Not just any old barn cat

Susan Manzke
Here he is next to the cinder block waiting with others for supper to be served.

When Bob and I started dating he said he didn’t like cats. They were allowed on the Manzke farm because they kept down the mouse population. Other than that he thought they were useless.

Over the years my husband has changed his mind. Oh, he hasn’t gone out searching for more cats on our farm—they just find us, but he sure takes care of the ones that are here. Every morning, Bob takes food out to the barn cats—in the winter, we add canned food to the dry mix. They are getting quite chubby on this diet.

Last week we had to head to town to replenish our critter supplies. We end up coming home with bags of dry and cases of canned cat food. Our haul also included dog food for Sunny and Friskies tidbits that our three house cats demand. Our chickens weren’t forgotten either. A large bag of layer crumbles were for them. A bag of wild bird food topped off our collection—feeding animals is an addiction. Sometimes I think we watch all our animal friends’ diets more than our own. 

When I feed the barn cats in the evening, they come onto our front porch. Bob watches out the kitchen window to see how many come for supper. He also notes any missing cats. We both keep a look out for late comers and dole out extra for the last to come.

A couple days ago, as Bob watched out the window, two tomcats started growling at each other. Soon fur was flying. I walked out to break up the brawl. “Stop that!” They ran, but only a few feet off the porch and continued their cat argument. Eventually one chased the other back toward the barn.

It took a long time for the rest of the cats to return for their supper. I wondered if we’d ever see either of those tomcats again, their fight seemed so vicious. Funny thing was that the next evening both returned no worse for wear. It seemed that all was well again. They were calmly eating next to each other.

Only a few barn cats have names. There’s the female who came first. She’s Short-tail for obvious reasons. The black tom that was involved in the fight is called Crabby Cat, the perfect name for his demeanor. The others are just our barn cats—most are neutered or we’d be overrun. I thought neutering would eliminate fights with the males, but not always. When Crabby Cat gets really crabby he’ll take on all comers—I wonder what one cat said to the other that set off the fight.

Our late barn cat as he waited for Bob to bring out his breakfast last spring.

One of the black cats with white paws always waits outside our back door in the mornings. He’s there to greet Bob as my husband brings out water and food for the felines who reside here. That cat always races away if I come out instead, but with Bob he follows like a puppy—he’s not really friendly. He’d take off if anyone tried to pet him, even Bob.

Then it happened. One of our barn cats was run over on the road, something that hasn’t occurred in a year or so. I watched as Bob went out with a shovel to retrieve the body. It turned out to be the tomcat that met him every morning. Poor thing.

It was sad to have lost that cat, or any barn cat. They aren’t pets. Really they are moochers, preying on our kind hearts. But we enjoy their company and their antics. We’ll continue with our care for our furry friends. They’ll continue to do what cats do: eat, sleep, catch mice, and (sadly) roam. I just hope that no other ventures onto the road.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165,