MOORESTOWN – Walk through the agricultural hub of Burlington County and you’ll see lots of sheep and tractors and other sights and sounds typical of a working farm.
Don’t look for mice. Charlene Carlisle hasn’t spotted one for some time.
Charlene and her husband Ken are longtime sharecroppers at the Farming Center, where they raise sheep and cultivate crops on parts of the 68 acres of the Centerton Road site.
âRodents used to be a big problem; not anymore, âshe said with a smile.
You see the Carlisle family have a secret weapon to ward off rodents. Several secret weapons in fact: working cats rescued from the Burlington County Animal Shelter and released onto the grounds and barns of the Farming Center to help manage the rodent population.
âIt was a big win for us,â Carlisle said of the animal shelter‘s barn cat program. âWe don’t need to use poison at all. They’re all cats. And it went really well for us.
Launched in 2014, the program has placed cats on several farms across the county, and the shelter is hoping other businesses could join in and accept cats to help manage mice and other rodents in their warehouses, breweries or grounds.
“The staff and volunteers at the Burlington County Animal Shelter do a fantastic job taking care of lost, abandoned or stray animals and placing them in new homes with loving families,” said the Burlington County Commissioner. , Dan O’Connell, who is the liaison with the shelter. . âBut we do know that some cats just aren’t able to live like traditional indoor pets, so this program offers a healthy alternative. It’s not a typical adoption, but it does give these animals what they want and need: a safe and secure home where they can live happily with limited human interactions.
“Cats are natural predators of rodents found on farms, warehouses, breweries and vineyards,” added Ericka Haines, director of the Burlington County Animal Shelter. âOur barn cat program offers a win-win solution for everyone. The cat finds a suitable place to live outside of a traditional indoor home, and the farmer or business is given a natural remedy for mice and other harmful pests.
Farms and other businesses interested in participating in the Barn Cat Program are encouraged to contact the Animal Shelter at 609-265-5073. There is no charge for cats.
All businesses are inspected by shelter staff to determine their suitability, and cats are specially selected based on their age, physical condition and behavior. Like all animals adopted by the shelter, they are all vaccinated and sterilized or sterilized.
Before being released, cats are typically caged in their new locations for about two weeks so that they can safely acclimate to their surroundings. Afterwards, owners generally have little interaction with the cats except to leave food for them.
âThese cats are used to fending for themselves, so there is very little for their new owners to do outside of the first few weeks the cats have to be caged,â Haines said. âThere is really little noise and the cats themselves can be very helpful in controlling rodent populations. They really are working cats who just need food and a safe structure in which to live. Working farms with barns are ideal, but cats may also be suitable for food stores, nurseries, warehouses, factories, workshops, breweries, art studios, offices, and other properties where independent cats might be welcome.
Charlene Carlisle says the cats at the Farming Center get along well with the sheep in the barns and have become welcome additions to her family’s farm.
âYou see them around and they are doing pretty well on their own, but I made food for them anyway,â she said.