By Hannah Brenner
Lansing Township News Staff Reporter
“Julio is coolio because he has more white!” is the rhyme Michigan State University Horse Teaching and Research Center Farm Manager Paula Hitzler uses to tell the two barn cats apart. They were littermates, and are very similar in appearance but have distinct personalities.
“As soon as Julio hears kids’ voices he will run up to them. Pablo is a little more standoffish,” said Hitzler.
“They love cuddling people,” Molly Manuell, a sophomore in the two-year Horse Management program, said affectionately. “They’re both really friendly.”
The barn cats at the horse center are primarily there to catch mice, but they also serve as an example to the students and the community on responsible outdoor cat care.
Hitzler admits that the favored felines aren’t exactly successful at their main job.”They’re not good mousers, but they do a good job with the sparrows,” said Hitzler who always brings food for cats.
There are certain health precautions that go along with keeping cats in any sort of outdoor setting.
“They are eating a lot more wild animals so there can be problems with parasites,” said Towne and Country Animal Clinic Registered Veterinary Technician Ellie Seymour.
It is recommended that any cats, especially outdoor cats, are taken to a veterinarian at least once a year for check-ups and keeping vaccines current. One of the most important vaccines for cats that may come in contact with other cats is the Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV) vaccine.
Feral cats have been an issue in Lansing Township and the entire Lansing area in the past few years. September of 2015 there were over 75 cats taken out of one Lansing Township home. An entire Lansing neighborhood was overrun with cats in 2014.
Cat owners need to keep this in mind when considering an outdoor cat, as they may interact with the feral cats. This increases the likelihood of disease spread, such as Feline Leukemia, and reproduction.
Barn cats such as Julio and Pablo are generally healthier than outdoor cats.
“If you have a strictly outdoor cat, there is nobody around to notice them, to pick up on any diseases so you see more issues,” said Seymour. With barn cats, “Owners pay more attention to those cats. If they are around people often, they have more people to notice them.”
Julio and Pablo have interactions with people every single day.
Karen Kelley started coming to the Michigan State University Horse Teaching and Research Center two and a half years ago to visit the horses, but the two barn cats quickly wiggled their way into her heart.
“They recognize my car,” said Kelley. “They come running because they know they’ll get a snack!”
Responsibly caring for cats can be extremely rewarding.
“We have more people that come see the cats sometimes than the horses,” said Hitzler with a laugh.