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Pets Large & Small

Finding the barn was the best thing that ever happened to me

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

Someday when people look up 'Barn Cat'  in a dictionary, Wil Wheaton's photo will appear.  In all my life, I've
never seen a happier cat.  He finally has a place,
a person, and a collar to call his own.

(8/2014) For years, I wandered the fields and streets and towns and when I first stumbled upon the big white barn, I hesitated. Iíve been around enough people to know that not all of them are friendly toward cats. I watched for a while from the perimeter and saw how nice the man was to his horses and his dogs and there were even some other cats already there.

The decision was made for me when the storm hit. I hadnít had a chance to see if I could find any food and the rain was bad. Really bad.

The barn beckoned.

I snuck in between the slats and kept a lookout, knowing I could make a dash back outside if I had to. Thankfully, what I found was Eden.

The barn was warm and dry and there was food that someone put in a bowl and fresh water and at first, I couldnít believe what I was seeing.

The other animals welcomed me with open paws and hooves and told me about how great the man and woman were who owned the barn.

It felt like a dream.

I was really scared the next day when the man opened the barn door, but some instinct in me told me not to run. I huddled under a shelf and watched as he dished out the food and took care of the horses. He seemed nice; his voice was soft and kind.

I poked my head out for a second and was rewarded with a warm welcome from the man. I took a chance and walked toward him and Iíve never known such a kind touch. I started purring for the first time in what felt like forever.

It was Nirvana.

Over the next few weeks, I acclimated myself to the routine of the barn Ė feeding times, when the doors were closed for the night, all of it.

I made friends with the other animals and we kind of look out for each other when we can, but no one is more conscientious of us than the man and woman who own the barn. They always have food for us and make sure weíre all inside for the night.

Three weeks after Iíd first arrived at the barn, I fell asleep one night with a funny feeling in my chest. As I looked around me at the other slumbering four-legged souls who were safe and locked inside where it was warm and dry, my eyes burned a little and my heart was kind of stuck in my throat.

Iíd been on my own for so long, I didnít know it was possible to find a place like this. A place where I could be part of a family.

It was only a few days later that the man brought something for me to wear. A collar with my name and his name on a tag, so that if I was ever lost, I could be returned safely. At first, it felt funny around my neck. I wasnít used to having something against my fur like that, but the thought of what it meant to have it stopped me from trying to take it off myself.

At night, the man Ė I started to call him dad in my head, but I didnít mention this to any of the other animals because I worried they would think I was being silly or too clingy Ė would take my collar off when he put us all to bed and he made sure to scratch my neck.

Man, that felt so good. I couldnít help but rub against his hand and purr.

Now Iíve reached the point where the collar is a source of pride for me. After breakfast in the morning, I make sure to hop up on the counter so dad can put my collar on. It gives me a warm feeling in my belly to have it around my neck because it means Iím my dadís boy. It means that someone cares.

When I make my rounds in the fields, I sometimes see other cats on the edges of the property. They look like I used to Ė scared, hungry, alone.

I feel bad for them, but I learned the hard way not to make contact unless they want it. They can get pretty territorial and mean. I try to tell them what it can be like, but theyíre too afraid to really hear me.

I know they sometimes look at my collar when Iím near enough for them to see. At first, their expression is curious, but once they realize what it means, I can tell theyíre a little jealous.

I walk different now. I know this. I feel more confident, more sure of myself. Especially when I have my collar on.

I know itís because dad made that commitment to me. I never had anyone do that for me before and it makes me proud.

Proud to wear it, proud to be his, proud that he took me in and saw something in me no one else did.

It all changed for me when I took a chance and stepped into the barn. Now, when I go to sleep at night, warm and safe and with a full belly, I know how lucky I am that dad made the effort to help me.

With every click of the collar around my neck, I think how nice it is to belong to someone and finally have a place to call home.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau