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Not a Cat Person

November 29, 2015

Yet we have cats.  Cats are annoying and useful, perturbing and beautiful, and well, cat-like.  Can hardly live with them and certainly we don’t like living without them.  We try not to get too attached because cats around here are allowed to express their catness to borrow a popular Salatin suffix.  We feed them, usually milk or eggs, and we keep the offal from any poultry butchering projects for the cats, but we expect them to hunt rodents, especially voles in the garden.  We keep a bag of kitty crack, store boughten cat food of dubious protein content just in case we run out of chicken gizzards or something.  There is some co-dependency between us and the cats, we admit it, they don’t.

I got a little wistful, not a lot mind you, when I came across this photo in the archives while searching for cat photos to spin this blog post.  It seems every once in a while, there is a cat that saunters through our lives and breaks our hearts.  So we pull back and try not to get too attached, again.  The little gray feline walking away from the group photo stole our hearts, every single one of us.  Sweet little Claire, she loved us back too, she pulled none of the cat shenanigans like begging to be petted and then skittering just out of reach.  She demanded we pet her, and pet her we did, until one morning she wasn’t in the barn.  Mostly like Claire is an owl pellet now, her momma disappeared the day this photo was taken and Claire’s siblings have had to embrace us instead of being the aloof kittens they were on the way to being with their momma at the helm.

Now you can’t go anywhere much without one of these big spring kittens following and “helping.”  The dogs think the cats exist to give them something to chase, and the cats probably think the dogs are evil monsters that go everywhere with us and share our food and sleep in the warm house.  All true really, because we are dog people and we do let the dogs in the house, and ban the cats.  A Flintstone kind of life.

The cat version of life here is probably told quite a bit different than our version.  We usually take too long to get to the barn to milk.  The tracks on the steps show how important our escorts are, a cute photo op we think.  They think, get on with it woman and milk the damn cow, we’re hungry on the verge of hangry.  I do tend to begrudge the cats the milk we give them.  They drink a half-gallon a day…and they demand it.  A half-gallon of milk!  Sometimes less, but it beats buying much cat food and it evens out the gaps in their natural diet.  But, still that’s a lot of milk. Raw milk is expensive, those buggers are drinking three and half gallons a week, and a cow’s normal lactation is about ten months, so if I do the math (bad idea) with raw milk going for about $10 per gallon, it would be 3.5 gallons x 40 weeks = 140 gallons @ $10.00 per gallon = $1400.00!

Not to mention I had to have Hangdog fashion a bucket hook to hang the milk bucket on just to keep the cats away from the milk bucket.  If the dogs are present at milking time, the cats do not show up, and the dogs know to stay away from the milk but most of the time the dogs aren’t at the barn, so the bucket hook is cheap insurance.  Now I’ve added a bucket lid for an extra layer of protection against the cats.  You’d think they’re starving they yowl so for that milk.

Okay, don’t do the math.  It’s never that simple on a farmstead, I’m not selling my milk, and have no intention of doing so, the milk is worth nothing really.  Or you might counter with the tired old vegan saw, nothing but calves are supposed to drink cow’s milk…well, my cats do well on it, so well in fact with their hunting they really don’t like the cat food from the store.  You know how a cat can get from zero to insulted in about 2 seconds flat?  That’s what ours do when there is no milk, and sometimes that happens.

Besides milk math there is egg math.  See this fellow “helping” me gather eggs?  He knows I might find a dirty egg or a crack for him, so he magically appears at egg gathering time.  Again the cats are getting short shrift they imagine, because our dogs eat about a dozen eggs a day, and sometimes I give the cats eggs.  Again with the begrudging.  I really need to curb my thoughts about the cats and the volume of milk and eggs they consume because there is no price per unit for the enjoyment we get with them around.  Like many other things in life you can’t measure something that hasn’t happened.  How many carrots can Jane enjoy this winter because the cats hunt the garden rows of milk cow roots?  Maybe Jane and the cats have all this worked out.  She is trading the milk for the carrot protection, and we are but the messengers, the middlemen so to speak between what goes on in the manger at night.  The very manger near the straw bale “root cellar” that protects our potatoes from munching chipmunks and pack rats.  That milk is looking more and more like an inexpensive way to keep our cats happy.  And happy cats make happy farmers.  Does that make me a cat person?


