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BE Walmart cat finds new home in Wisconsin

By Staff | Feb 5, 2017

The icy, stormy mix of winter weather that hit Blue Earth in mid-January was not unusual for Southern Minnesota, even after a balmy holiday season.

What was unusual, though, at least to the FedEx driver passing through town at the time, was the sight of a wandering cat, located not far from Walmart just off Highway 169.

Maybe the delivery man knew there were not too many nearby houses from which the feline could easily have come. Maybe he did not. But he knew the cat probably was not milling around the business strip parallel to the highway so that it could bask in the cold conditions of the storm.

For a short time, he drove away, perhaps to drop off the package that brought him to Blue Earth in the first place. On his return trip, however, he opted for an unscheduled pickup.

He got the cat.

Turning to the nearest source of potential help, the driver went to Walmart. It just so happened to be the workplace of Blue Earth’s Beth Engeseth, who helps organize the store’s donations to the Faribault County Humane Society, and before long, the lost cat was on its way to Makotah Vet Center in town.

Contacting the Society and paying for the cat’s veterinarian bills in the meantime, Engeseth later learned that her unexpected furry friend had been rescued from hypothermia.

Days passed, and then weeks, as the cat received additional treatment and Deb Johnson, coordinating volunteer for the humane society, paid visits to the animal at Makotah.

Little did anyone know that the Walmart wanderer would soon have a home. And a permanent connection to the man whose drive through town was interrupted with discovery.

“The FedEx guy posted a picture of the cat on Facebook,” Johnson said. “And his aunt saw the cat and wanted it.”

By Saturday, Jan. 28, the cat had been picked up by the driver’s mother, who came from Janesville, and was on its way to a brand new home, in Wisconsin, with a brand new name Elsa, appropriately inspired by Disney’s “Frozen.”

It is just one of many tales of adopted tails from a winter season that Johnson said brings about “quite an influx of cats.”

Recalling a visit to a country home near Delavan prior to the new year, Johnson said volunteers from the humane society were called upon to collect and care for more than 10 of 30 cats that had made themselves at home in and around the affected household.

“We got there and a thousand eyes are staring at us from all over,” she said. “We still have many of them since we wanted to get them all spayed and neutered.”

In between transporting those cats to Bricelyn for neutering and overseeing standard requests to pick up animals across the county, Johnson said the Society and its group of five or six core volunteers tries to remind people of the regularity of finding hungry or homeless cats this time of the year.

“A lot of people feed cats,” she said, “and then when winter comes, they think, ‘Now I’m afraid it’s too cold outside,’ so they bring them in.”

But caring for the cats, she continued, goes beyond a little food and temporary shelter. That is where treatment and long-term adoption plans come in, like the one that landed Blue Earth’s wayward Walmart critter a home across the state border.

“If you find a stray cat,” Johnson said, “you have to call the local police first, then the police will bring it in.”

That is according to the joint powers agreement between the county humane society and the city of Blue Earth, which owns the society’s animal shelter on North Grant Street. It enables every county community, except for Wells, to transfer animals to the shelter, where the society is then in charge of caring and finding homes for them. Foster homes are also used.

Of course, with that responsibility comes winter’s inevitable “influx” of cats. But the sometimes-overwhelming inventory has not been met without help from some internal upgrades at the shelter.

Installing a fourth dog kennel inside the facility, replacing two of the originals and adding three additional five-by-15-foot kennels directly outside the small building, the humane society has dedicated more than $1,000 to expanding its animal capacity.

“It seems like we’ve always needed one more space when we’re overflowing with cats,” Johnson said. “And the old kennels were literally pieced together with every-sized wire. It was just a mess.”

New washable and waterproof walls for the backs of each kennel are also in place, and a wall-mounted food dispenser is on the way. Johnson said that, with joint powers assistance, the hope is still to fence in the facility and its entire outdoor space, but for now, even added space makes for a vast upgrade over early renditions of the shelter.

Outside of the building, help has poured in, too, namely in the form of added volunteers and regular donations from locals like G&S Drainage, which offered gravel for the outdoor kennels, and Engeseth and the Walmart team.

“Once a month, they (Walmart) give us cartloads of food they can’t sell,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it’s litter, sometimes toys. It’s like a goody bag, and it’s a godsend.”

With six cats on the humane society’s hands now, Johnson said each of the donations goes to use.

And if all goes as hoped, someone, somewhere, will find use for each of those cats during a season in which they need care most.