Without our cats, we'd be knee-deep in mice and voles. We notice it right away when the cats get too old to hunt. Usually, getting another cat is not hard. One of the bad parts of rural life is the tendency of people to allow their barn cats to breed freely, or to move away and abandon their cats, or to drop off their unwanted cats near a farm. Luckily for us, and unluckily for the poor cats, our Cariboo winters are too harsh and the predators too fierce to allow a feral cat population to develop here.
Still, we've adopted many cats over the years. Right now, we have three. The eldest is Anwyn, our barn cat. She appeared in 1998, obviously living wild. As soon as we could catch her, we had her spayed. Since then, she's lived in our barn. We feed her, and give her affection when she allows it, but she's never been really tame. Now, as she ages, she's spending more time close to the house, and letting us bring her inside on the coldest nights.
Our other elderly cat is Churchill (or Church, for short). He appeared, shivering on a -25 evening, outside the general store where I was working in early 2000. He has been an incredible hunter over the years, but he's slowed down lately. He's the kind of cat who's friends with everyone he meets.
Sometime soon, we'll need another young, hunting cat. Floyd will be happy -- he adores kittens -- but I'm not sure how Savanna will react. It should be interesting.