Barn Kitties in Training

Bottleshop mom cat.
Bottleshop mom cat.

I took a little field trip on Monday to transport six feral cats to a new home. You won’t see too many photos of them just yet because they are at that hiding stage, but they are very present.

Sometimes in the process of TNR kitties can’t be returned where they’ve been trapped and need some alternatives. Cats who show some potential for socialization can be taken into a home for foster but that’s really not an option for cats who show little or no potential for socialization. It’s very stressful and even considered cruel for unsocialized cats to be forced to live in a socialized cat’s position because they didn’t develop the means to understand and manage living with humans and constantly feel unsafe. Sometimes fosters just can’t be found for cats who are somewhat friendly and may even someday be adoptable with time and patience.

One of the Bottleshop kittens.
One of the Bottleshop kittens.

Cats can often be added to an existing colony with a caretaker who provides food and shelter, but we can also acclimate them to a situation more comfortable and safe for them, away from traffic and congested human neighborhoods, one of their ancestral places in human life, a barn. Barns provide cats with a large and comfortable shelter and a place to be fed plus the rodents they naturally catch who tend to inhabit places where humans keep their grain stores and other foods. They also encounter humans there on a regular basis who feed and care for the animals who live there, and they have the choice of interacting or retreating to a hiding place while the humans are around and still have their safety and shelter from the elements.

The interior of the goat barn where the cats will eventually stay.
The interior of the goat barn where the cats will eventually stay.

Margo had been asking for members of our rescue to search for barn homes for cats since we always have a few cats who can’t be returned to where they were found. An artist friend of mine, Birgitta, also has a small farm with goats and chickens in a rural area about two hours away, already has cats indoors and often has cats left on her property, and what neighbors there are also are cat friendly, and I know she loves animals. I explained a few situations we had with cats we’d trapped or needed to trap to remove from unsafe situations and asked if her barns had any space for a few, and if she would mind taking them on. That doesn’t just mean letting them live there, it also means providing a regular source of food for them and supervising their activities, giving them veterinary care when needed and interacting with them as much as they tolerate. It also meant following a set procedure for acclimating them to their new home so they didn’t take off to find the home they knew, even if it hadn’t been safe for them.

The cats who were part of the move included cats from four different situations.

The mother of the two kittens I fostered recently, Jack and Diane, named Sylva was one of the cats in the group. Her caretaker had intended to trap Sylva on the day she trapped Jack and Diane instead, but it turned out to be a happy mistake as Jack and Diane were just the right age for socialization, as we saw. Sylva’s caretaker would be moving this coming summer and could not take Sylva to where she was moving, so Sylva would have no caretaker. Leaving her there without the food and supervision to which she was accustomed is cruel and is technically abandonment. Mary Beth was fairly certain Sylva was feral and not able to be socialized, but only trapping her for a spay and taking some time with her would tell that. She was trapped for the March 5 free clinic and it’s been pretty clear she wanted no parts of life with humans, though she enjoyed the food and trusted enough to go into the trap. Though Mary Beth wasn’t moving until summer trapping once is better and more successful than trapping twice, so once she was in she would move to her new home.

Another cat was one Margo had seen with her two kittens behind a bar and restaurant in the town where she lives, probably attracted to the ready source of food in the dumpster and possibly handouts; she’s the one at the top of this article. Margo knew they couldn’t stay there, it wasn’t safe and if they survived they would continue to reproduce. She trapped them as soon as she could, seeing there was a third kitten, and though their mother seemed calm in time it was clear she was not someone’s socialized cat, not interacting with her at all and becoming even a little less friendly as time went on. Her kittens were another story and would be very adoptable.

Oscar was a big black cat who came into the HCMT clinic from one of the shelters because he had a bad attitude. He was usually okay in his cage at the clinic but liked to swat people unexpectedly. Though he was somewhat socialized a barn home would probably work well for him because interacting with humans was obviously stressful so he went along too.

