They aren't pets, but families can certainly learn to love them, thanks to a program offered by the Weatherford Parker County Animal Shelter.
The Barn Cat Program, which started five years ago, takes feral cats from urban areas and relocates them to more functional environments. They help with rodent and pest control as a safe alternative to poisons.
"Over the past four fiscal years (2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016) we have taken in nearly seven thousand cats from Weatherford, Parker County, Hudson Oaks, Springtown, Willow Park and Aledo. From Fiscal Year 2015 to 2016 we had a 27.38 percent increase in our cat/feral cat intake alone," Shelter Manager Ashley Woolnough said. "The feral cat problem is a problem many cities and states deal with. It is a national problem that TNR (trap-neuter-release) is the only proven solution to."
Of those cats taken in, over 1,300 were through the Barn Cat Program, Woolnough said. Those cats would not have left the shelter alive previously.
Prior to the Barn Cat Program, feral cats only had one option when they came into the shelter, euthanasia. Now they have an opportunity to live out their lives doing what they love and being in a safe environment where people want them around.
As for the community, it is an option for a safer pest control solution and the opportunity to save lives, and not just for feral cats.
"This also allows for us to protect community cats from the epidemiological risks unvaccinated, unaltered cats in the community," she said.
Woolnough said it is also not difficult to acclimate a feral cat to a new surrounding. it takes about two weeks of keeping the cat(s) contained in either an enclosed room or kennel, providing clean food, water and litter, of course.
After two weeks the room or kennel is left available for them, and the door is opened for them to begin exploring their new territory. Once they become comfortable, the kennel can be removed. However, Woolnough said it is very important (mandatory) to continue to provide clean food and water.
While the cats in the Barn Cat Program serve families well, particularly those in need of rodent and pest control, they are not necessarily pets. However, they can be.
"If someone is looking for a pet kitty, they would need to look into our adoptable cats, however, some barn cats turn around after they acclimate," Woolnough said. "It really depends on each cat, They all have different personalities. Some cats we find out are loving and affectionate cats once they acclimate, others we hear are rarely ever seen again."
Becoming a part of the Barn Cat Program is simple, Woolnough said.
"A person wanting to participate in the Barn Cat program by bringing a barn cat onto their property only needs to have the desire to provide clean food and water for the cats, for the lifetime of the cats, and have a place the cats can be safe and hide from threats," she said.
To apply for the program or to find out more, contact the Weatherford Parker County Animal Shelter at 817-598-4111.