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An update on three barn cats: Bullwinkle, Lulu and Sara

Bullwinkle sitting on a ledge outside the acclimation cage--keeping an eye on new arrivals Lulu and Sarah
Bullwinkle sitting on a ledge outside the acclimation cage--keeping an eye on new arrivals Lulu and Sarah
Jeff Worth

Bullwinkle is a barn cat that Shelter Me Inc placed a year and a half ago with his brother, Rocky. They were young cats, rescued by Feline Friends of New Hampshire and they were both feral, meaning they were wild-- not at all responsive to people. That’s the main reason cat rescue groups like Feline Friends come to Shelter Me and ask for help placing cats in barns - when the cats are not people-friendly. It is not easy to place cats like that and it's not easy to find barns, either. We have a fairly well-known barn program and barns tend to seek us out and happily enough, there have been dozens of times when a wonderful transformation takes place and the cats we place genuinely bond with the barn owner (and vice versa), and you can't really call these animals feral or wild anymore.

That’s what happened with Bullwinkle and to a lesser extent his brother, Rocky. They really adapted well to barn life and became very affectionate towards Jeff, the barn owner, who sent us wonderful pictures, and extremely entertaining stories. Unfortunately, Rocky disappeared a couple months ago – he might have been taken by a predator or he may have wandered so far off, he couldn't find his way home. It’s hard to know.Jeff sent us a moving note after Rocky disappeared describing how Bullwinkle would sit and look across the road waiting for his brother who never came home. Jeff waited until he thought Bullwinkle might be ready to accept a new companion and asked us for our advice about how to handle that. We are pretty reluctant to introduce new cats into an established situation but we thought that semi-feral females – youngsters –placed in an acclimation cage in the barn with Bullwinkle, an older established male could work. And that’s exactly what happened...and here is our first report from Jeff. The picture that you see shows Bullwinkle sitting on an windowed ledge outside the cage, watching over the girls.

Here is a vividly evocative email from barn owner Jeff Worth--

Time flies by so quickly and I want to give an update on Lulu and Sara before the holidays hit. They are both settling in just fine. Sara used to hiss at me when I opened the shop doors and surprised her but now, neither cat really cares much as long as they know it’s me. If they’re playing, they play on. If they’re sleeping, they doze away and if they’re eating…well….nothing really stops that wonderful activity! I can stick my fingers in the cage and they’ll both run over to smell me and hope that there might be a treat coming their way. Each of them will now take a treat from my hand although they prefer that I drop it in front of them. When I clean their cage each night, they’ll both come right down to see what’s going on and even if they get skittish, they only retreat a foot or so. I think if I left the door open, they’d be out in a minute or two.

More great news is their relationship with Bullwinkle. He came into the shop right after the kittens were dropped off. He “stalked” the cage with a fat tail and I was really curious to find out how he’d deal with two strangers in “his” shop. It took about five minutes before he sorted it out and decided things were cool. Lulu and Sara were and are VERY interested in Bullwinkle. But, if you visited today and if Bullwinkle came out, you’d never know they were strangers a month ago. I’m attaching a picture (it’s busy because of the cage) of the two kittens resting in their cage with Bullwinkle on the window shelf behind them. He does that for hours with them, occasionally play fighting with their paws or sniffing them through the bars. Yesterday, he managed to move their water and then reach far into their cage to pull a paper plate that used to have treats on it. The two kittens were entranced watching the “big cat” inch the paper plate across their floor and through the skinny bars until he finally got it all the way out. If I leave a toy on top of the cage, the two kittens will play with it and if it gets too close to the edge, Bullwinkle will jump up and try to grab it. Last week I was reaching into the cage to get the litter box out. Bullwinkle took that as a sign to jump on my back and then he crawled down over my shoulder and put his two front paws into the open door of the cage. Lulu and Sara came right over and they sniffed noses like crazy. While they were doing that I was able to pat each of the kittens from their noses to the tips of their tails. All in all, the three cats are getting along well.

No problems with health or food or anything. Someone visited yesterday and thought that each of them had put on a little weight. I know they’re active because each morning I have to put their cage in proper order after what appears to be a night of partying. I think they must belong to a kitten sorority and they kind of do an “animal house” after I go to bed.

They’ve had no problems with the temperature which typically stays at 45 or so during the day. If I’m home early enough to work in the shop I turn the heat up to 65 and I’m sure that the residual heat lasts a few hours after I turn in. On weekends I’m usually in the shop most of the day so they get 65 or more temperatures all weekend.

Hope that all is well with you folks. Thanks again for all your help. I’ll keep you informed as time goes along.

Lulu and Sara were Shelter Me Inc’s 138th and 139th barn cats.

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