I have been and will continue to be a fervent anti-cat activist. Growing up we had cats that I was very fond of. My brain still thinks I remember getting picked up from preschool, going to the animal shelter and picking out our first two kittens, one of which lived until I was in college. All the warm fuzzies I had for these animals faded in an ecology class where we discussed the cumulative effect of feral house cats on native bird and small mammal populations. You can read one of many studies here, spoiler alert they cause significant reductions and extinctions in those small mammal and bird populations. So as an environmentalist, I don't like cats. Mostly outdoor cats, but where do you think those come from?
The first or second night we slept in our new 120 year old farm house it sounded like a dozen mice were dancing just over our heads. I suddenly found myself attempting to cause a significant reduction and potential extinction in the local small mammal population. We now know it was at least a dozen mice as well as a family of squirrels (grey and red) and some chipmunks. One man, a bunch of mouse traps and a pellet gun cannot fend off this army of rodents from a barn full of delicious grain and an attic full of cozy insulation. I needed back up. I begrudgingly floated the idea of barn cats to Diantha who, as usual, was way ahead of me. It was however, the middle of winter and we wanted the cats to grow up in the barn, not the house. So I continued my rodent rampage as a lone soldier.
On a recent trip to the farmers market to buy plant starts we ran into Mary Skovsted of Joe's Brook Farm. She randomly asked if we needed any cats, they had found two that needed a home. We said we would think about it. In addition to the rodents Lily's favorite animal, despite our best efforts, has been cats since she was old enough to express an opinion. She has all things Kitty, kitty shoes, kitty books, kitty shirts, kitty vitamins, at least 5 stuffed animals, all named (insert some descriptor Kitty), the list goes on. She may like them more than pinecones and that's saying something. It has always been inevitable that we would get a cat, its just been a matter of time.
I stopped by Joe's Brook Farm to get the scoop on the cats and see if they would be a good fit. We discussed my one man war with the rodents and Eric (farmer) asked if I had heard the story of these kittens. I had not so he filled me in. The crew was laying plastic weed barrier in the field and therefore need the weed barrier. They pulled it out of the top of the barn, dragged it to the truck, ratchet strapped it down, drove to the field, pushed it off the back of the truck, dragged it across the field and started spreading it out when one of the crew did a double take and saw a kitten and by kitten I mean newborn cat (less than 1 week old). They gathered him up, finished the job and went home. Next day they are walking in the field and find two more kittens that had emerged from the plastic. A thorough search of the field found no more stray cats. The kittens were taken to their local cat care taker where two of the three survived. So they seem to be that good wild barn cat sort of scrappy and tough. The kind of cats that would take on an army of squirrels. Sold.
A few days later we contacted the neighbor who had taken them in and set up a visit to see them. One of those visit where you say your going to look but you know your two and a half year old has already made up your mind. So just like that we have two cats. Lily first named them Granola and Hat, two very classic names. An hour later she changed Hat's name to Granola and Granola's name to Boots. They will be tolerant for sure with Lily at the helm. We are working on being gentle with them, Lily has a lot of love that sometimes translates poorly to cat handling, but like with all things on the farm we're getting there.