Muskrat surveys the cows as Gerber peeks out from the old shed behind our house on a cool January day. (Michaela Leimkuehler/Democrat-News)
They spy on you from rafters and carry mice between their teeth. Their claws may scratch your truck, but their snuggles are hard to beat.
Nine. That's right, nine barn cats currently reside outdoors at our house. I've never thought of myself as a 'crazy cat lady' but here I am. There are long-haired calico beauties, a big black and white male, and orange and white fluff-balls that dot the farm-scape at any given moment.
I use the term 'barn cat' very loosely at our house. They have free-range of the buildings on our property as well as a shed dedicated to their needs. I've placed an old doghouse igloo off the ground and stuffed it with a fluffy dog bed for them to curl up in during the winter months.
Aside from taking long naps in the sunny spot on the porch, one of their favorite pastimes is to stand beneath the wobbly bucket full of milk replacer. They quickly lap-up anything the bottle calf doesn't suck down. They even seem a little perturbed the milk is going to the calf and not directly to them.
They indulge in being directly underfoot. The kitties are never underfoot of the dogs, my husband or the cattle-just me. I always seem to be carrying something, or looking at my phone when they decide to dart out from underneath the porch and hijack my walking path. I've nearly broken an ankle with their sign of affection.
Before barn cats, mice use to be a common nuisance in our old farmhouse. My troop of nine keep the rodent population at bay. It has been awhile since I've had my heart-rate spike from the scurry of a mouse across the kitchen floor. Not only do they keep the mice away, but the pesky black snake that tries to slither its way into our basement is discouraged when it discovers there's nothing to eat. Hopefully, never to return.
I guess I'll take the tiny, muddy paw-prints trailing along my truck hood if it means I get the occasional soft purr of a warm kitty who's just had a mouse a la carte.
Contact Michaela Leimkuehler at firstname.lastname@example.org