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Welcome to the cat rodeo

DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Thinkstock cat in barn rafters
NOT TOO CLOSE: These barn cats are wild — and proud of it.
Front Porch: Show up at my house at feeding time any night and watch the rodeo for free!

By popular demand, it’s time to update you on our cat herd. Right now, we have six cats: three black ones, an orange tiger, a grayish-brownish tiger and an ornery, little, all-gray cat.

Last summer the count, including kittens, was north of 15, but that’s a story for a different time. Suffice it to say, we found good homes for a bunch, and didn’t kill any — at least, not on purpose! The remaining six are all fixed, so hopefully the herd size won’t fluctuate.

One thing we haven’t accomplished is taming them. They’re barn cats — wild and proud of it. People talk about cats crawling all over them and even sleeping with them in bed. The closest ours come to a human is about 20 feet, and that’s only at feeding time.

Comical critters
During the fall, the cats’ home base was the empty lambing barn. It had enough open doors that if they saw someone coming, usually me, they could dart out. They get fed cat food once a night, whether they’re hungry or not — they always are — but they aren’t comfortable eating until I disappear.

It’s “grab a few bites and run,” especially if I get too close. They’re not the best at sharing, either. They’ve never hissed at me, but I’ve heard them hiss at each other. It’s usually when three cats try to eat out of the same pan.

The only good part is that I haven’t seen a mouse in months. The other day, they left a pile of feathers, so I would know they’re either working or still hungry — I’m not sure which. No bird, just feathers!

6-cat circus
Recently I moved the cats into the hay shed. That consisted of moving their three rubber feed pans and water pan, and letting them find the pans. The transition took all of 20 minutes, plus me leaving the hay barn!

Now every night it’s a circus when I head for the barn. I should put up signs and charge admission!

Before I’m halfway to the barn, three, maybe four, sometimes five cats greet me, meowing and whining as cats do. “Greet” is a relative term. They come out from the barn maybe 30 feet, but never get closer to me than 20 feet. As I go forward, they go backward. Once they’re convinced I’m truly coming, it’s a mad scramble for the barn, with cat tails flying everywhere.  

However, no cat enters until I scoop feed into their pans. Once I step out, a couple cautiously come in, and then a couple more, usually with the little gray cat lingering behind, eyeing me warily. I go on doing chores. When I return to get hay, the mad cat scramble is on again. Some fly up the stack of hay bales; others go tumbling out the door. One stays at the pan eating until he spies me above him, then darts off.

Every night it’s the same sight. Greet me, scramble, grab a few bites, scramble, then watch until I leave the barn.

At least they’re no longer in the lambing barn. I was proud of that until my wife asked, “How are you going to keep mice away from your feed in the barn now?” Hmmm. I’ll have to work on that one.

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