PHOTO: Chelsea VanRoekel/Parallell 45
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July 16, 2020

Chelsea VanRoekel’s interest in hobby farming started back when she’d spend summers on her grandparent’s property in Iowa.

“They had a small cattle farm and always had barn cats and sometimes horses that I could spend time with and I loved it!” recalls VanRoekel, who soon went on to take horseback riding lessons and attend school with the idea of becoming a livestock veterinarian.

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These days, VanRoekel overseas her own hobby farm situated in rural Montana. Named Parallel 45 Farm, alongside specializing in selling free-range eggs, the venture naturally includes a clowder of barn cats. These felines have become the stars of the farm’s Instagram account.

We spoke to VanRoekel about the personalities of her barn cats and how they get along with the other animals on the farm. We also got the scoop on the day-to-day business of a farm feline.


Here are some tips for keeping chickens safe around cats.



Meet The Barn Cats

Right now, Parallel 45 is presided over by a roster of four fine felines. Mr. Pickles is the original member of the group.

“He has a little bit of only child syndrome and definitely bullies the other cats a bit,” says VanRoekel. “He wants to be the only cat getting my affection and he makes it known!”

Elsewhere in the ranks, Munchie came to live on the farm after being rescued from a group of feral cats living around VanRoekel’s family’s lake house in Minnesota.

“If you sit still she will cuddle the stuffing out of you!” says VanRoekel. “But she definitely marches to the beat of her own drum and will totally disappear when she wants alone time.”

Then there’s also Rusty, “the biggest cuddle bug of the group” and also a pro mouser. His brother Copper, whom VanRoekel describes as “definitely the biggest comedian,” enjoys chasing chicken feathers in the wind.

A Barn Cat’s Daily Routine

On a day-to-day basis, VanRoekel says barn cat duty begins at dusk, when the cats head out to hunt for the night.

“Typically, one or two of them will leave the spoils of the night on the porch for us to see in the morning,” she says. “We congratulate them with a treat or two and bring them in for their breakfast around 6 a.m.”

Once breakfast has been scarfed down, it’s back out for another hour or so of hunting. Then they say hello to the farm’s two livestock guardian dogs, plus the horse and the goats.

“This usually involves them sauntering around and doing nose boops with each animal,” says VanRoekel.

“Then around 8 or 9 a.m. they will come sleep in their beds on the covered porch, in the garage, or on a rainy or snowy day we will let them come sleep the day away in the house.”


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The Best Barn Cat Spots

VanRoekel says that the cats used to hang out around the rocks and sage bushes at her old property. But having moved recently, the felines are now drawn to areas where there’s a mole, vole and shrew issue.

“They hang out on the edge of the holes and wait for the opportune moment,” she explains. “They also like to spend time down by the creek as I’m sure the hunting is great down there. And cats, of course, like to be in areas where they feel concealed.”

When Barn Cats Meet Farm Animals

“Everyone is always surprised how well the cats get along with everyone,” says VanRoekel when asked about how the four barn cats interact with the farm’s other animals.

“In the house you can see them cuddling up with our 9-year-old rescue dog, Marley. Outside, you can see them following the livestock guardian dogs around or even doing nose boops with our horse, Cricket.”

VanRoekel adds that as Rusty and Copper were raised in her old property’s chicken coop, they now “have special bonds with the chickens and will sometimes lay amongst them as they forage across the property.”

The Joys Of Hobby Farming

“Having come from a background of early veterinary medicine and encountering animals in very different walks of life, I think for me the most rewarding thing is knowing that we are giving these animals the best lives that we can give,” says VanRoekel, encapsulating the joys of hobby farming for her.

“Could we improve on some things? Always. But day in and day out they are well taken care of, have everything they need and are extremely loved.”

Follow Parallel 45 Farm at Instagram.

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