A Tale of Two Barn Kittens 


Photo of barn kittens by Alyssa Harkness

It is not uncommon for Shelter Me Inc, our animal rescue organization, to receive two or three queries every week from people asking us to help them find a barn home for a problem cat. Regrettably, more often than not we aren’t able to help. It is really pretty hard to find barn homes for cats. Basically, the barns that we work with tend to find us and they are usually new barns or they are established barns whose cat has died recently. In other words, barns seeking cats are few and far between.

When barns do find us, however, the ideal placement based on our experience is very frequently a bonded pair of semi-feral youngsters, about five to six months old. These are  animals  who have never known another home; they aren’t ever going to be happy as housecats and they have a close pal, usually a sibling, so we can place them together. We would never place a young semi-feral cat alone, for example.

The challenge about placing semi-feral youngsters, however, is that the cat rescuers who bring us these kittens are very particular about where we place them. We think that’s a really good thing because if we are working with a rescuer who is really enthusiastic about a barn we have found for her kittens, well then, we feel like we have made a good decision and are doing the right thing.That happened very recently with a rescuer we like a lot named, Marcia.

Marcia lives in Lawrence, MA and saving cats is her life’s work. She has saved hundreds of cats and in only the rarest of circumstances does she ever ask us to help her find a barn home for kittens she has rescued. That’s because ninety-nine percent of the time, Marcia can socialize just about any cat or kitten and turn it into a sweet and cuddly housecat. Earlier in the summer, however, Marcia sent us a note and asked if we could help find a barn for a couple siblings that she didn’t think she would be able to turn. The problem was that we didn’t have any barns and a few months passed before we got a note a couple weeks ago from a barn in New Hampshire that sounded like it might be just right.

This is how the barn owners described their property:

Old dairy barn, 2.5 stories, middle aisle with large rolling doors at front and back. Will have three horse stalls, grain room, tack room, workshop, & chicken coop. Currently have 6 chickens on the property and will have 2-3 horses. We have two indoor dogs — 3 year old Darby, a Jack Russell Mix and 10- year old Poppy, a Westie/Poodle Mix. Both are kept leashed when out of the house, for chicken safety :) We have never seen Fisher Cats and have rarely heard Coyotes. Our chickens are free range during the day and cooped at night, and we have never had a problem with them being taken by predators. 


…and they sent this swell photo (credit: Alyssa Harkness)

I shared the barn description with Marcia, introduced her to the owners in an email and she sent this response–

Just thought I would tell you a little about the kitties.  They are both black and gray tabbies.  The boy is twice the size if his sister. They are considered semi-feral because they do not like to be handled, but are comfortable being around people and curious to watch what you are doing.  They like to eat and when they see you coming with food will come running.  They will not be house cats as they like their freedom and untouched.  I will bring all their medical records as I have had them fixed, vaccinated, tested, dewormed, and defleaed.  I will also bring their food that they are use to eating.  Thank you for adopting rescue kitties, I’m sure you will enjoy their company as they will enjoy yours.  The five week acclimation period is important for them to get use to their new home so they will feel safe and comfortable when you let them free in the barn.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

We received the following response from the barn owner…

I think this could work….As for where to locate them during the acclimation period – there is room in the center aisle.  They could also be placed near the chickens if you think that would help them feel less isolated.  And if chickens work for that, we could even bring them home before we get the horses.  For the time being at least, the chickens are in a coop in the barn. Do you think with the chickens to keep them company they’ll be alright in the barn now?  If so we can be ready for them at your convenience.  If you think the horses need to be here, we’ll have to give you an update in a few weeks when we get a better feeling for that schedule.

Marcia and I decided that they sounded perfect and told them so. The remaining challenge was that they were about 60 miles away, but Marcia was willing to make the drive, so I met her and her husband in Lawrence and we drove up in two cars. I brought along two cages, food bowls, litter and cat beds while Marcia brought wet and dry food and toys.  The barn owners were terrific: a young couple who had been living in New Hampshire for a year. They were real animal lovers. Their barn was built in 1850s. It was a beautiful setting. Marcia was thrilled and so was I. It took us an hour and a half to setup the cage near a window in one of the smaller areas of the barn  – where the cats could see the chickens.

The next day, the barn owner sent us this note –

The female has been camping out in the carpet bed when I come and the male is hanging out in his little bed. I got them to eat off the food plate when my hand was still on it, so we’re making strides.


Marcia responded with this note…


They will be a little shy with someone new, but it sounds like they are settling in nicely….They are quite use to people, I handled them every day, hugs and kisses whether they liked it or not.  I have got both of them to purr, just couldn’t get them to the point of a house adoption.  They pose no danger to you at all.  They are just scared not aggressive in any way.  Long sleeves would prevent an accidental scratch.  These aren’t typical ferals where normal precautions are required.  I will help you with any problems you may have at any time, feel free to let me know.

These kittens were Shelter Me’s 133rd and 134th barn placements.

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