Willowview Hill Farm


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Caring for Barn Cats?

Veterinarian shares 8 tips for looking after our most resourceful felines.

Barn cats are kings and queens at horse farms and ranches, keeping away varmints like moles, mice and consequentially, even snakes. But even the most independent outdoor cats can benefit from added protection and routine care.

For advice on caring for barn cats, we turned to Oklahoma State University's Assistant Clinical Professor with the College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Peakheart.

Purrr-use these top tips for thriving barn cats:

1 Offer any outdoor cats (and dogs) a safe, warm place to sleep. A heated or insulated cat house is perfect for keeping outdoor cats in winter months cozy. Also, ensure they have plenty of food and fresh water. Consider a heated water bowl to help prevent frozen water during wintertime.

2 Make plenty of noise before starting up your vehicles or farm equipment, especially during the colder months when outdoor cats look for places to stay warm, like under the hood of your vehicle. Dr. Peakheart warns others to, “Make sure you bang on the hood before starting the car to give them a chance to get out.”

3 Construct a perch or loft area, so barn cats have a safe space from potential predators. “Offer them a few choices,” encourages Dr. Peakheart. “Cats love high perches or small holes they can dive into, if needed.”

4 Spay and neuter to prevent litters, as well as to deter them from roaming away, fighting with others and overall, from channeling their inner ‘Tomcat.’

5 Have an updated identification tag on their collar, and if possible have them microchipped, which is an easy option available at veterinary clinics during their spay or neuter procedure. This way, should they be lost or picked up by city animal welfare, there is a better chance of being reunited with them.

6 Store feed in enclosed bins or feed rooms to deter food-indulging predators, such as raccoons and others that can harm even the toughest barn cats. Dr. Peakheart warns that, “Other wildlife can spread diseases, like rabies, intestinal parasites, and fleas and ticks. Opossums can carry so many fleas, they are like walking flea salt shakers.”

7 Place common chemical-based items like horse fly spray and antifreeze safely out of sight. Some substances, even when ingested in small amounts, can cause seizures (or worse) in cats. Cats do not even have to ingest some of the fly sprays or other chemicals to be affected, just being around them while they are in use or still wet can cause damage. While they may not purposely ingest some things, they will groom it off their fur – like antifreeze, in which even the smallest amounts can cause acute kidney failure in cats.

8 Prioritize preventive care for healthy barn cats, including cat vaccines, parasite, flea and tick control, and heartworm prevention. Talk with your veterinarian about any additional health considerations for your barn cat.
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