Henderson Barn Cats Need Love, Too!


by:  Diane Soukup

What do you think of when you picture a barn cat? Maybe it’s the adorable image of a farmer aiming fresh warm milk from the cow’s udder into the waiting cat’s mouth. Maybe it’s a calico mama cat with 4 kittens cozied up beside her in a pile of straw. Or maybe it’s a skilled feline hunter bringing his most recent trophy to the feet of his favorite human.

The reality is, barn cats – commonly known here in Henderson as working cats or community cats – serve in more environments than just the barns many of us think of when hearing the term. Visit Star Nursery on Eastern Avenue, and you may see one of the resident orange tabby cats sleeping on a bag of grass seed right in the middle of the store or perched next to the register observing all the daytime retail commotion.

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The Nevada Humane Society website explains its working cat program: Feral or semi-feral cats not suitable as indoor pets are available free of charge to interested applicants to help keep shop, barn, or other outdoor areas rodent-free. The cats are spayed/neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated prior to going to their new homes. Applicants are responsible for providing a four-week timeframe for acclimation to the new environment, as well as food, water, and veterinary care to their new feline helpers.

The article “Feline farmhands” in the spring 2024 issue of “All Animals” published by the Humane Society of the United States explains the cats best suited to a working life are ones who cannot tolerate living indoors and are not able to remain living in the area where they had been. While some are best suited for independence in a barn or ranch-type situation, others which are more accepting of human interaction can be effective in a workshop, craft brewery, or store – like the ones at Star Nursery.

Helping barn cats be effective at their job includes feeding them on a regular schedule, at the same place and time daily – but only once a day and removing leftover food so it doesn’t attract rodents or other pests, and keeps the cats interested in working. (Have you ever seen a fat barn cat? They will only hunt when they are hungry, so overfeeding them will have a detrimental effect on how effective your feline is at rat and mouse control.) Removing bird feeders to protect wild birds, providing toys which encourage hunting, and making sure all barn cats are neutered/spayed, vaccinated, and generally healthy are also recommended in the “All Animals” article.

Unfortunately, at this time, the City of Henderson does not have a community or working cat program; cats which are trapped and surrendered to Animal Control are adopted out based on their personalities. Cats do not tolerate human interaction and are deemed feral are put to sleep: According to a February 21, 2024, article in the Nevada Current by Dana Gentry regarding the plight of feral cats in Henderson, the City of Henderson euthanized 759 animals in 2022 – of the number, 185 were cats deemed unadoptable.
Efforts are underway to attempt to change the community cat policy here in Henderson; unfortunately, according to the Nevada Current article, both Mayor Michelle Romero and Henderson Shelter director Danielle Harney are not trap-neuter-return (TNR) advocates so it may take some time to change current policy. The euthanizing of cats deemed unadoptable essentially eliminates the option of getting a working cat from Henderson’s animal shelter at this time.

However, working cats will continue to have their places and jobs. Contact the City of Henderson for further clarification of applicable ordinances regarding having a barn cat for your horse property or workplace. The Nevada Humane Society website indicates the applications for barn cats are filled on a first-come, first-served basis – all the details are available at their website.  


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