Hall County now has a program that can find stray cats a home while helping local businesses or farms with pest control.
The “barn cat” program allows feral or semi-feral cats to be brought to the Hall County Animal Shelter in humane traps. The shelter’s veterinary staff can then spay or neuter the cat, and the cat can be adopted by a business to serve as a natural form of pest control by hunting mice and other rodents.
So far, three barn cats have been adopted.
Stephanie List, program coordinator with Hall County Animal Services, said that while domesticated cats can be adopted by local families, feral cats are not suitable for adoption to the general public. The shelter has to find alternatives for those cats.
“Once a cat enters our facility and is assessed and appears to have traits of a feral or semi-feral cat, we work toward re-homing those cats to establishments such as farms, shops and wineries where they can be independent and free-roaming,” List said in a statement.
Feral cats want to avoid human contact altogether, List said. Semi-feral cats are more willing to be around people. However, they have been living outdoors their whole lives and would not be comfortable staying inside all the time, List said.
“A semi-feral cat is a cat where you can put out food on the back porch and you may or may not see this cat for three or four days,” she said. “He’s out hunting small rodents and stuff. He might come around to eat his food later on, but most of the time he’s going to be out free-roaming.”
The cats aren’t what people would expect from a family pet, List said.
“These are cats that are accustomed to being outdoors, hunting for food. Don't expect them to come in and snuggle with you on the couch,” she said.
Prospective barn cat owners must fill out an application at the shelter and will be required to provide food, water and shelter for the animals.
All the cats can be adopted for free and are evaluated to make sure they are healthy, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and treated for parasites.
The initiative is part of the Community Cat Program the shelter started earlier this year. The program involves trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and then returning them to their original home outdoors. The goal is to keep overcrowding in the shelter down and reduce the feral cat population.
The county has started several new programs at the shelter since being evaluated by Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare group, late last year.
The shelter is at 1688 Barber Road in Gainesville.