Max is one of 10 barn buddies waiting to be adopted at Medicine Hat’s APARC. Max, a 1.5 year old neutered male, enjoys occasional head rubs, but also likes his space. He would do well in a barn or shop, as he gets easily overwhelmed in home environments.NEWS PHOTO KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published 10:04 May 18, 2022

By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Alberta Pound and Rescue Centres Medicine Hat is urgently seeking adopters for cats in its Barn Buddy program, as the centre faces space constraints.

The Barn Buddy program, which aims to find alternative housing – such as barns or shops – for cats unsuited to home environments, is at max capacity, Cristina Young, APARC animal health manager, told the News.

“We currently have 10 Barn Buddies ready to go to new homes. And we have, approximately, another four to seven in holding who are waiting for vetting as we are full right now,” Young said. “We really don’t have much more room and the last thing you want to do is euthanize any cats – whether they’re feral or friendly – so we’re really looking for some Barn Buddy homes.”

The program, which has existed since APARC opened, provides a second chance for cats unsuitable for traditional adoption, such as feral and semi-feral cats, or friendly cats who are destructive indoors.

“We don’t automatically put any animal into the Barn Buddy program,” Young said. “We have kennels set up specifically for cats who aren’t as friendly,x and we just give them time in a quieter space to decompress. A lot of cats are fearful. They’re coming into a space with lots of smells, lots of sounds, and they just need that time, whether it takes days or weeks.

“We continue to monitor them and assess their behaviour. If a cat becomes more aggressive, or exhibits signs of distress around people, then they may be put into the Barn Buddy program.”

Young explained temperaments of Barn Buddy cats varies somewhat, with some wanting no human interaction, others wanting minimal interaction and others who are very friendly. As with any rescue cat, temperaments may also mellow once the cat is settled and feels safe in its environment.

“We’ve had some Barn Buddies who are adopted out who are not very nice,” Young said. “Then they come around once they realize their new families are friendly and feed and water them.”

As Barn Buddies exhibit temperament and behaviour not compatible with traditional adoption, their outcomes would likely be grim without the program, Young explained.

“A lot of other organizations – not necessarily within Medicine Hat but in Alberta and across Canada as a whole – don’t have a Barn Buddy program,” said Young. “Usually, those cats are slated for euthanasia. (But) every animal deserves a second chance. It’s not necessarily the cat’s faults their behaviour is kind of in the negative. It’s not their fault they were born a stray.

“At the end of the day, these cats are at the mercy of us. And I think a second chance is fair considering their circumstances.”

Young believes the program is beneficial, not only for Barn Buddies, but also for adopters, as the cats help control mice populations in barns and shops.

“It really helps farmers and acreage or livestock owners as it keeps mice out of grain bins and food bins,” she said.

Young encourages community members with a barn or shop to reach out to APARC if interested in adopting a Barn Buddy. Barn Buddies are available for $25 each. All adopters have to ensure is their Barn Buddy will have a safe shelter from the elements, and regular access to food and water.

“We do have an overwhelming stray population in Medicine Hat,” said Young. “If we can keep this program going and have adopters who will place these cats and give them a second chance, it means that we can take more in, which reduces some of the stray population. Of course, it takes a community to do that.”

This item reprinted with permission from Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat, Alberta