Barn cats. They come in all colors, temperaments, and states of fertility. Often they lead mysterious lives, appearing, leaving for days, only to return again and again. Where do they come from? Where do they go? How do they get back? Or were they there all along, and if not, what was eating their food every night?
Sometimes barn cats become house cats and their gratitude makes them the most treasured pets. Others have a heated tack room and piles of saddle pads for a bed. They make a living keeping the rodent population safely and effectively at bay and entertaining the customers’ kids. Then there are those that show up pregnant, terrified of humans.
Sue Pizzini of Oxford, PA, who works with ForgottenCats.org, had a barn cat that befriended her 30-something year old horse, Nomad. “Nomad lost his teeth and we would feed him soft slushy foods like oatmeal, beet pulp and hay cubes soaked to mush. Connie, the cat, would eat some with him while he ate and often slept under him or behind his back feet,” she said. “Every day Connie would wait for Nomad to be brought in to eat and stay with him, not even eating her own food just so she could be with him.”
Linda Wickham of Spring Grove, PA, writes of saving a starving black cat, full grown but “just two inches wide” she named Zorro. Zorro and his brother were rescued by a vet from a local prison, dropped off at her trainer’s farm to be barn cats, and promptly disappeared. (To read the entire story about the Zorros, now 14 pound roasters living in Linda’s insulated barn, Connie and other reader submissions, click here)
Summer is kitten season, and though there’s nothing cuter, one pregnant mom can spawn a barn full of cats in very little time. Feline overpopulation can become a problem for owners of barns.
New research suggests it’s not necessary to wait six months to alter kittens. According to Michael R. Moyer, V.M.D, Rosenthal Director of Shelter Animal Medicine for the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, “There is a substantial body of knowledge that 8 to 12 week spay and castration of cats can be as safe as when done at six months of age. There appear to be no significant negatives.” Waiting until six months creates the risk that female kittens will get pregnant before you can schedule surgery, making the cat population problem worse. And males neutered before six months of age will never spray.
Kittens should stay with their mothers until they are at least 7-8 weeks old, so getting them spayed/neutered and then finding them an inside home helps tremendously in reducing unwanted births.
What to do with a feral cat?
According to Alley Cat Allies, an organization devoted to the welfare of feral cats, cats that are not socialized to humans should not be turned over to an animal control pound or shelter. Though feral cats are members of the domestic cat species and are protected under state anti-cruelty laws, animals that are not adoptable are killed in shelters. Even no-kill shelters are not able to place feral cats in homes.
Feral kittens can often be adopted into homes if they are socialized at an early age. There is a critical window, and if they aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable. (for tips on socializing feral kittens visit www.alleycat.org.)
Alley Cat Allies reports that feral cats can be as healthy and long-lived as pet cats. The incidence of disease in feral cats is just as low as in pet cats. They live healthy, natural lives on their own, content in their outdoor home.
While catch and kill doesn’t work, because the food source and shelter that attracted the cats will cause survivors to breed to capacity or new cats to move in, trap-neuter-return does work. The population stabilizes and their lives are improved. The behaviors and stresses associated with mating, such as yowling or fighting, stop. The cats are vaccinated before being returned to their outdoor home. Not only does Trap-Neuter-Return make good sense, it is also a responsible, humane method of care for outdoor cats.
So – spaying and neutering is the effective if expensive solution. Following is a list of organizations that provide the service at a low cost.
Forgotten Cats, Inc.
Claymont, DE and Willow Grove, PA
On-site spay/neuter clinics. $50/male cats, $70/females. Discounts for trapped
ferals ($25 with ear tip; $40 without ear tip). Price includes: spay/neuter, pain meds, shots, deflea.
Willow Grove: 215-219-8148.
Organization for the Responsible Care of Animals
401 East Orange Street
Lancaster, PA 17602
Low-cost, fixed-price spay/neuter program serving Lancaster Co. Also Lost and Found pets in Lancaster County, and Aid to Animals in Distress.
PO Box 855
Camp Hill, PA 17001
(717) 957-8122 mailbox #3
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Low-cost spay/neuter in Central Pennsylvania. Contact them for additional information on programs.
PA P.E.T.S. (Prevent Excess Through Sterilization)
PO Box 64
Lewisburg PA 17837
Toll free 1-866-472-7387
Low cost s/n to qualifying residents who live in Union, Snyder, or Northumberland counties.
Animal Rescue and Referral
PO Box 16
Richboro, PA 18954
215-752-7556 or 215-322-9251
Information about low cost spay/neuter for feral cats.
CATS (Changing Attitudes for Tomorrow’s Solutions)
Pine Grove PA
For pet cats, farm cats, stray cats, and feral cats in the Harrisburg, Lebanon, and Pine Grove areas of Pennsylvania.
Spay & Save
PO Box 122
Lafayette Hill, PA 19444
610-279-9714 or 610-277-6187
Low cost spay/neuter for pets of those needing financial assistance.
Centre Halle, PA 814-364-1725
Philadelphia, PA 215-426-6300
Homeless Cat Management Team
Spay-neuter for feral cats in southwestern Pennsylvania. Leave a message in voice mailbox 4.
Animal Birth Control
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
This organization has a network of 35 participating veterinarians in western Pennsylvania for low cost spay/neuter of pets. They can also help people find services for feral cats.
Animal Rescue League of Western PA
6620 Hamilton Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Low cost spay/neuter clinic.
Animals in Distress
PO Box 168
Catasauqua, PA 18032
Animal Education League
Lost cost s/n in PA, DE, and NJ.
Lehigh Valley Humane Society
Low cost spay/neuter for all pets.
Frazer, PA 19355
Various low cost and subsidized spay/neuter programs throughout Pennsylvania’s Delaware Valley.
Norristown, PA 19403
Gives information about low cost spay/neuter.
Humane League of Lancaster County, PA
Low cost spay/neuter for unowned cats such as feral cats and barn cats.
Humane Society of Lackawanna County
967 Griffin Pond Road
Clarks Summit, PA 18411
Low cost spay/neuter for pets of people with low income.
Ruth Steinert Memorial SPCA
Low cost spay/neuter clinic
Spay Neuter Assistance Program
Listing of participating vets in central PA who will alter cats at low cost.
Animal Rescue Inc.
New Freedom PA