All of our animals have a job to do on the farm. The bucks and does are to produce good kids. The livestock guard dogs are to protect the goats. The backyard dogs are to bark constantly if a leaf falls. The barn cats are to keep the rat, mice, and sparrow population down to a minimum that keep trying to take over the barns.
But, some of these animals have a dual role. The does also are into brush control and keep our farm looking like a park when the neighbors’ land around us is overgrown with multifloral rose. And, our Rafter cat, real name is Tigger, has also become known as the Hay Monitor for the younger goats.
I wrote about this odd barn cat a few stories back, how she tries desperately to defy the laws of gravity and hunt the rafters for sparrows and climbing rats. Now, I would rather have a sparrow than a rat in the barn any day of the week, but one winter the amount of sparrows in our barns was unbelievable.
As you know, we keep baby monitors on in the barn and those sparrows were so loud, you could hear nothing else. You couldn’t hear a doe hollering when she was kidding, or a kid crying if it got caught in the hog panel, nothing. All you could hear was the loud chirping of the sparrows. There were so many that they crapped up the feeders, the water buckets. Bird poo was everywhere and it was just nasty.
Then, along came a pregnant momma cat who adopted us. She had seven kittens. Two we gave away to be barn cats, but proved to be too adorable and ended up as the people’s house cats, and the momma and five kittens we kept to hopefully control the rats and the sparrows. Oh, we carefully saved up our nickels and dimes and got every one of them neutered (the cats, not the sparrows and rats) and it was well worth it. They all made unbelievable barn cats.
Those young cats agility to go places and constantly hunt soon had our barns, sheds, every nook and cranny clear of rats and sparrows. But, one cat in particular was head and shoulders above her brothers and sisters and mother, and that was Tigger. She did death defying tricks to get to the tallest rafter to carefully search it out for her prey.
Was she graceful? Not by a long shot. She was constantly falling out of rafters and nearby trees, but it did not stop her. She didn’t care she was disproving the theory that cats always landed on their feet, she was focused on hunting. No pain was too great to follow her prey.
Early this spring, a family dropped by to look at the young kids and buy a few. As the college age son walked down the barn aisle way, what should suddenly drop from the ceiling and land at his feet was a cat, the Rafter Cat (alias Tigger). If he had made one more half step, she would have dropped on his head. She was off like a flash, back to the same rafter, this time determined not to repeat the mistake that had made her fall. It tickled that fellow to death. He thought it was the funniest thing that had ever happened to him in a barn. He still keeps asking how our rafter cat is doing.
During the winter Tigger had also taken up her dual role of Hay Monitor. We had a small group of four month old full blood does out in the barnyard run-in shed. Hay was tight after the drought we’d had last summer. Every flack of hay counted, every stem, but you know goats, they don’t care. They never heard of waste not want not.
But, Tigger, the Rafter Cat, understood. While out there climbing through the rafters, she heard my repeated lectures to the doe kids to not waste their hay, so she decided to take matters into her own paws.
She’s had a hard day of climbing through the rafters and repeatedly falling out of them and scaring the begeebers out of the doe kids until they finally got use to falling cats. She noticed the amount of hay the kids were pulling out of the small round hay feeder we fed the kids in.
Walking like a queen looking over her domain, Tigger calmly climbed up into their hay feeder, sat in the middle and carefully studied each stem, each blade, each leaf the kids picked up and ate. To say this made them very cautious is an understatement. They had seen her go crazily after any movement up in the rafters. Were they now next on her list of prey? Were their noses in danger?
No longer did the kids grab big mouthfuls of hay to spit out on the ground until they found that one blade they really wanted. They very carefully took little bites of hay, staring with great intensity at the cat watching their noses and mouths with the little wisps of hay sticking out. They carefully chewed up what they picked up before cautiously going back for any more and they cleaned up any hay that fell around the feeder before approaching the Hay Monitor to get a little more hay.
Now what Tigger was thinking sitting there in the middle of their little round hay feeder, I don’t know. Not once did she jump at any noses or chase any piece of hay the kids picked up, she just observed and it was enough to make the kids cautious. Their hay started going a long ways after Tigger the Rafter/Hay Monitor Cat took over.
I believe I am going to point this out to the rest of the animals that from now on I expect some type of dual role out of them. But, then maybe not. They might expect even more work out of me. I’ll just tell them if they want to volunteer extra work, that’s fine and their reward will be an extra hug from me. Tigger, our talented Rafter Cat/Hay Monitor, seems to appreciate it.