Farm Cats

Farm Cats

There are a lot of rural cats in Canada; research estimates somewhere between 2.7 and 3.3 million. Not only do some farmers have their own cats, but some city folks seem to think a farm is an ideal home for a cat, and abandon kittens or unwanted cats in the country.

This is a reprehensible practice that is cruel to the animals, and can leave farmers struggling to cope with resident populations of feral cats. It’s also a crime: the Criminal Code of Canada specifies that anyone who abandons an animal or anyone who “wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care” is guilty of a criminal offence. Unwanted cats and kittens are much better off if taken directly to a shelter or rescue, where they have a better chance of finding a safe and happy home. Not only that, but it’s not fair to the farmers, who have to deal with the results.

Farmers often use cats for pest control, and such cats are usually allowed to roam outdoors. Unfortunately, this allows them to hunt birds and wildlife as well as mice, and puts the cats themselves at risk from various outdoor dangers. There are a number of species of birds that are classed as threatened — for example, the Barn Swallow (pictured)– that are frequent residents of farms. Barn Swallow populations have decreased 65% since 1966, and the species is at risk of becoming endangered if conservation action isn’t taken.

We don’t have all the answers, but we want to work with farmers to figure out some solutions. In the meantime, we call on farmers to ensure their cats are spayed and neutered to prevent them from contributing to cat overpopulation. In the future, we wonder, would creating habitat for natural predators such as Red-tailed Hawks, or American Kestrals or even Barn Owls be a useful strategy? Are there other solutions that might solve the problem for farmers and for cats and birds? More research is required.

We encourage farmers to join in the conversation about how they can contribute to keeping cats safe & saving bird lives.