thelma & louise

Apologies for the less-than-amazing photo today. The truth is, this photo is amazing because it documents the existence of one of our barn cats. "What?" I can hear you saying. "Jen, you don't have a barn." And that is true. I don't have a barn. But I do have a pair of barn cats. 

Since we moved to this house six-ish years ago we have been plagued on and off by rats. Conversations with the neighbors on our street confirm we are not alone, however we are lucky to have never had one inside our living space. Apparently when you live at sea level, rats can be a huge problem. Our county even has a guy (whom I call The Rat Whisperer) who will come out and tell you where the rats are getting into your house and help you set up traps and seal things up once the coast is clear. For free. And up until this winter we had always been successful at dealing with the problem with his help.

But last November, the Rat Whisperer threw up his hands and said "I can't help you any more."  So that's when the internet and I decided to come up with our own solution. I didn't feel good about using poison around our property with kids and dogs around, but I wasn't sure what else to do. My dad was the one who actually suggested getting a cat, but I didn't give much serious thought to it until I read all about barn cat programs in place in other communities. I then contacted the Tenth Life Foundation in San Francisco and the ladies there made sure we were good candidates to care for a pair of cats, and that we understood what we were signing up for. Basically the deal is that we provide food and some sort of shelter for the cats, and they eat our rats. Sounds good, right? 

Our cats have never had any human contact. One was trapped in the Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, and the other had just delivered a litter of kittens at the front door of the Serramonte Target. The foundation spayed and vaccinated the cats, and installed them in two huge dog crates in our backyard shed. We named them Thelma & Louise (that's Louise in the photo above). The outlaws stayed in the shed for three weeks, to get acclimated to their new home. During that time they hid from me every time I came through the door. And since we released them into the world five months ago, this is only the second sighting of either cat. They are truly wild. 

The cats come early in the morning to eat. I know this because 1) the kitty food disappears and 2) I sprinkled flour around the area to get some paw prints to be sure we weren't just feeding the rats, or even worse, raccoons. But the rest of the time they hide. This week, I have seen a couple of other cats hanging around our yard. Apparently word has gotten out that we serve up some tasty rats & kibble. The more the merrier, I say (as long as you take a rat with you when you go). But still, actually seeing one of our rescues makes me feel good. So far, we have been very happy with our barn cats. We haven't heard or seen any rats in the last four months. Thelma and Louise have been no trouble to care for, and I like to think they are happy here too.

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