Barn Cats: Your Best Friend in the Barn
Take care of your barn cats and they'll more than earn their keep.
Rodents will wreak havoc in barns. Barn cats can help. Rodents destroy insulation, electrical wiring, bedding and leather, and contaminate feed supplies. They can harbor tapeworms and other parasites that can infect other animals that inhabit the barn. Hantavirus, a serious, potentially life-threatening disease present in some deer mice droppings, can infect humans who inhale the airborne virus when sweeping or cleaning up droppings.
Proactive farmers will want to eradicate rodents from the barn. Rat poisons, typically made of anticoagulant that causes a delayed bleeding response, or a newer generation neurotoxin, are widely used to kill rodents. The problem is, other animals also love the taste of these poisons.
Enter the barn cat, stage (or stall) left.
Cats will hunt and kill mice, and occasionally eat them. Many of the squirming little parasites that live in rodents will now take residency in this new host. In their role as hunter and protector of the barn, these cats are susceptible to some serious health risks. Outdoor cats typically live less than half as long as indoor cats. Barn cat owners are charged with providing their feline friends with the latest in preventive health care. The old farming adage holds: Take care of your animals and they will take care of you.
Following is most everything you'll want to know about caring for your barn cat:
Initial and Ongoing Preventive Care (see “Preventive Health Care Plan')
When your cat hunts and eats a mouse, the tapeworms, roundworms and hookworms that reside in the rodent may relocate to your cat's intestines. From there, these parasites are always looking for even better digs, such as a human body.
Ask your veterinarian to prescribe a broad spectrum de-wormer such as Droncit Plus, which contains both fenbendazole and praziquantel. Depending on your cat's exposure to parasites, the medication should be given as often as once a month.
In areas where mosquitoes dwell, heartworms are sure to follow. Make sure your barn cat is getting a monthly heartworm preventative that will kill any heartworms in their early stages. Heartworm infection, initially thought to be rare in cats, can wreak havoc in the heart chambers and lungs of affected cats. One or two worms are enough to cause a serious infection.
2. Vaccination for Core Diseases
All outside cats should be fully vaccinated for the 'core' cat diseases, such as herpes virus, calichi virus and panleukopenia virus. This vaccination is available as a combination injection that is given at 10 and 13 weeks of age, and then annually. Although there are some risks of side effects from vaccines, the benefits far outweigh the risks for cats with a social, outdoor lifestyle.
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