Barney, Master of his Domain


When I moved to a property that had a stable for my horses, I realized immediately that I would need barn cats to control rodent populations in the barn. At that time, Ruth Steinert Memorial SPCA was closing its doors in Tamaqua. I went there and adopted two cats, Barney and Fred. They were happy to be in a home with food, water, good sleeping arrangements and attention.

Barney was a character. Always very social, he greeted guests with charm and guile. But, then his true nature would show and he’d bite. He bit quite a few people over the years. No hospital care needed. I would tell people to pet him briefly and walk away. If he drops down, looking all cute, “DON’T TOUCH”. Of course, most people ignored me and paid the price. At dinner one night with a group of friends, almost all confessed to a bite from the charming (?) barn cat. One thing was for sure, Barney made an impression…..

He was the disciplinarian of the dogs, resident or otherwise. All dogs kept a wide berth. When running as a pack on the property, it was not unusual to see the group of dogs split up to go around the controlling cat in a big half circle. Barney had a soft spot for puppies. He was always sweet to them until they reached about 12 weeks of age. It was then time to teach them a lesson, which he always did, leaving them with a healthy fear of the tuxedo cat.

Barney terrorized visiting dogs as well. On more than one occasion, he made dogs retreat , screaming in fear with a bleeding nose. In one case, a well meaning Golden Retriever was slapped in the barn. Her owners put the poor dog in their car and, no kidding, Barney went and jumped on the hood of the car to continue his bullying.

My own dog, Sparkle, was training one day, going through a closed agility tunnel, which is a tunnel with fabric that the dog literally has to nose their way through. Barney jumped on the moving piece of cloth without reserve, horrifying the poor dog that couldn’t see what was on the outside. After Sparkle was finally out of the tunnel, he continued his attack. Sparkle would never train with Barney around after that.

Throughout Barney’s life he would go on “walk abouts” that would last for days. I would always be worried that he was not going to make it home. He always did. He was collared and microchipped, but came home on his own. The longest stretch was twenty three days. I had almost given up hope.

Barney generally chose to come in the house about once a year. He would then sleep for a day then return to barn life. At the ripe old age of seventeen, Barney was treated for hyperthyroidism. He did well and lived another year outside. At eighteen, I made the decision to enforce house restriction for him as he was getting feeble and needed treatment for arthritis. He died on his own at nineteen years old.

I called Barney my charismatic curmudgeon. He was that and more. He was a vital member of the Canterbury Tails critters for many years.