41 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2015 2:33 pm

    Yes, I believe it does! 🙂 And by the way…that last photo is the cat’s meow! 🙂 What stunning eyes!

  2. November 29, 2015 2:34 pm

    Oh my! That last image is the spitting of my last cat. I had her when we lived out in the boonies. She was a great hunter (even on that dry cat food -perhaps because of it?) We hauled her from Utah to the Oregon coast as a kitten. No more cats now that I’ve moved to town. I’m not fond of cats in the house without a purpose.

  3. Allisa permalink
    November 29, 2015 2:34 pm

    Dog person here. (Australian shepherds). But your cats are very pretty. It seems your animals have you fitting directly into their plans 🙂

  4. November 29, 2015 3:24 pm

    Those are some beautiful cats! Our cats are outside cats too – I just cannot stand the tangle they make around my legs. But I am more begrudging about the milk than you are and the pigs eat all our spare eggs! Yours do look fluffy and happy on your diet though. Have a lovely evening.. c

    • November 29, 2015 4:57 pm

      C, oh my gosh, they circle so bad on the route to the barn I can’t imagine them underfoot in the house, the dogs are bad enough.

  5. November 29, 2015 4:00 pm

    Beautiful cats! I recently found a place which sells raw milk – it was eight dollars for the half gallon. Would it not be cheaper to just buy dry cat food in large bags for them? I thought milk wasn’t good for cats, anyway. This is not a criticism – just wondering. Or do suppose they’d get lazy with the food around, and not bother with the mice. (I’m a cat lover.) 🙂

    • November 29, 2015 4:51 pm

      Lisa, it would be “cheaper” but I have a planned surplus of milk and they get some of the surplus, usually skim. Closing the loop on a farmstead always makes more sense than selling something to buy something else if the something else is something you can easily produce. I would think pasteurized milk would be bad for cats, since they really need raw food more than dogs. I guess I would have to say I’m a cat liker 🙂

  6. November 29, 2015 4:16 pm

    Well I’m not a cat person either, except the dogish ones. But I’m married to a cat person and as she loves me more than those kitties I let it go. Sometimes it is a close call honestly. The sheer volume of rodents at the farm means we’ll probably always have them around. Was it the Egyptians or Persians that kept them to protect the grain? They have a utility anyway. Are you a cat person? Methinks thou dost protest too much. 😉

    • November 29, 2015 4:52 pm

      MA, you should just get a Chow Chow, they are just like cats. Just kidding of course, Chows are definitely NOT farm dogs. I am busted for sure, a non cat person wouldn’t have tons of photos to choose from…

  7. November 29, 2015 4:22 pm

    A farm without a good hunting cat or two will soon realize how much they do need a cat. Mice seem to start moving in as soon as the cat moves out. Cats can go where dogs cannot get too, especially in the hay loft or behind feed barrels.

    • November 29, 2015 4:56 pm

      Ellie, that’s for sure, as soon as our mama cat disappeared the packrats moved in, and the Steller’s Jays started eating the flint corn. She was a good hunter, but I think her presence made a difference too. The babies and their older brother are finally picking up the slack months later.

    • November 29, 2015 10:54 pm

      Plus keeping mice away keeps snakes away. You don’t want those in your egg boxes or your barn. Yikes.

      We always worried about a snake coming after the hens but as long as there were cats around, they never did.

  8. Bee permalink
    November 29, 2015 4:37 pm

    I wouldn’t want to even think about going without cats — inside or outside. This is rattlesnake country, and the snakes like small furry rodents. Since said rodents like grain, garden goodies and sneaking into the house, that means the snakes tag along. I once (stupidly) stuck my hand in a feed sack and a small rattlesnake went hell-for-leather out over my wrist; luckily the snake was too startled to go on the defensive or I could have had a nasty bite. (Yes, after that I kept my hands out of the sack.) We need at least four cats around the house environs to keep the rodent population small enough to discourage rattlesnakes from coming to visit. My older dog isn’t much for rodent patrol, although she’s hell on turkeys, deer and coyotes; don’t know yet how the pup will pan out in that respect. I figure it’s best to have multiple layers of defense…

    • November 29, 2015 4:54 pm

      Bee, so glad to not have to deal with snakes! I don’t know how you do it!

