Fayette County


Barn cats benefit families and farms


Most people don’t give a second thought to how many stray cats there are in Fayette County alone. There are many groups working countless hours to combat the problem, starting with spaying or neutering and vaccinating. Even cats that won’t become house cats can still be very beneficial to you. They need a safe place to call home, and they are a natural form of rodent control.
In many cases, cats that have spent their formative days outdoors will not be able to be socialized enough to become house cats. Instead, these cats will go through the Trap-Neuter-Return initiative, a program that identifies colonies of stray cats and gets them spayed or neutered to help humanely control the cat population.
These feral and semi-feral cats could be euthanized if they are taken to a shelter. It is really easy for a family to open their hearts and take on a couple of these social outdoor cats. Make sure they have some safe shelter and food, and they will repay you many ways over, as it is their natural instinct to hunt many rodents that might plague a house or farm. In fact, it is thought that cats were originally domesticated to help control vermin that can hurt a farm.
One Facebook group, Working Whiskers Barn Cats, is helping to connect many of those cats with new homes, while also helping out their new caretakers. When cats go through the TNR process, if they are too feral to be socialized into house cats, they will ideally be returned to where they were trapped with their colony. When cats cannot be returned to the same location and are in need of a new home, Working Whiskers Barn Cats, a network of TNR volunteers from local animal rescue groups, works to find a barn, garage, warehouse, or other facility where the cats would be welcome. With a source of food, the cats will adjust to their new surroundings and help stop the spread of disease and protect grain or other resources by controlling rodents.
The program has already seen success. Swanson Family Farm is a local farm in Hampton that took in two cats from Working Whiskers to help keep mice away from their grain.
“I totally had the wrong idea about barn cats. I was expecting standoffish, battle cats. These guys come when called, have adjusted to our dogs, cattle, and chickens and have very pleasant personalities. ‘The Cats,’ as they have been named, have become family,” said Wayne Swanson with the family-owned and operated Swanson Family Farm. “The Cats have done a great job of clearing the barn of mice and are now pushing the squirrels back from the fence line – aka Squirrel 285,” noted Swanson. “The Swanson Family Farm can’t thank (Working Whiskers) enough for these two additions to our staff.”
Even outside of sheltering cats, there are plenty of ways to help animals. One way to get involved is to volunteer with a local organization like Fayette Humane Society to learn how to become a humane trapper and help bring cats in to be spayed or neutered. Another opportunity is donating material for or building enclosures for cats, perhaps a great project for a Boy Scout troup or helping transport cats to be spayed or neutered. Food for feral cats and more traps are always needed, too.
For more information on barn cats and how to get involved, visit www.facebook.com/working.whiskers.

By Christopher Dunn

Managing Editor Christopher Dunn has been with the Fayette County News since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Victory magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.