Skip to content

Hemorrhaging Cats

November 9, 2013
tags:

Our cat population is bleeding.  The farm cat population waxes and wanes with the seasons.  Last year’s litter of three named with a Hunger Games theme are all gone now.  Bobcat or coyote scat somewhere most likely.  Katniss was first, so much for names.  There seems to be some benchmarks in the farm cat attrition calendar.  If you make it past 6 months you might just get to 12 months, and then it seems like they have several years.  They become a little wiser in the way of the farm.  Our mature breeding pair is on their 4th year.  That’s pretty good.  After that it’s a crap shoot.

Uncle Dad & Coover

Uncle Dad & Coover

We located this year’s batch of kittens pretty early and started playing with them before Mama cat brought them out.  The very day she brought them a yearling tom disappeared.  Cat accounting usually goes by the accrual method.  We count them as soon as we see them, but the aren’t really ours until, well, cats never really belong to anyone.

Coover & Loretta

Coover & Loretta

A month ago, another yearling disappeared.  This week one of the summer kittens disappeared.   Cat numbers this year started out at 4, we added 4 babies, and then cat countdown started.  We now have 5 out of a high of 8, and winter is just around the corner.  Cats make easy meals for predators who pretty much eat rodents further out all summer.  Once the ground squirrels head underground, the hunter becomes the hunted.

Art

Art

Cats are pretty vital around here for rodent control.  They hunt voles like crazy in the gardens, they keep chipmunks and packrats out of the potatoes in the barn, and they catch the occasional mouse.  Pretty vital to the ecological balance around here.  We feed them a little, provide them lots of hidey holes in the hay stacks and try to pet them as much as they allow.

Females are the best hunters, the guys just hang around waiting for Mama to come home with the prize.  You got a rodent problem?  Get a fertile female cat, she will hunt round the clock to feed her kittens.

EOS_5172

EOS_5217

EOS_5199

EOS_5203

Mama

Mama

So we head into the winter a little low on cats. Two adult cats and three wet behind the ears kittens.  I hope the hemorrhaging of cats stops.

Advertisements
27 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2013 1:20 am

    Years ago, we lived in the middle of miles of dry-land wheat farms in the Utah desert. We usually had at least a dozen cats, but the winter before we moved to Oregon, all but a batch of kittens disappeared. Trappers located the cougar that had been taking out our cats and those belonging to neighbors. My Akita took over raising the batch of kittens (luckily weaned by then) and would freak out visitors when he’d carry them around (gently) with their heads in his mouth. We gave all but one from that batch to the neighbors when we moved to restart the cat population. Totally agree that the females make the best hunters.

    • November 10, 2013 2:42 pm

      I’ve often wondered if big cats prey on small cats; I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t eat their own kind. 😦
      This is a far cry from the lives our kitties live, in the house with lots of attention. But the cats in these photos are pretty, and I hope they enjoy life while they can!

  2. Mich permalink
    November 10, 2013 3:58 am

    Our farm cats tend to die of old age or ill health…or run over by farm machinery. We don’t have any larger feline predator here in UK & only a very desperate hungry fox will take on a healthy cat.

    • Tom permalink
      February 18, 2014 8:18 am

      Hi Mich,

      I work at the BBC, and I’m on the hunt for a good sized colony of farm cats. I’d be interested in finding out about Are you able to email catscience@bbc.co.uk if you have farm cats with sentence or two about why you have them?

      Kind regards,
      Tom

  3. November 10, 2013 4:07 am

    Such beautiful cats! And your photographer is great (your daught?). I hope your hemorrhaging of cats stops, too. We try to keep about 5 at our house, but I’d have more if my hub wasn’t opposed. They are full of personality and they do catch a lot of rodents.

  4. November 10, 2013 4:17 am

    I hope so too. That would break my heart.

  5. November 10, 2013 4:49 am

    Your cats look wonderfully healthy and fat! Sorry to read that you are losing them. Our barn cats have a real short shelf life too. Alas. Went to the barn yesterday morning to be greeted by the screams of a red-tailed hawk perched right over our flock, licking his chops so to speak.

  6. November 10, 2013 5:01 am

    It’s only the ones I really like who come to a bad end, the others will stay forever. Mine love a handout, and do work, but instead of catching the varmints IN the barn and dragging them OUT, they hunt the pastures & fields and drag varmints IN.

    I pick a good pair and spay them. It make them less hungry, but I hate being overpopulated with diseased snotty nosed cats. We must have fewer cat-predators here than you and the population size can grow to the point where disease (and the road) thins the herd. And that takes a really long, snotty, sneezing time….

    Yours are pretty…

  7. November 10, 2013 11:04 am

    Keeping my fingers crossed for you. Your cat year is like my chicken year… down to 5 from a high of 10 (lost a total of 4 chicks and 2 older hens this year) and sick of the hemorrhaging. Here’s to hoping for a merciful winter for all our critters!

  8. November 10, 2013 2:05 pm

    question – what do you do in the rare case of an outdoor cat who lives long enough to become old and feeble? I have a 17 year old outdoor cat who we found wounded and brought inside to heal. Now he keeps trying to get outside, and he pees on everything inside, but I can’t just turn him out to starve and/or freeze.

    • November 10, 2013 2:20 pm

      Aimee, I have no idea, ours never make that long. How do you know he’s 17? Euthanize maybe?

      • November 12, 2013 11:46 am

        I’ve had him for 17 years. We just found him wounded a few weeks ago. He’s been recuperating indoors and doesn’t like it. He may be euthanized soon… if I can bring myself to do it.

        • November 12, 2013 12:35 pm

          Aimee, oh I see, poor guy he probably is finding it hard to fend off his attackers. They are so independent, I bet he is chafing a bit being inside 😦 Good luck – that’s a tough call.

