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It took Snickers a while to master trees, but once she did, she lived for climbing.

Cats have always been part of our homestead–in fact, they’ve predated our owning land and are second only to the horses in the chronological order of animals we’ve acquired (Stoney will always be #1!). Though we’ve gone through several kitties, they’ve all held a special place in our family and on our farm.

Herc made such a cute kitten!

The first set of kittens came to us before we’d even left Nebraska for Iowa. I was finishing up college and working part-time at a vet clinic, when one day, a woman brought in three orphaned kittens. She was getting ready to go on vacation and asked us to bottle-feed the kittens since they were teensy, tiny, helpless little things.


They were so cute that I couldn’t say so when she got back from vacation and asked if I would consider adopting them. Um, yes, please! That’s how Hercules, Snickers, and RJ were the first cats to join our Iowa homestead. They have been the best cats (I may be partial) and thanks to being bottle-fed, they’ve been EXCEPTIONALLY friendly. Like, they’d let the girls crawl all over them without complaint and would seek out people for attention. Yes, that awesome.

Our good boy, RJ.
They lived happily on the farm with us for several years, hunting, keeping the chickens company, running from the neighbor’s dogs. They had the ideal life, where they had regular veterinarian care, they had an indoor place to escape the heat, snow and cold, but were able to go outside and utilize their particular feline talents. Then, Jack secured a brief internship in Texas and though I would have loved to have packed up the whole farm and taken it with us, we couldn’t. Not two days after we said au revoir to our home in Iowa, we heard our cat RJ had passed away. Talk about heartbroken! We asked the caretaker to bury him under the mulberry tree and though he’s long since gone, he has remained a favorite and I still think about him.
Baby Wink with Baby Evelyn
While our three cats were official fixtures of our Iowa homestead, we did have the occasional feline visitor. Most were strays or neighbor’s cats that would come to check the territory to see if it was claimed. Once we found a momma cat with her itty bitty babies in our hog shed–when she realized we had found her hiding place, she was gone with them the next day. The longest guest we had was a little black kitten we named Wink. He was TINY when we found him abandoned in our yard, and with a case of conjunctivitis, he had one eye sealed shut with gunk, thus his name. We would have kept him, but as an extremely poor college student and a stay-at-home mother, there was no way we could afford to feed another mouth. So, he was adopted out to friends of ours who also had land and were in need of a mouser.
Hercules was a big teddy bear.

When we accepted a job offer in Indiana following Jack’s graduation, not everyone was able to make the trip with us. We had to sell the sheep and goats, but I would have slept in a cardboard box before I sold the horses and the nice thing about cats? They can live in apartments and no one raises an eyebrow (try that with a horse).

Hercules and Snickers enjoyed living indoors for a few months, but let’s be real–these cats are tigers at heart and always were more comfortable and happy outside. Once we found a small farm in Indiana that would suit our needs, the cats were back in their natural habitat.
Sweet little Nova!
A few years after our migration to Indiana, we were visiting Nebraska where Jack’s parents had a fresh litter of kittens. I was in trouuuuuuble. The girls and I were able to convince Jack to let us bring one home with us–Hercules and Snickers weren’t exactly seniors, but were getting older, so we decided to infuse our pride with some new blood.
Though Nova shed the cool gray ticking on her baby coat and is now has a basic tuxedo coat, her personality makes up for any plainness in her looks. She is laid back, super quirky, friendly, but not needy. She’s the typical middle child, easy to care for and happy just being in the mix. Nova is a gem and I love having her chubby butt around because yes, she’s also a veeeeerrrry easy keeper.
ANOTHER kitten made a trip home with us…yes, we have a problem.

The three kitties lived happily for several years, making a move to an upgraded property when we found a house with more land. Then, when Hercules and Snickers were about ten, I noticed something wrong with Hercules. He had wandered to the upper level of our deck one morning and he was looking left and right with his pupils fully dilated in broad daylight. We tried to figure out what was going on with him, but after several hefty vet bills and no closer to any answers, he moved inside to live out his final days. He declined quickly, but lived a full, healthy, adventurous life and has since joined RJ.

Since we knew Hercules wasn’t going to last long, we started casually looking for a new cat who could pull his weight. Over the summer, we found Mortimer, one of the prettiest, friendliest cats we’d met in a long time. He lived inside while he was young, keeping Hercules company and entertaining the kids until the day that changes every cat’s life that comes to our house–neutering.

The intention with all of the cats we have is that they’ll be working farm cats, but in reality, they’re a hybrid of pets who happen to live outside. They get regular vet care, come into the garage to eat, drink, use the litterbox (although most of them prefer to answer nature’s call IN nature), and rest. That doesn’t mean their lives are free from danger and that is a sad reality for every single one of the cats that’s come to our house. For Mortimer, he grew big and strong and that led him to start wandering. The braver he got, the further he went until one day, he didn’t come back. Our best guess is that a fox probably got him when he was exploring the forest. We grieved his loss, cursed the foxes for what they (probably) did, and had to accept that’s part of a farm cat’s life.

