Terry Lauerman loves cats. The 75-year-old regularly volunteers with the Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary in De Pere, Wisconsin, a municipality just outside of Green Bay.
Lauerman probably never thought his love of felines would get him much attention. But on Tuesday, after members of the Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary shared pictures of him napping with the cats online, Lauerman went viral. The post has garnered close to 70,000 “likes” as of Friday, and has been shared by users online nearly 20,000 times.
The workers at Safe Haven have dubbed Lauerman “the Cat Grandpa” because of his love of cats, the Green Bay PressGazette reported. The retired high school Spanish teacher explained that cats have always been something he’s been drawn toward.
“I’ve always liked cats and I always had cats when I was kid, and I loved them,” Lauerman said when asked about his affinity for felines. “In many ways, I see my old cats in these cats here.”
The social media virality of the post has helped the shelter in many big ways. Since Tuesday, more than $20,000 has been raised for Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary. The post even caused their website to crash temporarily when more than 1,000 users per second were loading the page.
Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary is no ordinary pet shelter. They cater exclusively to cats that are termed special needs animals, and many of the cats in their care would likely be euthanized were it not for their generosity.
The story of “the Cat Grandpa” started in 2016. At first, Lauerman came to the shelter just a few times per week. When he retired, he had a lot more time to visit. Safe Haven eventually made him an “official volunteer,” and now Lauerman visits their location six days a week, spending two to three hours with the fur balls.
The affection Lauerman shows to the cats at the shelter seems to be mutual.
“He has this special brush. And he is able to get cats that normally don’t like to be touched, to jump up on his lap and want to be held and brushed,” Safe Haven founder Elizabeth Feldhausen said. “He knows all of their names and all of their personalities.”
On going viral and raising tens of thousands of donations, Lauerman doesn’t think he did much to help. “I literally did nothing,” he said, adding that his naps with the cats were the result of cutting down buckhorn trees before stopping by the shelter.
To show their appreciation to Lauerman, the shelter plans to create a trophy for him — making his title official by bestowing him with the title of “Honorary Cat Grandpa,” according to Fox 6 News in Green Bay.