Feral Cat Program

The Cats of Rockhouse Mountain Farm

These are the folks who do the difficult work of helping lower the number of homeless animals and seeing they get medical care. These barn cats will live out their lives at their farm in peace. They are fed and sheltered. The veterinarian is a wonderful guy who loves cats. He has three but would like six (his wife says three is the limit). We talked about how these wild cats are every bit as deserving of care and respect as our spoiled pets. And we agreed that every single one is an individual. Here’s the story. Lots of photos below.

Once there was a farm. It was a large farm, with fields and woods, a bed and breakfast and a barn. In the barn were cows….and cats.

Twice a day the farmer milked the cows and the cats gathered around the pans of milk. The cats lived a wild, free and dangerous life. They caught the mice eating the farmer’s grain. They slept in the hay. They roamed the woods. Every spring there were kittens. People came to stay at the farm in the summertime. They tamed the kittens and took them home, to live safe lives as family pets. And so the number of cats in the barn stayed about the same.

Then the bed and breakfast closed. The cows were sold. There were kittens born with no one to tame and adopt them. Suddenly there were more cats, the cats were growing feral, and some of them were pregnant.

“I’ve got a gang for you,” John Edge said to Roz Manwaring at the Eaton Village Store while they discussed the Rozzie May Animal Alliance and the low cost spay/neuter services it was offering to the community. There were over twenty cats in the barn at Rockhouse Mountain Farm. By the time the next breeding season came around there would be more kittens.

Edge was getting concerned about the expanding population and wanted to do something about it. He trapped eight male cats and brought them to the Rozzie May Animal Alliance clinic for Tom Cat Day in April. But the travel and strange environment of the clinic was very stressful for these wild and semi-wild felines, who would hurt themselves frantically trying to get out of their carriers.

Edge brought three more to another clinic. But there were still more in the barn. The RMAA came up with a plan to help the cats and the farm. If it was difficult to bring the cats to the clinic, the RMAA would bring the clinic to the cats. With Edge’s willingness to sponsor the clinic and trap the cats, a clinic was planned for on location at the farm.

First, Roz and John met at the farm and looked over spaces where a clinic could be held. They chose the basement of the Inn. Next, Roz had to find a doctor willing to do this kind of clinic. Dr. Steve Caffrey of Fryeburg Veterinary Hospital said he would love to help and December 10th was on the calendar.

Then Roz decided on the RMAA team for the clinic. Head RMAA Tech Stephanie Macomber, and experienced vet techs Kim Zulker and Kristy McNulty were available. It was especially important to have a knowledgeable team running this clinic as these were not going to be easy cats to handle, ranging from almost tame, curious kittens, to the queen of the barn, known as the Tasmanian Devil.

Two days before the clinic,(because of approaching bad weather) Roz and Stephanie delivered the RMAA surgical equipment to Rock House Mountain Farm. The next day Roz delivered 11 cat carriers to the barn. On the day of the clinic the team arrived in the early morning and set up a day surgery. John Edge started even earlier, offering canned food to entice the cats into crates and carriers.

After four hours of surgery altering six females and seven males, with all felines safely on the way to recovery, the team packed up and carried everything back out to the van. Roz and Stephanie returned the equipment back to Albany Town Hall, the RMAA’s winter “home.” The next day Roz returned to collect the cat carriers from the barn. The surgical laundry had been washed, dried, fluffed and folded by Edge. A clinic like this could not happen without the veterinarians and others who offer their skills. Dr. Steve Caffrey, Dr. Scott Johnson and Dr. Kate Battenfelder from Fryeburg Vet Hospital, Dr. Julie Dolan of the Sandwich Vet Hospital, Dr. Kjersten Morrison and Dr, Monique Kramer, from Maine, are on board for future planned clinics. Also crucial was the support from John Edge, who cared about his barn cats at the farm, was instrumental in supporting the clinic, and who spent hours trapping the cats and assisting the vet techs handling them. And the RMAA team who volunteered their skills and time for no other reason than to help lower the numbers of homeless cats arriving in shelters. Why it is necessary to spay and neuter cats? Because cats have an incredible capacity for reproduction. A female kitten will be ready to breed sometime between four and nine months of age. The gestation period is around nine weeks and one female can have up to five litters a year with the average number of kittens in a litter being three. A cat can get pregnant while still nursing kittens and can continue to have litters all during her life. Littermates will then breed with each other. One breeding pair can quickly overwhelm any living situation. And spaying and neutering lowers the chances for diseases such as Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. What does the future hold for the cats of Rockhouse Mountain Farm? They will continue to live their lives the way they always have, in the barn at the farm. There may still be a litter of kittens next spring. With a total of 24 cats altered there are still a possible three that eluded capture. If a litter of kittens appears in the spring, they can be tamed and adopted, and the mother spayed and returned to the barn. Over the next few years, the numbers will go down because outdoor cats have a much shorter lifespan than family pets. At some point the farm will have the three or four mousers it needs. And if you are in need of a good barn cat or two or three, call John Edge. He can help you out.