      • Bee permalink
        November 29, 2015 7:46 pm

        Mostly a matter of paying attention, and it’s not easy, because a rattler’s camouflage is excellent, especially if it’s in a pile of leaves. We really do try to live and let live, because the rattlers are one of the biggest enemies of the !$%@$^ ground squirrels; king and gopher snakes are the next biggest. That’s why I like having the cats around, as the snakes will head out looking for squirrel meals away from the house. I hate to kill a rattlesnake, and if they’re out away from the house, we always try let them go. We make plenty of noise so they know we’re coming and usually the snake just slides off so all we see is a track in the dust. In nine years on this place, we’ve only killed four, and all of them either went on the prod immediately or struck without rattling (those latter ones are the ones you really want to get rid of!). Could be worse — we could be in India dealing with cobras and kraits, which I understand have a mortality rate of 70-80 percent. Rattlesnake bites are painful and damage tissues, but aren’t usually fatal in humans. Not that I want to have the personal experience, you understand:-)

  9. November 29, 2015 8:12 pm

    Wonderful post thank you. The last photo is beautiful, what a beautiful cat.

  10. barefootfarmflower permalink
    November 29, 2015 8:15 pm

    This is why the cow is the center of the universe. Or at least the center of the farm. Just don’t tell the cats. We feed our milk to our livestock dogs, too. One of our dogs gets to come inside from time to time. The first thing he does is head straight for the kitchen and stare at the fridge. He remembers being a puppy and getting milk from that fridge. I think all the livestock does so well getting raw milk or left over whey. It keeps the farm resources loop closed, too.

  11. November 29, 2015 10:56 pm

    I often wonder where are these cats who don’t want to be petted, or the cats who act aloof. I’ve never known a cat who didn’t want to be petted! My two want to be right next to me at all times.

    I love dogs and cats but I suppose I lean more toward cats as a lifestyle choice, as they rarely need me to bathe them and never to walk them.

    • November 30, 2015 5:47 am

      Ms. Pris, I suppose it’s because the cats here spend more time being “wild” and on their own. Luckily I don’t need to walk my dogs, and bathing them? I never have, brushing maybe but not bathing.

  12. November 30, 2015 5:51 am

    I am exactly like you with cats. And every single time I begrudgingly become fond of one, an owl or a coyote or a car gets it and I am left with those less favored. I spent years getting my Elvis so he could live like an actual cat…he was kinda doglike. And the old Blue Heeler immediately killed him. Now we only have one left, a pretty fellow but one of those teases you mentioned who would really love to be petted, meowing and begging, except, “NO!!! don’t touch me”.

  13. November 30, 2015 5:57 am

    Ah yes – the cat conundrum. I rage about mice – therefore I need my cats. I’ve one that I allow in the house if I hear a mouse, usually in the pantry. I let her in, open the pantry door and in less time than it takes me to blink she’s found the mouse and killed it quite dead. Best mouse trap ever. We buy dry cat food- but they don’t go through a lot – and all of them will eat leftover people food, even vegetables. I don’t share the milk unless I get one of those random mornings where the cow sticks her foot in the pail.

  14. November 30, 2015 10:29 am

    Loved this post and the pics! Although I am a certified cat person and my current cats are spoiled house kitties, all future cats will probably be barn cats… unless I can figure out a good way to keep them out of the kitchen while I’m cooking.

    • November 30, 2015 12:21 pm

      Yeah, that’s the problem here, the dogs know better, and ask to go out to go potty. Kitties not so much 😦 I’ve had house cats before, but I kinda like a cat free house.

  15. Kathy permalink
    November 30, 2015 12:33 pm

    Hi, I was wondering if you would discuss your straw bale root cellar please.
    I’ve read about them but not real sure how they work. Thank you
    And thanks for sharing your life with us lagging behind and only get to dream
    About what you do!!

