. DH once found a rat caught on a sticky trap where he used to work and set him loose. I know he does not want to use poison; we tried it when we had a problem in the house, and ended up finding a few dying on the floor, completely unpleasant, and then our vet informed us that if our large dogs got a hold of it, they could very well die, even the small amount in a mouse. Our own dogs do not go in the barn, but I would just hate to add to chain of possibly poisoning any other animal, be it a neighbor's dog, snake, etc.

                                    I really wish there was a way to just deter them from coming into the barn. I tried spraying the undiluted Dr. Bonner's strong Peppermint soap (had read that it deters them) today, but not very confident that it is going to work, as I finished spraying around the stalls, I still saw a mouse hanging out in the stall.

                                    The grain is sealed in the can, but one horse drops some on the floor, so I'm sure they are getting some of that.

                                    As for the black snakes, we saw a few (or the same one traveling around maybe?) on the property last summer. We did see one behind the barn twice, then other times were different locations not anywhere near the barn. However, I'm not sure we can really count on a snake when he's only around in the summer months, and I can't say we really want a snake inside the barn either

                                    I guess I'm on the fence about a cat, and DH isn't leaning that direction. Hard for us to get anther animal and just leave it loose outside/in the barn to fend for itself, we generally believe pet cats should be kept inside the house, where they are safe from predators, etc., but this would not be classified as a pet. We would not want the cat coming over to the house (our dogs are not small animal-safe, though inside the house/fenced yard, they will have a fit if they see a cat). I think if we went w/ a cat, it would need to be a feral one. Still, a certain responsibility for medical care, etc. exists and does add to our expenses.

                                    Funny thing is, the other day we got to the barn and heard a noise and DH just barely got a glimpse of something running out, which he thought was an extremely large orange cat. We are about 1/2 mile off the main road, only 2 neighbors back here, one neighbor is moving out, has several loose dogs which we haven't seen lately, other neighbor has one loose dog we rarely see, pretty sure neither have cats. There are dogs from the main road that come back here also, but we've only ever seen one small black/white cat either on the driveway or by our house, never at the barn. Behind us is just a ton of land sometimes used for cattle, so just not alot of homes nearby for someone's cat to take up residence in our barn.

                                    Liberty, that is very interesting about your mouse issue - seems like something in the supplements deters them. I think I also read that pelleted food may be less of a treat than textured (of course we have textured ).

                                    Well, maybe I will call the feral rescue group and ask some questions, but I know how we are and we are going to feel really bad if we bring a cat back here to live and something happens to it. Maybe I can also do more research on some type of natural deterrant. I read a few posts about a plastic owl, but I just can't imagine they would even see it, they are running along on the ground and going under walls, I don't think they would look up.


                                    • #19
                                      The down side of black snakes

                                      I have a barn, therefore I have mice. My husband is allergic to cats, I have two large dogs and don't want to risk a kitty's life on that. And I hate the idea of putting poison out because of what might get into it (like my dogs). So I have black snakes. Now, I have no issue with snakes, (my husband not so fond), BUT, last year, I had a black snake that liked to get up on the dividers between stalls. And I would be cleaning stalls and not watching and almost put a hand down on him a few times. I've also come into the barn in the evening to feed, again, not watching, and what I thought was the stray cord of a fan was actually a snake dangling down from the rafters, thank goodness I didn't reach out to plug him in!
                                      But I do think he helped with the mouse population, I've seen fewer mice since he took up residence. I just have to keep my husband out of the barn, or he'll kill him out of principle!


                                      • #20
                                        It's threads like this that make me rethink the whole "I wanna buy a few acres and have a horse out back." Snakes... Has anyone ever tried the sonic deterrents? I was doubtful, but they did work very well INSIDE my house. Not a huge range, but plugging one in on the counter keeps the mice from rummaging through the cabinets. Mice are all cute and furry until you find mice droppings in the pots and pans.