Texas animal shelter has a barn cat program that’s an ‘unemployment agency’ for feral cats

According to the Humane Society of the United States, feral cats produce up to 80 percent of the kittens* born in the United States. Many shelters are coming on board with trap, neuter, return as a way to reduce that number and help with rodent control without dangerous and expensive chemicals. This story comes out of Mesquite, Texas.

feral cat
barn cat program cat (screenshot)
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Jared Walker owns a 40-acre hay farm in Sulphur Springs, Texas. For the past five years he’s dealt with snakes in his fields and mice nibbling on the cables of his farm equipment. The Mesquite Animal Shelter offered him a solution to fix his problem and he’s sharing the story of his “unemployment agency” cats.

Like many others plagued by vermin, Jared had tried using chemicals without much success. They not only didn’t work but Jared didn’t like the idea of his two-year-old nephew or his dogs being exposed to dangerous chemicals. So when the shelter offered him four feral cats, he was on board with it. It’s only been a month and he’s noticed fewer pests.

“This is a good, easy, cost-effective solution to combat the problem that I’ve been facing for the last five years. I’m just giving them shelter and a little bit of food, and they save me, in the long run, a lot.”

The barn cat program started in April 2019. It matches up feral cats, free of charge, and helps pair feral cats with the person needing pest control. Some cats may be totally feral and want nothing to do with humans, others may be a bit tamer.

Cats are trapped, fixed and released, some in the area where trapped and others through their new barn cat program. A total of 920 cats between 2017 and 2018 were TNR’d. This year, it has received about 250 with two dozen going into the barn cat program.

Jeanne Saadi, managing director of Mesquite Animal Services says these are really working cats, so she likes to think of the barn cat program as the unemployment agency for feral cats.

It begins by Mesquite residents obtaining a permit to trap the cats. The permit is good for three weeks and is renewable by phone. It comes with a loaner trap. Once the cat is trapped, the shelter will pick it up and keep the cat for three days in case it has an owner. Even cats who are aggressive or people-shy are kept in case the cat is lost and scared.

barn cat
barn cat candidate (screenshot)

After the three days is up the cat is taken to a veterinarian who checks it out and looks for disease. The cat is then spayed/neutered, it receives vaccinations and an ear-tip.

Not only is Mesquite working to curb the feral cat problem, Dallas Animal Services also has a TNR program. Director Ed Jamison stated during an interview with Dallas News

“As long as they’re healthy, we take them back. The theory behind it is that they’re thriving because they have a food source, and catching and killing doesn’t change the population. Controlling birth rates does.”

Since Jared has such a large property, he says he’ll pick up as many cats as the shelter is willing to give him. Not only do farmers benefit from working cats, so do junkyards, plant nurseries and warehouses. With the dangerous impact chemicals have on the environment, why not implement a plan that saves a feral cat from euthanasia, is economical and cuts down on the cat population.

Please contact your local shelter if you’re interested in free pest control. Even shelters that don’t publicly advertise a barn cat program may have one. It’s worth checking out.

*Outdoor cat facts

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