Maya Wolf-Pollina, Manager of the Noble Family Animal Care and Adoption Center and Barn Cat Program Coordinator, MSPCA at Nevins Farm
September 1, 2011

1. What makes certain cats “barn cats”?

Generally, most of our cats are placed as indoor cats. But occasionally, cats come into the shelter that are better suited for a barn placement then living in a house. The three following reasons are why we may decide to place a cat in a barn placement. 

a. The cat is considered “feral.” Feral means that the cat was born outside and has not had human socialization. These cats do not want to live in someone’s house; they are essentially “wild cats” and prefer to be outside. Feral cats are generally not happy living in a house and are not your typical house pets. Because these cats want to live outside, a barn placement is perfect for them.

b. The cat is inappropriately urinating and/or defecating in their owner’s house. Not every cat that is surrendered for this reason is a good barn cat but they might be if they also have already been indoor/outdoor cats in their previous homes and enjoyed it, they are overall healthy cats with no medical reason for this behavior, and they are not declawed. 

c. The cat desperately wants to be outside. Sometimes we get cats surrendered that were really hard for their previous owner to keep inside. If we feel like they would be happier living outside overall, we may look for a barn placement for them.

2. Why would someone choose to adopt a barn cat?

Most people choose to adopt a barn cat because they are animal lovers who feel they can provide a good home for a cat that wants to be outside. Also, most of these people are looking for the cat to help with a rodent problem in their barn.
 
3. What is the adoption process for a barn cat?

I have people start with filling out one of our general adoption applications. I verify that they own their home and that all of their current animals are up-to-date on their vaccinations and spayed/neutered. I also require seeing a picture of their barn and where the cat will be kept during the acclimation process. I talk with the person about whether they have had a barn cat before and why they are looking for one now. I discuss the acclimation process that the cat will need to go through and make sure they know where their new home is. All of our barn cats are up-to-date on vaccinations, spayed/neutered and micro-chipped. We do not have a set adoption fee for barn cats but I ask people to leave a donation for their adoption to help cover the cost of the medical care the shelter has done for the cat. Usually, people give about $50.  

4. How long has the MSPCA had a barn cat program?

The MSPCA has only had an official barn cat program for about a year, so it is still very new. We have worked with people for barn placements here and there for many years, but we used to have other groups help with the actual placements. We have worked with MRFRS (Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society) and Shelter Me Inc in barn placements in the past. Over the past year that we have had a more official program of our own, we have been able to work with many more barn cat placements. 

5. Why do you think the MSPCA’s barn cat program is so important?

The MSPCA’s barn cat program is so important because it has given us another option besides euthanasia for some of these cats that cannot be placed successfully in a house.

6. Are there any special cases or stories you can share about a barn cat?

I think every barn cat placement is special because we have helped find a home for a cat that otherwise may have faced euthanasia. One of our recent placements, Lego, was placed in a barn that has previously adopted horses from our barn. We have received many updates and pictures from his new owners including a picture of him out in the riding ring at his new barn helping train one of their horses.

7. Have you always worked with animals?

I started by volunteering at a small animal shelter in Central Vermont when I was in 6th grade. I continued volunteering until I was old enough for them to hire me. I worked at that shelter through high school and even continued working there during summer when I came home from college. While attending college in Massachusetts I also volunteered at two local shelters.

8. How did you find your way to the MSPCA and its Barn Cat Program?

My junior year in college, I started volunteering at the MSPCA and then was offered and accepted a summer position. I started as a part-time, temporary employee and after graduation I became a permanent, full-time employee. I have moved through a variety of positions at the MSPCA; I started as an animal care and adoption counselor, then became the foster care coordinator, then became the animal care supervisor, then became the assistant manager and then became the manager. Being the manager, I am in charge of a few different programs at the shelter, one of them being our barn cat program. 

9. Can you describe your typical day working at the MSPCA? 

There really is no typical day at the MSPCA; every day is different. My day starts with helping the rest of the staff with kennel work. Then when the shelter opens, I help out with adoptions and surrenders throughout the day. Frequently I am at the front counter answering questions and queuing people who need to sit down and talk with a staff member longer so that we can help them in order of when they come in. In addition, I am responsible for returning phone calls and emails, and doing a variety of different administrative and paperwork tasks. I am responsible for working with and resolving many difficult situations with both people and animals that come into the shelter on a daily basis. I also work on a variety of different programs that we offer at the shelter including our barn cat program. 

10. What do you love most about your work at the MSPCA?

I find caring for the animals at the shelter that have no one else to care for them and knowing that I made a difference in their lives very rewarding. Sometimes it is just the simple act of being able to give a cat that has been living on the street for a long time a nice bowl of food and a clean bed to lie on. Other times it is being part of a team who is able to perform a life-saving surgery on an animal and then seeing them find their new forever home. Other times it is taking a sick cat into my house for a week or a few weeks while they recover from a cold and then seeing them find a loving home.

11. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is seeing the number of cats surrendered during the summer months. The MSPCAs are all open-admission shelters; we never turn away an animal that needs our services. Because of this it is not uncommon for us to take in as many as 20-30 cats on any given day during our summer months. At the end of each day, I am responsible for finding a cage for all of the cats surrendered and taking a key role in determining which ones are not our best candidates for adoption.

12. Do you have any pets at home?

Yes, I have two cats; both from the MSPCA. Tiger is a 14-year-old cat that came to the shelter 4 years ago because his owner passed away. I first took him as a foster because he came down with an upper respiratory infection. He then developed a few other medical conditions which took a few months to resolve and after that I just had to keep him. Tony is an 11-year-old cat that came to the shelter two years ago because his owners could no longer care for him. I adopted him as a companion for Tiger.