  16. November 30, 2015 1:11 pm

    The Cats aren’t allowed in the house here either but that doesn’t stop them from making those “hurry up” noises if you happen to be running late in the morning.

    • November 30, 2015 2:15 pm

      Oh my gosh, you do still exist on in the interwebs! I saw your comment on Three Collie the other day. Lydia and I were lamenting the fact that you don’t have an Instagram account 😦 Good to hear from you!

      • December 1, 2015 10:13 am

        Glad to be back….how IS the kid….probably not a kid anymore at all. I’ve thought of both of you often and did check in a few times but couldn’t comment as I’d lost my password and was too lazy to find it😕

        • December 1, 2015 1:20 pm

          The “kid” is great! In between mounts right now, so it’s been kinda quiet in the barnyard with just the milk cow hanging around. No equine drama 😉

  17. November 30, 2015 4:20 pm

    Fun post! We have a cat problem here as every time I open the kitchen door (i.e. the barn) they all dash inside. It’s maddening. But they are super good mousers and definitely earn their keep.

  18. November 30, 2015 6:49 pm

    Oh it’s never so simple here where feral cats are declared pests in their millions that decimate the native animal population and are the cause of 100 species currently on the endangered list. There are plans to fund the removal of some of the estimated 20million of them out there. We have a mama in the hayshed at the moment, hopefully eating up some of the mice but she’s not there all year, there’s only ever one (after the kits grow) and we don’t have anything to do with her (she’s not fed or watered by us).

    We have a house cat (when I say ‘we’, our son left it behind when he left home) but she’s never been outside as is our preference for pet cats in Australia.

  19. Ali permalink
    November 30, 2015 8:11 pm

    We have one barn cat. Got him and his brother in April but his brother is probably an owl pellet as well now. He went missing the same day our mama goat got killed by a bob cat. I told everyone not to get attached to him because I knew within weeks of getting him that he wouldn’t last. He was too friendly and liked to play with the dog. His brother loves us but is more sketchy and keeps himself more hidden. He spends a week in the barn, then a week in the garage. This keeps the mice out of the house. And hunts outside by day. He’s a good hunter. I’ve seen him take a bird right out of the air. Question about your cats. Have you had any problems with your boy cats spraying around your house? I honestly don’t want to spend the money to neuter him since outdoor cats in the country tend not to last long but man do I hate that smell. He hasn’t started spraying yet but I’m guessing it will be soon. He’s our first tom cat since we’ve lived on our farm so I am not sure what to expect.

    • November 30, 2015 9:19 pm

      Ali, we found the neutered boys didn’t get big enough to defend themselves and they disappeared quickly. They do spray, but the dogs keep them from the house mostly, so it’s not much of a problem.

  20. Ben permalink
    December 1, 2015 3:30 pm

    Can I be a dog and a cat person? Oh, and a horse person? Now I sounds like a crazy person. Good to see you’re blogging again 😉 I’ve thought about firing up the old blog again… but I’ve never been very good at keeping up with it. Instagram may be more my speed. I like writing but never seem to have the time/motivation.

  21. adpeoples permalink
    December 2, 2015 1:03 pm

    Those are cats being cats.I have had a lot of cats in my life time.You should make cat calender.

  22. January 3, 2016 6:18 am

    Love this one, lol. Best to not do the math… your cats & dogs eat better than most people. I’m still little haunted by a couple of cat losses. Sadly it’s always the charming ones that warm your heart and never the nasty skittish ones that have a bad end… Happy New Year Matron, nice to catch up with you & your farm. I’ve been a very bad blogger last year…

  23. Esther permalink
    January 5, 2016 7:59 pm

    I love my cats and it hurts when I lose one. We live in the country and they get “got”, I think by bobcats or coyote… I am not too sure. I have 5 now, all fixed. I have lost 2 over the last 5 years. I bring them in at night. They are pets, that come with fringe benefits, taking care of the mice and other rodents. I used to have mice in my attic… But none since the cats came 5 years ago.

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