The other three passengers were cats from a situation in a suburban neighborhood where a couple was caring for a mixed stray and feral colony, socializing kittens and taking in a few of the cats and spaying and neutering as many of the others as they could catch, but neighbors were threatening to kill them and two disappeared. They have been trapping and bringing in all of them, assessing for adoptability, and then finding situations for the others. More from this area may go to the same place.

The process for acclimating a feral cat to a new home involves keeping them in a cage on site for about a month so they can get accustomed to the sounds and smells and activities and other residents and visitors of the place while they are being fed and cared for, and accept it as safe. That’s one of the reasons barns are ideal. Typically, when they are released, they will find a place to hide for a while as they get accustomed to their freedom in this place they’ve been experiencing for several weeks. Because a barn usually meets their criteria as a safe and comfortable shelter and a food source, which is what cats look for whether they are socialized or not, and it’s now very familiar, they’ll stay.

HCMT provided Birgitta with cages, litterboxes and bowls for the cats and I carried food, litter, and cage covers and a variety of towels to use in their cages along with the cats.

Typically we’d set them up in the barn right away, but because a severe winter storm was forecast for the day after I arrived and the area is known for heavy snow and extreme cold, Birgitta decided to set them up in her basement initially because they’d all been indoors, a week for Sylva and more for the others. The barn is snug but might not be warm enough for cats accustomed to a heated indoor area. She had already set up the cages when I arrived and we worked to add the litterboxes and bowls and covers, then place the cats in the cages.

The setup with four cages with Bella the dog watching over them.
The setup with four cages with Bella the dog watching over them.

One of the cages in the photo above has two cats from the colony because the little female tabby Jasmine, more feral, was very attached to the big neutered black male cat Sebastian, who was still shy but on his way to being friendly. Hopefully he will become friendly enough to move indoors or be adopted, and will be a good influence on little Jasmine. Birgitta’s dog Bella is keeping guard on the new houseguests.

Below, a younger black kitty named Zen came from that same colony and also has a good chance of being a socialized cat. He had just been neutered the day before so Birgitta had placed a cage for him in the adjacent room in the basement closer to the woodstove. The whole area was pleasantly toasty.

The black kitty Zen closer to the wood stove.
The black kitty Zen closer to the wood stove.

By the next morning they had all eaten their food and used their litterboxes, though they were still in hiding, but feeling confident enough to eat and drink and box is a very good sign.

She’ll be feeding them in these cages and interacting with them while they acclimate, and moving them up to the barn when the weather breaks. It may be that they become socialized to her to a certain extent, or socialized in general. Nearly all Birgitta’s cats began as frightened strays to her barn or kittens to a feral mother cat who had settled in her barn. The feral mother cat still lives in the barn, but most of the other cats became friendly enough to come inside. Because the neighbors also have barns some of the cats she’d cared for have moved to other barns or been taken in by neighbors. When they are released, Oscar may be thrilled with the amount of space he has and become friendly but prefer the barn. Zen may be ready to come inside. All three of the cats from the TNR colony show some signs they might become friendly, one or two possibly enough to come indoors in the house or even be adoptable. Birgitta travels for weekend art shows and festivals but the neighbors and a local equine specialist take care of her animals while she’s away, so they are in good hands with friendly people and will have experience with more than one person. The cats have some flexibility here and we know they are cared for.

About Birgitta and her farm

Birgitta Nostring is a fiber artist and the owner of “All Strings Considered”, knitting shawls, weaving rugs and spinning yarn. I met her at a sheep and fiber festival south of me about seven years ago, and I’d purchased some yarn from her for crochet items I made for re-enactors, and we’d kept in touch since then. I’ll likely be seeing her if we are moving cats back and forth and as I go out to more events this coming year we may even be displaying together.

The center of her house is a log cabin built in 1819 and there is one small space of wall that still shows the bare logs.

A small section of the original log walls.
A small section of the original log walls.

