This article is a discussion on how to successfully turn a feral colony cat into a barn cat. While there are many online articles on the topic, I hope some of you with hands-on experience will share your tips.
Jo Edwards summed it up well in a January 17 Facebook post (be sure to check this out because there are a lot of good suggestions)
“Great ideas but we do not recommend moving cats unless they are in danger. It is often not successful no matter how hard you try. Cats are territorial and will try to make their way back to their home.
This is what you use to hold cats for a few weeks when you are training them to stay at your place of business, your barns or even your homes…cats need time to get used to sounds, smells, noises, other animals and people before you just turn them loose…”
There are many articles available online on everything from shelter to feeding. Most agree rehomed feral cats will need to be kept in a small space from two to four weeks. Some experienced barn cat placement representative suggests a longer period.
The photo above is the perfect example of food and shelter. The cat(s) will likely stay in the den because it will feel like the safest place. A new barn cat keeper may want to invest in a feral den where the cat can be shut into a small space while the cleaning and feeding are done.
The cage setup can be used alone or it can be placed in a small room inside the area the cat will be ‘working.’ The tack room in a barn is a good example.
Countryside daily has some good advice on what to feed (feral cats still need to be fed, not only to keep them around but because catching rodents is more for entertainment than for sustenance, although feral cats often do eat their kill).
“Cats need a diet that contains quality protein. Living outside, chasing rodents, eating rodents, running from the big dogs, all these activities require strong bodies and lots of energy. Cats are carnivores. They only eat meat. Cats do not need vegetables, sweets, or grain fillers. Most dry cat foods contain a protein amount of 22 percent or higher. Unless your cat has urinary tract issues, feed high-quality protein-rich food.”
Anyone looking to adopt a few barn cats should check with their local animal shelter or humane society and ask whether they have a barn cat program in place.
The only change I’d make to this setup is to consider covering the cage the first few days to allow the cats time to calm down. Ferals can go a bit crazy when first caged.