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Some cats, while not necessarily classed as feral, are still very fearful of humans and need a home where they can live outdoors and away from people. You may often find these sorts of cats on farms or in rural areas.

We love cats, but we also have to admit that not all cats necessarily love us! Some find it stressful to be around people and so need a home where they can have more space than a ’normal‘ home might offer.



What are farm/rural cats? Are they feral?

Farm cats, barn cats and cats who need rural homes are usually cats who have had little or no positive human interaction during their socialisation period (2-7 weeks old), are fearful of people and find being near us stressful. Like feral cats, they feel more ‘at home’ when they’re in a less traditional home.

Whereas feral cats have usually been born and raised in a feral colony and had no human interaction, some farm or rural cats might have a different background. Some may have been stray for a long time or had negative experiences with people. Some may have had a challenging start in life living in a large multi-cat or hoarder household. These cats are often poorly socialised and act like ‘indoor feral cats’, and therefore would be much more comfortable away from people.

Learn more about feral cats

How do you know if a cat would prefer a rural home?

Cats who might prefer a rural or farm home are pet cats who may be experiencing fear or frustration with their current living situation, and often express themselves with aggressive behaviour towards their owners. If a cat shows a change in behaviour, we’d always recommend taking them to a vet first to rule out anything medical. However sometimes their behaviour may simply come down to being unhappy in their current environment. In these cases, your vet may recommend seeking the help of a qualified behaviourist. They will be able to help you understand why your cat is behaving the way they do and may recommend an outdoor living situation for them. Find out more about finding a qualified behaviourist.

How do you care for a farm or rural cat?

Feral and outdoor living cats can live happily in the great outdoors as long as they have what they need, especially food, water and shelter.

To have a rural cat, you’ll need to be able to provide them with suitable shelter that isn’t your home (as they often won’t want to come close to where people are). This could be a barn, outbuilding, stable, shed, garage or anywhere where they have privacy and easy access. Their shelter also needs to be dry and clean. You can even build one yourself. Find out how to build an outdoor cat shelter.

While outdoor cats will mostly take care of themselves, you should still provide them with clean water and food. You should also keep an eye on their health to make sure nothing is wrong with them and take them to the vet when necessary.

Is it cruel to keep cats outside?

As long as a cat is still cared for and has all their needs provided for, there is nothing wrong with a rural or farm home for a cat. In fact, it might even be that it is worse to keep a cat who might thrive in a rural home in a traditional home.

Rural homes offer a fantastic opportunity for cats to live as they wish, with the flexibility to approach people for fuss if they want to, or avoid if that’s a little scary for them. Cats are highly territorial and quickly adapt to their specific environment. They are acutely aware of what goes on around them and, rather like a spy, will know where hiding places, escape routes, safe raised areas and places to rest are. This familiarity makes cats feel in control, it gives them choice and reduces their stress level.

Can I stroke a farm or rural cat?

This will entirely depend on the cat, their personality and behaviours. Some may choose to keep their distance from people, some may only approach certain people and others might be more curious. The important thing to remember is to let the cat choose if they want to interact with you. Don’t try to force them and don’t hang around near their ‘safe’ spaces if they don’t want you to.

Learn about cat body language

Does Cats Protection rehome rural cats?

Often certain branches and centres will have farm or rural cats available to rehome. Contact your local branch or centre if you think you can provide a home that meets the needs of these cats.

If you're thinking of rehoming an outdoor cat, check out this video where we answer some of the most commonly asked questions: 

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