Traditional log cabins in this area were basically one room and often only one floor. Multiple additions through the years added the rest of the space to this one to have six rooms, one of them the entire second floor, and a basement. Between the cats and other animals and rooms full of yarn and looms and shawls and projects under construction, once we had the cats set up and knew it was time to leave them to the quiet of the basement with its cozy wood stove I wanted to look at everything in the house, and then there were Birgitta’s cats and dogs and the barns and the goats and the chickens. Unfortunately it was late in the day, the storm was on its way and night was falling so I couldn’t get all the photos I would normally have gotten.

Flounder and Puma were having a nice snooze on the sink in the mud room as the sun was going down and casting a nice warm glow over them.

An evening nap for Flounder and Puma.
An evening nap for Flounder and Puma.

Puma, o the right, is the oldest at 17 and was adopted with his sister by Birgitta’s mother years ago. Puma’s sister had a change of heart at about age 12 and ran off to live in a barn down the road and nothing could convince her to come back. Flounder, on the left, hopped into Birgitta’s house one day—hopping because his legs were stuck together with masses of burrs tangled in his fluffy fur. He was friendly and stayed. I also featured them in today’s photo.

Flounder and Puma.
Flounder and Puma.

This kitty is Fenrir, a little shy but curious.


This kitty is obviously related to Fenrir, visiting the feeding station outdoors.

One of the outdoor gray kitties.
One of the outdoor gray kitties.

Birgitta has another dog as well, an elderly dog named Bruno who lives on the first floor.

Birgitta's elderly dog Bruno.
Birgitta’s elderly dog Bruno.

Here are a few of inside of the house.

And here are the goats and chickens. All the animals have names but I didn’t have time to catch them all.

I’ll plan for an earlier trip next time so I can get more photos. And, oh, the painting opportunities…

You can help

Obviously moving cats to a barn incurs costs for cages and food and litter for setting them up, and often we continue to help people who’ve offered our cats sanctuary or who manage colonies with food and even sometimes medical care. People did donate to help these cats, and if you’d want to help in any way with  even a small donation it would be immediately used and appreciated.

  • You can visit the Homeless Cat Management Team’s website at and donate several ways right there.
  • You can also send gift cards to the stores listed so we can buy supplies as needed, and you can use the wish lists below.
  • You can purchase a 2017 HCMT/Pittsburgh C.A.T. calendar.

Amazon Wish Lists

amazon wish list for kittens
The Amazon Wish List for our group’s foster kittens.

Many rescuers pay out of pocket for veterinary care and food but the costs of raising even the average litter of four healthy kittens is more than many people have, and many rescues have greater needs. Pittsburgh CAT has a number of wish lists that include foods for feeding neo-natal kittens like KMR, and other lists that include the best kitten foods, adult cat foods, food and materials for feral cats, and preferred toys and litter.

HCMT Clinic Wish List:

Pittsburgh CAT Wish List:

2015 Foster Cat/Kitten Wish List:

Winter Kitten Wish List!

Fall Wishlist for Fosters/Ferals!

Food For Foster Kittens:

Our Groups Foster Kittens!

Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.

There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.

  • Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
  • Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
  • Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
  • Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
  • Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.

If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.

Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives


All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.

© 2021 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features:

Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!



Subscribe to my e-newsletter

Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.

Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals


HCMT/Pittsburgh C.A.T. 2017 Calendar from Portraits of Animals!

Calendar cover.
Calendar cover.

I designed and am publishing this calendar on behalf of these two organizations for which I volunteer and support. All proceeds of sales of this calendar after costs will go directly to our work Making Life Better for Cats Every Day of the Year. Price includes shipping. You’ll find a box to enter your address or special instructions in your shopping cart.

Each month features a cat and its story who we rescued through TNR or rescue from abandonment, neglect or abuse, offered medical treatment, fostering, socialization, and a loving forever home that met their individual needs.

In addition, each month is sponsored with an ad from veterinarians, businesses and individuals who support HCMT and Pittsburgh C.A.T., including five of the veterinarians who regularly take a shift at our clinics to spay and neuter plus pet sitting and pet first aid training so you have ready resources for services you and your pets can use right at your fingertips.

Read more and order.


© 2017 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!



Friendship Friday.


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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