Barn cats: adoption, care, kittens, and more!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Barn cats, also called farm cats or sometimes simply outdoor cats, are domesticated felines who live primarily outdoors on an agricultural properties. Typically shelter is available in the form of barns, stables, or other outbuildings. Cats are a fantastic addition to a farm, homestead, brewery, warehouse, junkyard, plant nursery, church, woodworking shop, or many other locations!

A fluffy orange cat sitting in the doorway of a barn
Cats can be a wonderful addition to a homestead or many other property types.

Benefits of keeping barn cats

Barn cats are typically well-balanced, happy cats. They make friendly additions to an outdoor space and bring joy and companionship. Having a farm cat around will help control rodent populations under control. Everybody knows that cats make great mousers! Cats eat bugs as well, which is an added bonus. Barn cats are low-maintenance residents, requiring just a little bit of upkeep. You can have all these benefits with very little work!

Additionally, barn cats are often rescue animals. Frequently, cats need rehoming when their personality does not fit well with a smaller more confined indoor living situation. Some cats just need to roam and express their innate hunter. By rescuing a cat who cannot live as a pet from a shelter, you’re saving a life on top of all the other wonderful benefits of opening your property to a farm cat.

A fluffy brown white and orange cat snoozing on an outdoor wooden surface
Barn cats make a fun companions to daily life.

How do you care for a barn cat?

Barn cats should be spayed or neutered to prevent you from gaining a handful of more new barn kittens every few months. They should be offered at basic or routine veterinary care. Call your veterinarian and ask what kind of vet visit schedule would be appropriate for outdoor cats on your property. Ensure that there are no toxic plants or chemicals that are accessible outdoors. Even though cats are generally self-sufficient, it is best to remove any obvious dangers for the health and safety of your cats.

A dirty torbie cat prowling toward the camera
Some barn cats are more domesticated, and some are more feral. All are useful and enjoyable outdoor companions.

How to keep barn cats around?

By providing food and a comfortable, safe shelter, cats are likely to stick around. Cats will hunt insects and rodents and feed themselves this way. However, if additional food is not provided, then the cat will hunt all the prey in the area and move on to a location with more food. If there is a location where the cat feels safe, he will return to it to rest. If there is an accessible location that is warm or dry in inclement weather, the cat will remain local to make use of this space.

Do outdoor cats need a litter box?

You should provide your farm cat with a litter box in a safe location that is protected from the elements. Most cats will not make use of the box, especially once they are well established in their territory. But it is important for cats to have their needs met, especially in the case of inclement weather.

Do you have to feed outdoor cats?

Yes! Outdoor cats need access to fresh food and clean water daily. Feeding a cat will not lessen its hunting of rodents. Cats are strongly motivated to hunt rodents and insects through an instinct to stalk prey. Your outdoor cats will not thrive on hunting alone, and if you do not feed them they will move on to a place where more food is available.

A brown tabby cat hunting on grass
Barn cats will hunt for rodents, insects, snakes, and other small critters! They are the best, cheapest, nontoxic exterminators.

Do barn cats kill chickens?

Whether or not a barn cat will kill chickens depends on the cat. Many people have had great success keeping both outdoor cats and chickens on their properties. Some say that the cats avoid the birds altogether, either out of disinterest or out of a desire to not get into an argument with them. Chickens are larger than the typical prey of a cat. However, chicks are the perfect size creature for cats to hunt, and must be carefully protected from barn cats as well as any other predators in the area. In general, there is a high likelihood of success with keeping both chickens and cats!

Do barn cats need heat?

If cats have access to an insulated house, a hutch, or some form of good basic shelter from the elements, they should be fine without additional heat sources. However, if it is a particularly cold situation or the shelter available to the cats is not adequate to protect them, a heat source such as these heating pads will help keep the cat from being injured by the elements.

A barn cat with a collar peering out from a segment of a large wooden building
Barn cats need protection from the elements in cold or hot weather.

Can barn cats become house cats?

Whether outdoor cats can become indoor pets depends on the nature of the cat. Some are fairly mellow and you will be ablate establish a relationship with them and invite them into your home. Some are fully feral and will never be comfortable around humans. It is unlikely that once a cat has lived outdoors, she will be happy living entirely confined indoors. If kittens are found in an outdoor living situation, they can be brought indoors and socialized before they are too old. Just don’t separate them from their mother too early! If you are able to socialize barn kittens between 7 and 12 weeks of age, they will be able to become indoor house cats.

Two kittens peeking out from within a wooden structure
Barn cats should be spayed and neutered. If kittens are found, they should be socialized as young as possible without separating them prematurely from their mother.

Do barn cats need shots?

Outdoor cats adopted from a program at an animal shelter or rescue will likely come to you with all the vaccinations needed for them to be healthy living outdoors.

Do barn cats eat snakes?

Yes, cats eat snakes. Cats will also hunt snakes and scare them away even if they do not eat them. Whether a barn cat will eat or scare away a snake naturally depends on the size of the cat and the size of the snake. However, it is well known that cats love to chase and hunt string toys. This tendency likely comes from an instinct to hunt snakes!

A barn cat lounging on a hay bale.
Barn cats will enjoy the outdoor spaces you have available!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Beth

    Cats don’t always have the upper hand with snakes. I had a huge yellow Tom named Andy. Sweet natured but dumb as a sack of hammers. He couldn’t
    conceive of anything NOT wanting to play with him. And he found a snake for a playmate. His left side of his face swelled up the size of a golf ball.
    Lesson Learned? Nah.
    I’m thinking, as go to break up a budding friendship between Andy and a King
    snake, that maybe he’s better off inside.

Leave a Reply