    • November 10, 2013 2:44 pm

      Is he incontinent? Or is he just being difficult? Can you put the peed-on whatever into a litter box? Maybe he would get the idea then. Good luck with the poor fellow!

  9. November 10, 2013 2:32 pm

    This has been my experience as well–12 months at the outside, usually not that long. We’ve lost a few already, one I was really sorry to see go, because she was a mouser extraordinaire. The female we have now sucks, to put it politely. So, so lazy. The neutered boys are doing better than she is, and they are not exactly burning it up.

    We keep some in the house and some out. If the cat is super friendly or personable, we don’t take the chance of being eaten and let them in. But they REALLY have to earn it. We now have 5 inside, which is one over our maximum. However, they are mousers for inside the house, which we usually have need of as we seem to have a beacon on the house inviting rodents in. Currently we’re at a “high” number for cats, but we live in the woods, and many things live there that like to eat cats. I expect, by spring, to be looking at a different situation. It’s a tough life, being a cat!!

  10. Carole permalink
    November 10, 2013 3:43 pm

    What beautiful cats. Unfortunately, in Australia feral cats are a menace to indigenous wildlife and there are no cat predators in most of the country. They don’t distinguish between introduced rodents (rats and mice) and the marsupial variety, and native birds don’t have any defenses either, Our house cat isn’t allowed outdoors at all, so the inside of the house is rodent free but the rest of the place is apparently fair game.

  11. November 10, 2013 5:50 pm

    We feed a little more in the winter and in the barn, it seems to keep the cats inside at night. They have to travel so far in the winter nights and lose the safey of the barn, plus they like to be out of the weather in the winter. If I have extra milk I have been known to warm a little for them on very cold days.

    • November 10, 2013 8:24 pm

      Ellie, oh yes the cat cave in the barn, morning and evening milking is mealtime for these farm kitties.

  12. November 10, 2013 6:13 pm

    I have lots and lots of cats. Wish I could send you some!

  13. November 10, 2013 6:52 pm

    Had the first picture up and the kids came up behind me and said, “That’s a nice picture of the cats. Where did you take it?”

    Those aren’t our cats.

    “Wow. They look just like Tushie and Mama cat.”

    Tushie is also without a tail…hence the name.

  14. snuck permalink
    November 10, 2013 11:09 pm

    It’s strange to read this blunt an appraisal for the lifespan of a working cat. Here in Oz there aren’t any large hunters so the cats don’t have competition or predators. It makes for cat number explosions…. so we are far more likely to control their breeding (if we are responsible). In farming areas they go feral and wind up huge – the size of near medium dogs – and scary. I’ve backed slowly away from more than one feral cat.

    • November 11, 2013 6:31 am

      Snuck, lots of cat predators here, especially bigger cats like mountain lions and bobcats, then the coyote, hawks and owls and vehicles. It’s equally strange to hear of how they take over in Oz.

  15. cathylee permalink
    November 11, 2013 10:26 am

    We have two black brothers (Lewis and Clark) that are about 2 years old. They came from the county animal shelter neutered and with a microchip. We locked them in the workshop at night until it became a sometimes unsuccessful chore to get them to come in. Now they live in the hay barn. I do worry about losing them. They are very friendly (thanks to volunteers at the shelter) and enjoy following us around. The squeak of a vole in the garden when Lewis has caught one is not infrequent. The workshop feed never has evidence of rodents and we don’t have rodents try to take shelter in our house in the winter. Even our garage seems to be rodent free. These young boys are a blessing.

    A mountain lion was trapped in a barn a half mile away after eating several cats. So when my cats aren’t running to greet me I worry. Thankfully we haven’t had the losses you have. I hope this isn’t too politically incorrect, but I think it is in someways nice to see the circle of life that you see with your “domestic” cats. Until we actually have to go to the shelter every year I’ll be afraid to have an unsprayed cat for fear of having an excess.

    Our shelter understands the need for barn cats but the local humane society won’t allow kittens to be adopted out as barn cats.

  16. Patty permalink
    November 11, 2013 6:35 pm

    You have gorgeous barn cats! Very pretty colors :). Hope the little ones survive the winter!

  17. November 12, 2013 4:41 pm

    When I finally get on my land, we will have barn kitties. I have heard nothing but great things about keeping good mousers on hand to help out around the farm. The man I used to get raw milk from swears by his mousers and they were these beautiful black and white sleek as can be little kitties. Also, we have enough natural predators around the NW that most farmer’s around these parts don’t have huge excesses of cats. And if they do, they just have the ladies fixed.
    Right now I just have the one geriatric rescue cat from the pound who is pushing 20 years old and looking capable of 10 more yowling, clawing, pee everywhere by the cat box years. I’ve tried to convince her the outdoor life is for her, but no dice.
    Yours are very pretty!

  18. November 20, 2013 8:27 pm

    Most times I seem to read that cats don’t earn their keep on a farm. As much as we don’t really have a farm (1/2 acre with a few animals and a veggie garden), I’d never even thought about our 2 fat neutered boys as working animals but reading this I can see that yes they do work… Somewhat. Our 2 catch (and usually release inside the house) the occasional mouse but they’re more welface cheats than hard workers. I love the idea of a female cat working hard to feed her kittens though but I know I am too much of a softie to be able to leave them to fend off attackers. I guess too, here in Australia, feral cats are a BIG probem as our native wildlife, before the arrival of white man and his dogs and foxes, had little in the way of predators. Sure, Tasmanian Tigers (now extinct) and dingoes (up north) but not much else so many of our animals are small, rodent-ike and far easier to catch than the introduced pests like rabbits, rats and mice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: