Wanted: a few good barns

A working cat initiative heals feral cats from NYC and gives them new lives in the country

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 12/9/20

They’ll work for cat food and basic care, and all they want in return is a safe place to live and a chance to do their jobs.

These are working cats, and a New York City-based nonprofit is …

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Wanted: a few good barns

A working cat initiative heals feral cats from NYC and gives them new lives in the country

Posted

They’ll work for cat food and basic care, and all they want in return is a safe place to live and a chance to do their jobs.

These are working cats, and a New York City-based nonprofit is bringing them—healthy, neutered and in need of a new home—to our area.

All that’s needed are barns.

“Working cats [provide] a mutually beneficial relationship for farmers,” said Meagan Licari, president of PuppyKittyNYC (PKNYC).

Under PKNYC’s Barn Cat Initiative, barn owners agree to feed the cats, making sure they have water and veterinary care and a safe place to live. The cats, in turn, deal with the rats and mice that can come with country life. “Cats are natural pest control,” said Licari. “They help control the rodent population. You don’t want to put poison near your feed.”

Licari’s all-volunteer organization was founded in 2014. It’s a Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) program that does just that. They will also vaccinate and provide any other necessary medical care, including surgery, before finding them a forever home or releasing them.

But sometimes, that means the cats go to work instead, and that’s where our counties come in.

The barn cat program began in 2017 and grew through word of mouth.

It fills a void. Sometimes, once a cat has been rescued and cared for, it’s obvious that the usual next step won’t work. Maybe the cat isn’t suited for indoor life, but they’re happy to live near humans. They just aren’t pets. Maybe they’re cranky or maybe they prefer to be outside, hanging with other outside animals.

And there are times when releasing a cat back onto the streets isn’t an answer, either. Sometimes, after medical care, “all these things we fix, it doesn’t make sense to put them in the same environment,” Licari said.  Maybe the cat is just too beta to survive for long on the street, or maybe it’s just too young.

Rural life is ideal for a working cat. There’s room to hunt. A cat can certainly work in New York City, but there are more dangers there, she said. Cars are number one. “A lot of people consider [cats] vermin or pests.” Raccoons will pick fights, rats will eat kittens and, unfortunately, cats can’t always get away from a human predator fast enough.

PKNYC placed 40 cats in barns in 2019.

The group has a one-month acclimation period once a cat has relocated, allowing the cat to get used to regular food at its new home. “It reinforces that’s where their food source is,” Licari said. “And then they naturally hunt.”

Taking in a barn cat saves the life of a feline with few other options, and it can solve your rodent problem, too.

Contact PKNYC at www.puppykittynyc.org/barn-cat-initiative.

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