In the Beginning: the Cats

When we moved to Oak Hill, we brought my two registered Maine Coon cats with us. I used to breed cats, but had "retired" several years before, and these were the last of my elderly, now-spayed, breeding stock that I'd kept as pets. I wasn't about to let them outdoors here in the wild.

Our next-door neighbor (who lives a quarter of a mile away) offered a cat to our daughter almost as soon as we moved here. He and his wife were overrun with barn cats, evidently. Our daughter was thrilled to have her own cat, and said "YES! Please bring me a friendly one!"


And so Buddy, a young orange and white male, came to live at Oak Hill. We were a little nervous about leaving him outdoors that first night, but there he was in the morning, right outside the door of the travel trailer we were temporarily living in.

After a few weeks, our neighbor offered our daughter a second cat, and she said "YES! Please bring me a friendly one!" They brought an orange tabby male, a little older than Buddy; she named him Amigo. She loved having pets that were hers alone, and for several months we had just the two.

Then we brought home a longhaired grey tabby female from a livestock auction, where someone was giving away kittens. All of our current barn cats are descended from Ella.

And then our neighbors suggested we come get another kitten. At that point, since they were all living outside anyway, we thought "what's one more?" So we drove down the road to their place, and our daughter caught a rather skittish female kitten that she named Callie, short for calico.

Our barn cats are all friendly and personable, but they are also working livestock. Our cats earn their keep by killing gophers, bugs, mice and rats. They've alerted me to snakes and scorpions. Along the way we've also lost some songbirds and baby wild rabbits, but it's impossible to tell a cat to "hunt this but don't hunt that."

And even though they are working livestock, they are also much loved. They each have names, are well-cared-for, and are fed regularly. Some folks don't feed barn cats, thinking it will make them better hunters. I firmly believe that my mouse-hunting barn cats are worth their weight in cat food.

Over the years we've realized that our neighborhood cats are all related to some degree, even those that live a mile up the road. While I absolutely hated that we lost so many of our barn cats last summer to coyotes, it does give me the opportunity to bring in a couple new kittens from other places that will bring some new material to the gene pool. I hope that the new bloodlines will help out the neighbors' cat populations too.


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