Yesterday afternoon, I took the short walk across my yard to the other side of our barn to take some pictures of my Concord Grape Vine for an upcoming post and was met with the sad eyes of a scrawny cat. I wish I could say I was surprised by the sudden appearance of a juvenile cat on our property but at this point, I just am not. What I do still find confusing is how a cat can be suddenly abandoned as we transition the coldest months of the year in Upstate New York.
While this is not a post I generally like to write, this has been gnawing at me for years, and something I have been wanting to say for a long time. When you drop your housecat off at a farm, The majority of the time you are literally sentencing your once loved pet to a very short, and very difficult life.
I have been feeding this pretty cat for a couple of days, and while I know she isn’t feral, I have been trying to gauge if she would survive if we moved her into our cow barn. She’s a scrappy little thing, and so far has survived by her wits, but she still craves the nearness of people and the security of a house.
The risks for outdoor cats are many: They’re all too often hit by cars, or eaten by coyotes. In our rural area, they accidentally get tangled up in our neighbor’s hunting traps, some starve to death. They fight with other cats, picking up diseases or getting painful abscesses. They are more susceptible to parasites. While the typical wild feral cat can maneuver through these risks for many years, house cats are simply not prepared for such dangers.
So, as I am preparing to surrender this pretty girl to Lollypop farm, I want it to be known: She didn’t learn to hunt, she was scrounging in my garbage. She wasn’t frolicking in the open pastures and catching field mice, she was struggling to survive, probably loaded with worms and fleas. She wasn’t curled up on a soft bundle of hay in the hay barn, she was living in a bucket in a hedgerow when I found her.
I have seen cats come and go here, and let me be clear. Cats that once lived in a house do not suddenly adapt to being dumped on a farm. There is no idyllic country life waiting for them here. There are hardships they are in no way prepared for. I have found kittens in my wood pile in the middle of winter, long past any point of saving them. My neighbor has had a cat with a mangled leg end up in her yard… a confused and displaced domestic housecat is easy prey for the ever growing pack of coyotes that travel through the farm.
Not only is it an incredibly difficult transition for the cat, now I have to shoulder the responsibility someone shirked and spend my time trying to either catch or trap her to take her to a shelter. We and every other farmer I know take the care of all the animals on our farm very seriously, we pay for food and medical expenses for all of the animals here, and because I know she needs to be dewormed and get some flea medication I will make a $40 donation to help offset the shelter’s costs to provide her medical care. We are not a cat household, but I don’t have the stomach to let her starve and go without medical care, or the comfort and security she grew accustomed to before she showed up here.
So, What Really Happens When You Drop a Cat Off at a Farm? If you are lucky a farmer will notice the abandoned house cat, well out of its element and will either take it in, or find a suitable home or placement.
But more often than not, we find them too late, because, for a house cat, the realities of being dropped at a farm are much harsher than what is generally pictured.