Feral cats

I live in a rural area with just a couple of other barns nearby, one of which has sheep and chickens/ducks. I have chickens which are in a run but I allow to roam free as much as I can while I am there.

Unfortunately I have mice and rats around my chicken run and rabbits in the garden. It occurred to me that getting a couple of feral cats may be a good idea but would that cause a problem to the chickens and also to the lambs next door when they are born?



  • ClaringtonClarington Posts: 4,892

    I've never heard of farm cats (or ferral) harming lambs and a flock of chickens will put a cat quite firmly in its place!

  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 11,099

    My brother in law has a cat as well as chickens. they agree to ignore each other.  I am assuming you will be feeding said feral cats. Cats are better at catching mice when they are fed.

    It's not a mess, it's a nature reserve.
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 829

    Have had cats and chickens and they are fine together.  Cats will not harm lambs.

    But why feral cats?....not really a great idea.  You will need to provide some food for them.  We farmed for years and had farm cats.  They were very friendly and definitely earned their keep.  If I were you I would get a couple of older kittens in the spring or early summer.  You'll need to feed them well and look after them until they can hunt themselves; then you will need to supplement this depending on how much they catch.  They will need shelter but if you've a barn with straw, that will probably be cosy enough for them. 

  • LynLyn Posts: 8,086

    You will also need to de flea and worm regularly, rats have fleas and the cats will get tape worms. 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 
  • Have you got a rat-proof feeder for the chickens? Reducing food supply is the best rodent control.

  • BerghillBerghill Posts: 2,805

    We have three good hunting cats, but even so when we had hens we still got the occasional rat. Our one rat hunting cat (sadly gone now) cost us a fortune in treatment for abscesses which he got from rat bites.

    The hens soon put them in their place. And the best mousers we ever had were the hens themselves.

    As said making sure the hen food is not accessible to rodents is the best control.

  • Yes I have two of those feeders the hens have to step on to get at the food. Last weekend one of the feeders would not open, I realised something was blocking  the food shield. Managed to get it open and found a dead rat inside the container. It had obviously managed to push its way in but then was trapped inside.

    I suggested feral cats because SWMBO wont have them inside the house, yes I would set up somewhere in one of the sheds for them to live and feed and water them but they would not be allowed in the house.

  • PosyPosy Posts: 976

    Many cat rescue sites, including the RSPCA are eager to find homes for feral cats which have been caught, neutered,  wormed and so on, but are not suited to indoor life and are not pet material. They need a clean, warm shelter, food and general care but they do not move into your house - though I believe some are willing to try! They can live out their lives as they choose and will scare away much vermin as they do so. It's very important that any feral cats that just turn up are neutered and these societies will advise and often pay for this to be done. They will catch the little beggars for you, too.

  • Muddle-UpMuddle-Up Posts: 9,344

    A feral female and her kitten turned up here about 6 years ago.  Unapproachable.  Moved into a big trailer in the garage.  Proceeded to have kittens.....more kittens....more kittens.  We rehomed all of them ( including 3 which are now my tame indulged 'indoorsers' ).  Finally managed to trap/catch the ferals, had them neutered and now they live happily together, still in the garage, warm and cosy billet, fed every day by softie here.....but I have no rats, no rabbits, and for what it's worth, they aren't interested in killing birds.

    The CPL are always looking for outside homes for rescued ferals, whom they will neuter and innoculate for you, as Posy says, above...they will not harm lambs, and most chickens will give them a run for their money.  Many foxes are also very wary of feral cats.

    Last edited: 11 December 2017 14:34:38

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  • LynLyn Posts: 8,086

    My cat, he’s 10 now, has never tackled a rat, mice are his thing, even then, he doesn’t catch many, and never touches the birds even though he sits by the feeders watching them. 

    He may have done if I’d shut him out for the nights, but I like him in before we go to bed. 

    He‘s petrified of the blackbirds they swoop right down on him and he cowers on the ground. 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 
  • I rehomed two semi-feral cats from the RSPCA some years ago.   They lived in the garage/shed and I had two cat flaps fitted before the cats arrived.  I was advised to keep them inside for a few weeks in order for them to get to know me a bit before allowing them access to the outside. I would spend a little while in the shed several times a day, "talking" to them when putting food down  & dealing with their litter tray.  I didn't actually see them for about three weeks to begin with because  whenever they heard me open the door they would go and hide amongst all the stuff in the shed.  One day I happened to look up and saw them both sitting on the rafters &  gazing down at me - they were beginning to get confident enough not to worry too much.  A couple of weeks later they were on the floor waiting to be fed and eventually I was able to touch them,  Took a while, and in the meantime a friend made an outdoor cage for them, which we fitted outside one of the cat flaps.  This enabled them to see the outside and after another week or so - on a fine day - I removed the cage and waited until they came out and saw me there.  They went exploring for a while and then came back to be fed.

