It’s been almost seven weeks since my barn cats first arrived, and it’s finally time for them to be released. Hannah, the least timid of the three, is feeling pretty much at ease in the barn at this point. She knows she’s got a good thing going, and I expect her to stick around. Gracie and Chloe I’m not so sure about. They seem nearly as spooked as they were on Day One and have remained entirely hidden from sight for the entire time they’ve been here.
Last week, anticipating the cats’ upcoming release, I installed a cat door in the exterior door of the barn. It’s a heavy-duty “Ruff Weather” design with two clear vinyl flaps and a slide-down barrier that closes off the opening entirely. So today it was only a matter of removing the plastic slider, and the cats were officially free.
I chose the early morning as the time to do it, since the sun would be streaming in through the open cat door, beckoning them to explore the outside. Also, I wanted them to have a full day to become familiar with their surroundings before nightfall set in.
This evening, when I went out to check on the cats, the barn was empty. At this point, all I can do is hope.
* * *
Three days have gone by, and the cats are nowhere to be seen. The dry food that I’ve left in the hayloft hasn’t been touched, and the litter boxes are undisturbed. On each of the last two nights, I’ve heard the yapping of coyotes not far from the house, and naturally I’ve feared the worst. But these are streetwise cats, and I presume they’re skilled climbers, so I’m hoping for the best.
* * *
It’s been nearly a week since the cats’ release. The last couple of mornings, I’ve noticed that some of the food I’ve left in the hayloft has been nibbled at. Is it just one cat, or is it three that have lost interest in food because they’ve gorged themselves on mice? Or could it be that I’m feeding a raccoon?
Then it happens. On the morning of the eighth day following their release, I go through the usual motions of checking the barn, and—lo and behold—there’s Hannah lounging in her usual spot in one of the apple boxes. Upon seeing me, she darts down the ramp and disappears through the cat door.
* * *
It’s been a week and a half now, and I still see no evidence of more than one cat coming and going. Hannah is clearly spending time in the barn at night, but by morning she’s nowhere to be seen.
This morning, while I was outside doing chores, I caught a glimpse of Hannah sitting on a downed tree trunk in a wooded ravine not far from the house. Amazingly, my cat-friendly dog—a Newfie/ border collie mix–was sitting just four feet from her, trying hard to contain her excitement at the prospect of having a new companion. Hannah seemed cautious but amused. By golly, I do believe that cat is here to stay!
By Lisa G.