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Working/barn cat program

What is a working cat?

Any time a social cat comes to us, they go right into our adoption program to find a home. There are some cats who are simply fearful of new situations, and they too go into our adoption program in search of patient adopters. Then there are the cats who are deeply under-socialized, truly want nothing to do with people, and they get extremely stressed when confined; those are our working cats (also known as "barn cats"). These cats cannot be house pets but thrive in a "working" environment where they can patrol a barn, stable, outbuilding, shed, or even a warehouse. They get to live a fulfilling life with a family who cares for them, and you get a rodent-free property!

Working cat types

Generally speaking, working cats are independent cats who prefer to limit their interactions with humans. However, the degree to which they keep their distance varies from cat to cat and may change over time. Even those who prefer to keep their distance may grow close with their caregiver after positive encounters with people. They often develop strong bonds with other animals, often reducing their desire to roam, which is why the Wisconsin Humane Society recommends that at least two cats be placed together.

What we provide

You get to name your own adoption fee for working cats. WHS provides the following prior to adoption:

  • Spay/neuter surgery
  • Ear-tipping
  • FeLV testing
  • Microchipping
  • Vaccinations

We also provide detailed information on how to successfully acclimate them to their new environment.  

What you need

Working cat adopters must provide:

  • Shelter in a barn, outbuilding, stable, warehouse, business, or other structure
  • Daily food and water
  • Veterinary care, as needed
  • A secure, indoor place to keep them for the first 4-6 weeks while they acclimate to their new environment (this can be a tack room, large crate, or any indoor enclosure)

Resources and advice

Whether you're still considering adoption or are ready to take home some working cats of your own, we strongly encourage you to read through our Working Cat Care & Relocation Guide. This provides step-by-step instructions when preparing for your new arrivals, helping them get acclimated during their initial confinement phase, and building strong bonds to keep them returning to their new home.

If you ever need support - whether you've had your cats for 5 days or 5 years - our behavior experts are always here for you. Simply email asktheexpert@wihumane.org or call 414-431-6173 to request advice.

How to adopt

If you are looking for a pair of working cats, please:

  1. 1) Complete a Working Cat Interest form 
  2. 2) Fill out an Adopter Profile

Once completed, a WHS staff member will follow up with you as soon as we're able. Thank you so much for your interest; we look forward to working with you!

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