    They became very friendly towards me in the end, but were still very wary of other people.  They did a very good job ref dealing with various rodents etc and - more useful for me - they acted as a great rabbit deterrent too, as my garden was over-run with wild rabbits which were causing a great deal of damage to plants and the lawned areas.   Since they died (natural causes for one and the other was run over and killed on  the main road) the rabbits have taken over again - though I'm hopeful that things might change since the feral cats from the smallholding nearby have arrived in the shed now!

    Last edited: 11 December 2017 15:24:29

  • LynLyn Posts: 8,086

    How lovely to hear from people praising the feral cats, usually there are people complaining about them. 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 
  • Richard168 says:

    Yes I have two of those feeders the hens have to step on to get at the food. Last weekend one of the feeders would not open, I realised something was blocking  the food shield. Managed to get it open and found a dead rat inside the container. It had obviously managed to push its way in but then was trapped inside.

    See original post

    Sounds very annoying if the rats are getting into the feeders. Perhaps it might be possible to attach extra weight to the shield to stop the rats from pushing it open. The one we have looks like this: https://www.solwayfeeders.com/news/article/treadle-feeder-rat-proof/ (it's the smaller 10 kg version though not the 20 kg as illustrated).

  • Thank you all for your comments. I now need to convince SWMBO as she will be feeding them during the week (I still work in London unfortunately).

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 829

    SWMBO?  Assuming a partner who doesn't like cats.image

  • She does not like indoor cats that I do know

  • You may very well make yourself very unpopular with your neighbours re cat poo in other peoples gardens!

  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 1,710
    Cottage Compost says:

    You may very well make yourself very unpopular with your neighbours re cat poo in other peoples gardens!

    See original post

    That is a suburban problem, not a rural one.

    You may find that if you 'build it, they will come'. In most rural areas, there are cats about, and if you provide a warm safe spot to sleep, one will quite possibly turn up, at which point you can start to feed it to keep it around. But you may find you get a stray cat rather than a feral one.

    There's a vast difference between stray cats and feral ones. Ferals are rarely seen, charleyfarley's cats were very likely feral. We had a stray cat this time last year that we managed to catch with her kittens. We'd been told she was feral but when we actually got to handle her, she was just a very timid cat, not at all wild. Ferals don't generally want to be pets, strays do and will move in to your house if you let them.

    To rehome a feral and care for it properly would be a great thing to do - I wish I could offer to here, but with 3 lurchers, I doubt the cats would stay around very long. 

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time
    Sir Terry Pratchett
  • PosyPosy Posts: 976

    Feral is one of those terms that cover a multitude of sins. Truly feral cats are born wild and have no contact with humans, although they may hang about where rubbish is put out such as hospitals and even schools as well as farms and so on. They are often joined by strays which have been lost, abandoned or chased from their own territory. A feral kitten, taken very young, will be a normal domestic pet and a stray can be rehabilitated but truly feral adult cats rarely become fully tame.

  • A year or two back I came across a feral cat in our sheep field. He was black and white and living in an old badger sett, so of course got called Badger.

    I took him the occasional offering of food, more often in autumn, but as winter threatened I thought he would be hard pressed to survive. We often get heavy snow, usually with drifting and I could not guarantee being able to feed him every day as his lair was was well over a quarter mile away. By this time he was quite friendly with me and enjoyed a stroke, so I thought it was worth trying to bring him in.

    I caught him easily enough in the cat box, and he settled into life in the spare room, but it was very soon apparent that he was not prepared to share a home with other cats.His murderous intent was obvious and with one very old and one very small cat as well as three others, I could not risk having him about close to home. Regrettfully, I took him to a local cat refuge and I hope that they were able to rehome him somewhere where he could be king.

    I suspect that in the past we have taken in some of their 'clients' as we have given a home to several other wanderers during our time here.

    Rufus was a ginger tom, he never came into the house and left us after we had him castrated!, but four others stayed.  

    Felix disappeared and we never found out what had become of him, though he had been with us for months.

    Shadow was a black cat with a white undercoat, timid and very hard to see when he appeared at dusk in search of food, but he very slowly became tame and moved in after tasting some roast lambimage

    Tippy-toes Fred had white tips to his black toes and was lovely, he danced on his hind legs when he wanted milk. I found him dead under the kitchen table one day, suspect  poisoned, possibly found a rat at the farm next door, though I know Tom was careful with his bait.

    Bonus turned up in the front porch one day, in a sorry state, very thin,  full of cat flu and with his claws worn down from walking. We got him to the vet and he recovered and had a few more years with us, becoming known as Bonus the boiler cat from his favourite sleeping place. He never quite got over the flu though, and was always a sneezy cat with damaged lungs, but he was happy and warm and well fed at last.

    All of these co-existed with our other cats at the time with no problems, but as there are only widely scattered farmhouses round about,  any strays will have had a very long walk, or more likely just been dumped by their previous owners. image

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