As regular “Swan View Ranch” readers may already know,
Miss Fluff Puff has been our lone barn cat for many years.
(If you haven’t heard about her, you can read her introductory post here, though we talk about her in many other posts as well.)
All by her lonesome, she has:
- Taken care of all of the barnyard mice (and there have been a lot of them)
- Kept the neighborhood bunny rabbit population in check (even when the rabbits were bigger than she was)
- Served as cat nanny to our baby goats (read more about that here)
- Watched over our expectant moms
- Performed her “official greeter” duties extremely well
- Warmed our laps for hours at a time
- Been the best barn cat we have ever had
Time flies, however, and this year Miss Fluff Puff is approaching 20 years of age. We can hardly believe it! Though she remains really healthy, she has slowed down, and no longer has any interest in catching mice (or rabbits).
Like most of us as we get older, she’d rather enjoy a quieter lifestyle. She still comes to greet us when we walk up to the barn, asks to be petted, teases for lap time, and enjoys her fish dinners, but other than that, she spends a lot of her time asleep in her bed under the heat lamp.
Of course, this is all fine with us. We love her dearly and want her to enjoy every bit of life that she can. There’s no denying it, though. With her slow down, the mice were starting to get a little too brave. It was becoming obvious that we needed more help keeping them out of the grain bin.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for that help to arrive.
A Stray Cat Shows Up at the Farm
Last fall, we noticed a feral cat roaming around out in the field.
He was thin and terrified of humans. I was able to get a picture of him only by hiding inside the house where he couldn’t see me! (I used the max level on my zoom lens.)
He continued to hang around for awhile, so we named him Sylvester because he looked like the cartoon cat. You know, the one that’s always after Tweety.
Plus he was just as likely to vanish if he saw either of us around. I was often the one at the window going, “I tawt I saw a puddy tat!”
Sylvester seemed to have a fascination with our horse trailer. Gerald thought it was because it was full of straw and would keep him warm in the winter months ahead.
From the house I would watch him climb up the side of it and go up towards the top where there was barely enough space for him to squeeze through.
To each his own, I thought. The trailer probably made a nice home for a stray cat.
Sylvester Surprises Us
Sylvester made it through the winter. When spring came, we still saw him out and about around the farm. We were glad he’d made it through, but otherwise didn’t pay much attention. We had a lot of new baby goats to take care of.
Soon, it was time to clear out the barnyard. We had a lot of goats ready to go to the sale, so we needed the horsetrailer. Unfortunately, it was still full of straw, so in April (2016), Gerald backed it into the stackyard to unload it so we could put the goats in for the trip to the sale yard.
As we moved the last couple of straw bales, we suddenly saw why Sylvester had such a fascination with the horse trailer.
He was a SHE and she had six little kittens!
Of course, we needed the trailer and couldn’t leave the kittens there. After we got over the shock, we promptly renamed her “Sylvestra,” and set about taking care of her brood. We picked the kittens up and put them in a carrier, put the carrier in the barn in a pen where they would be safe, and proceeded to the sale with the goats.
When we finished, we came home, backed the horse trailer up where it was and refilled it with the bales of straw. Then we put the carrier with the kittens back in it and hoped Sylvestra would return to take care of her kittens.
Sometimes wild critters don’t like the smell of humans and will abandon little ones that have been handled, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
Five New Barn Cats for Swan View Ranch
The next day, I quietly crept up to the horse trailer and peeked inside. Sylvestra was inside the cat carrier with her kittens! I was so glad she was still taking care of them as they were only about three weeks old and certainly not old enough to make it on their own.
A few months passed and the kittens started crawling out of the horse trailer on their own. Some of them were smart and stayed close to mama, but two of them disappeared. We figured some of the wild coyotes that live nearby had snatched them up. The rest, however, survived, and started to realize that we were nothing to be afraid of.
More to the point: we were the ones with the food.
Bugsy, the proud, macho one of the bunch.
For the next six months, we spent time and energy taming the new crew. They were pretty wild when we first started to feed them, but in time, we were able to catch the four baby kittens and take them to the vet to be fixed and have their shots.
Bullet, the barn detective and leader of the four.
We were also able to gradually get them to realize that we weren’t going to hurt them. We’ve been rewarded for our efforts with five new barn cats: mama Sylvestra and four of her babies, though they aren’t really babies anymore.
The troup: Wiley (in back), Bullet, Sambo, and Bugsy.
Sylvestra remains a little more stand-offish than her progeny, but she is getting better about coming around us, too. We are in hopes that one day we will be able to catch her as well and have her fixed.
We love the kittens, but there are only so many we can manage!
In fact, we’re afraid that this hole in the haystack is for something other than mice, and Sylvestra has seemed quite preoccupied lately…
See the hole in the stack, almost at the top?
We have to admit, though, that this bunch has been a lot of fun. We have never enjoyed four little kittens as much as these before! They have such personalities and they just LOVE being around us when we are up at the barn doing the chores.
As for Miss Fluff Puff? She is enjoying the youthful energy in her newly adopted Grandkitties. They have a way of making an old lady feel young again, and besides, Wiley makes a great bed partner. He’s sooooooo warm.