[NAFEX] Cats for rodent control.

road's end farm organic101 at linkny.com
Sun May 8 11:27:47 EDT 2005

On May 6, 2005, at 12:25 PM, Jwlehman at aol.com wrote:

> In a message dated 5/5/2005 5:05:54 PM US Eastern Standard Time, 
> organic101 at linkny.com writes: (In black ink here [actually it seems to 
> have switched into italics])
> A good hunter will hunt even if well fed. This has not been my 
> experience. A well fed cat mostly lays around and sleeps. My 
> experience is they don't hunt for the fun of it but if a rodent jumps 
> out in front of a well cat he will catch it, but will not roam the 
> orchard just for fun.

Experience obviously varies. My very well fed cats hunt most of the day 
in decent weather (they do slow down as they get older) and would most 
of the night if I let them out after dark (we have coyotes.) See also 
the comments of several other posters on this list.

>  Please don't get a cat in order to keep it half starved. As a boy on 
> our farm we kept a cat(s) and fed it (them) all the milk they wanted, 
> nothing else. The main mama cat was very healthy, produced two litters 
> annually and always about 5 kittens. If number of litters and size is 
> an indicator of health that cat was very healthy and hunted for all 
> her protein, supplemented by milk. My experience has always been to 
> keep them slightly hungry. City cousins are always dumping cats here 
> and they will survive well without anyone feeding them. Produce 
> kittens too. If there is a good supply of rodents in the orchard they 
> will not be half starved! 

A few cats will do well under those conditions. (I  can think of an 
example from my own childhood, a cat who lived into her twenties. She 
did move into the house eventually, but not until she was well up into 
her teens.) Some adult cats can't digest milk well, and will do very 
poorly. Others do OK till the first time they get hurt or sick; in that 
condition they can't hunt well enough to get enough to eat in order to 
allow them to recover. I have taken ex-barn cats kept under those 
principles into my house and found them usually scrawny and frantic for 
food. They will sometimes do nothing but eat and sleep for weeks 
because they are so run down. Eventually they usually start hunting 
again, when their energy level builds back up.

If your female cats are producing 10 kittens a year, and if all these 
cats are "surviving well", then even without additions from city 
cousins you would have thousands of cats within a few years. Are you 
finding other homes for all the kittens every year? Are you getting 
them all spayed upon arrival? Or are they not all doing that well after 

I do know many people who keep barn cats in this fashion. In fact if 
you have a barn with livestock or other mouse attractors in it, and no 
indoor/outdoor cats to drive them off, you will have barn cats, as they 
will move in from other overpopulated barns, even if they're not dumped 
off; and many people can't afford to spay them, or to feed them 
anything but extra milk. I'm sure they're better off than stray city 
cats. And the common high death rate is a natural process, after all -- 
exactly what the mice and voles are going through. I just have a 
personal, and not entirely logical, distaste for applying it to cats.

You could compromise by supplying the cats with decent-quality dry 
food, but only one flavor of it, and no canned food. Most cats like 
variety, and this might increase their interest in going to look for 
it. But in my experience the individual cat's interest in hunting has 
more to do with it.

--Rivka (4 indoor/outdoor cats and one dog)
Finger Lakes NY; zone 5 mostly
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