Life as a barn cat can be risky. Although more sheltered than most outdoor cats, barn residents have to contend with nightly visits from wildlife, rough temperatures, and need to be very smart about cars and machinery. That's why I was surprised to hear about the tradition of feline durability at Australia's Arrowfield Stud. (I probably shouldn't have been, given Ron Moquett's favorite mouser made it to 19 years old.)
Arrowfield staff recently posted a photo of a golden-colored barn cat named Peaches on social media, celebrating an impressive 14 years since her arrival at the barn as a kitten. Peaches was one of three kittens found in a dumpster on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) by a barn staff member, along with their mother. The staff named the adult cat Christmas and integrated the foursome into the farm's herd of felines.
Jess Hood, member of the administrative staff at Arrowfield's operation in Scone, estimates there are about 19 cats on the 2,500-acre facility in New South Wales, with one or two in each barn. Christmas chose to live in the stallion barn, and much like George, the barn cat at Frankel's residence of Banstead Manor Stud in England, served in a public relations capacity there.
“She'd follow you down with the stallion parades to be with all the people,” said Hood. “Then, when you'd walk back to the barn, she'd walk along beside you. She was really cool.”
Much like George, Christmas gained a reputation of her own (probably from flopping on the ground between the people and the stallion in what can only be interpreted as an attempt at photo-bombing the horses), and visitors were always delighted to see her. Christmas took her role there seriously until her death last year of old age; the staff estimates she was 15 or 16.
Peaches seems to have somewhat taken over the spotlight from her base in the grain shed. Preferring to remain more aloof with the horses than her mother, Peaches gets along well with people – which is a lucky thing for her. About three years ago, she got into a fight with a feral cat or other wild animal and came away with a badly damaged eye. The barn staff took up a collection and paid to have the eye surgically removed, and Peaches hasn't missed a beat since. She is a particular favorite of Dennis Krupika (shown above), who works on the farm and spends a lot of time coming in and out of the feed shed.
“The farm boys all like them,” said Hood. “All the barns have a cat, and the farm buys the worming and extra food for them. Everything on Arrowfield is well looked-after. And, there's never any mice around.”
One of Arrowfield's other cats seems to believe she runs the farm's training operation. Hood remembers getting a call from staff members last year who brought a load of horses on a 12-hour haul to race in Queensland, only to discover one of the training barn cats had hitched a ride in the truck. They worried he might run away but were hesitant to cage him for the full four weeks they would be runnin. Turns out the cat fell into the normal routine in his new environment.
“When they went to go home, they were wondering, 'How are we going to get this cat in here?'” Hood said. “They opened up the door of the truck, and he hopped in there. They texted me a picture of him sleeping on the seat of the truck, happy as Larry.”
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