We were briefly back down to two cats, but our philosophy is that though we miss whoever’s gone on before, we still have plenty of space and love to lavish on new kittens. That’s when we adopted two new kittens from a friend whose cat had a litter. Two brothers came home with us, who the kids named Tusk (because he had extremely long, sharp teeth as a kitten, even for a cat) and Fray (because…it was a cool name, I guess?).

The boys went through the same sort of schedule as everyone else–live the life of luxury inside until they were relieved of their reproductive organs, then they were sent outside to work. Like all of our cats, they relished the freedom of the outdoors and their ability to climb and run and hunt. For a good six months, everything was fine and dandy until one day, Claire asked if I’d seen Fray. Talk about a gut punch. We held out hope for a couple of weeks as we looked around and prayed for his safe return, but with no luck. He was another mysterious disappearance that we like to hope ended well (maybe someone nearby found him and thought he was sweet and took him?), but most likely, he was another fox victim. Of the two, he was more laissez-faire than his brother and was such a fun cat. Wish we could have kept him longer, but maybe it really is true that only the good die young.
It seems whatever Herc had, Snickers caught, too.

Last year, I noticed one of Snickers’ eyes was starting to look like Herc’s. Her pupil was extremely dilated despite it being in the middle of the day. We rushed her to the vet, but other than a few drops to keep her eye from swelling and building pressure, causing the retina to detach, there wasn’t a lot to do. My best guess is that whatever Herc had is genetic since his sister has the same symptoms. That meant her days were numbered and despite extra care for her, she’s been declining rapidly over the winter.

Sunning on the front porch with Nova.

There’s something bittersweet about seeing an animal through its entire life. It feels like only yesterday that snickers was a tiny kitten and she’s one of our last connections to our life in Iowa, but at the same time, making sure her senior years are comfortable has reminded me that there’s value in all phases of life. We loved her as a sweet young cat, we still love her as an old lady.

We weren’t looking for any new cats since we had Tusk, Nova, and Snickers to help us out around the farm, but one sunny day last fall, shortly after Fray went missing, I heard the distinct meow of a kitten coming from our pasture. I went out to see who it was since we don’t usually have cats who come and stay if they aren’t already part of our pride. Turns out an absolutely adorable, extremely friendly, mangy little kitten was lost. I have no idea how he managed to end up in our pasture, but figuring we had what he needed, he might as well come home so I could take care of him. He had an immediate flea bath, food, and a warm bed while we asked around our neighbors if anyone was missing him.
Such a good kitty.

With no leads and taking a liking to him, we went ahead and made the leap into pet ownership by first bestowing a name on him–Felix. If we ever had a friendly cat, Felix trumped them ALL. He was constantly tripping us because he was so busy purring and entwining himself between people’s feet. Unfortunately, his attachment to people ended up being his demise. He would often sneak outside and into the van where he’d sit on someone’s seat, purring and waiting for someone to come find him. One morning, when we were on the way to school, he had made his way into the van. When he was put back outside and we drove away…I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but needless to say, we were devastated.

Fawn saying hello to the outdoor kitties.
I would have taken a break from adopting cats, but sometimes, the best way to fill a hole is by helping someone else. In this case, it was a cute little girl that the kids named Fawn. She is a Diva with a capital D, but her looks make up for it. She is a one-person cat and that person is Claire, but really, is that a surprise? She wanders the house like we’re all beneath her and I just laugh, because she has no idea that she has an appointment with the vet and once she’s healed up, I’m kicking her outside. She can be the ornery queen of the garage because I’m the queen of this castle.
So sweet. So sassy.

If (have you been counting?) four cats weren’t enough at one time (Claire’s dreams of being a crazy cat lady are coming true!), that hasn’t been the end of our cat saga. Some friends of ours were moving out of state and weren’t able to take their cat with them. After deciding that she might make a good fit out here, yet another cat–Hermione–came to live with us. Five. Yes, FIVE cats roam the farm.

Food makes everyone feel welcome.
It took Hermione a bit of time to warm up to us and it was no surprise. She’d come from a single-cat household, had to learn how to use the dreaded cat door to come and go from the garage, and wasn’t sure she liked eating in the presence of other cats, even though they didn’t care because they’ve always been around other cats. Once she found her place and embraced the freedom of roaming, she’s becoming an asset to our homestead. Hermione is a big girl and though she can be a shadow when she’s feeling skittish, she can throw her weight around when she doesn’t want to be messed with. I rather like her introverted and reclusive personality because if I were a cat, I’d probably be a lot like her.
Nova coolly observing the world from her perch.
Thirteen years into our cat ownership, Snickers is the last of our first batch and is on her final leg. It’ll be hard to say goodbye to our good girl, but she’s had quite the run. Nova, Hermione, Tusk, and Fawn will continue prowling around, keeping the mice, birds, and rabbits at bay and adding some much-appreciated character to our farm. We love our homestead cats!

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Welcome to the farm!

True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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