Partnership is pet purr-fectThe partnership between a Superior-based animal rescue and Petco of Duluth is helping cats like Petunia find adoptive homes. Saturday, the black and white cat plopped to the floor of the store in its harness, ready for some petting despite an energetic Labrador retriever named Gunner playing nearby.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The partnership between a Superior-based animal rescue and Petco of Duluth is helping cats like Petunia find adoptive homes. Saturday, the black and white cat plopped to the floor of the store in its harness, ready for some petting despite an energetic Labrador retriever named Gunner playing nearby.
The 2-year-old cat gets along well with dogs, according to Matt Nesshengel, executive director of Critter Harbor.
“She loves laying in the sun,” he said, and playing with her rope toy.
Thanks to the new cat habitat at Petco, 903 W. Central Entrance, the feline may soon be adopted. The habitat, which can house up to six cats, was one of about 40 that opened nationwide in September for a three-month trial.
“Duluth Petco here actually asked corporate to be one of the test stores for this program,” said Kathy Thompson, inventory manager and cat adoption captain for the store. Collaborating with Critter Harbor reflected the Petco philosophy of “adoption first.” More than 58 cats were adopted during the trial period. The target number to keep the program was 50.
“It was amazing, just amazing,” Thompson said.
The test phase was so successful in Duluth that the habitat is now permanent and the program will roll out nationwide, Thompson said.
Nesshengel said the high visibility has made an impact, increasing the number of animals Critter Harbor can take in.
“This has probably doubled our adoptions,” he said of the cat habitat program.
Critter Harbor, a non-profit animal rescue based in Superior, was launched in 2007. The small organization has no shelter and relies primarily on volunteers. Critter Harbor places animals in foster homes throughout the region while they await adoption.
“We like the foster home model because you get a better idea of the temperament of the animals,” Nesshengel said. “Their routines, their misbehaviors and their good behaviors.”
Critter Harbor provides the food, leashes, litter, toys and medical care for the animals, and volunteers are willing to travel extensively to rescue animals and place them.
“We try not to pay much attention to little black lines on a map,” Nesshengel said. “Critters in need are critters in need.”
A Craigslist ad from the organization prompted Chelsea Kowitz of Saginaw to open her home to foster animals.
“They set me up with wonderful dogs,” she said.
Her first foster, a Huskey mix stray from Poplar named Ginger, was soon placed in a permanent home. Kowitz is currently caring for Gunner. The feisty Labrador was surrendered by his family because a new baby was allergic.
“He’s ridiculously good,” Nesshengel said, except for an occasional high-pitched bark when he wants something.
Critter Harbor also provides trap/neuter/return services for outdoor cats — whether farm cats or strays. Nesshengel said they have provided the service for four years, focusing primarily on the Poplar, Maple and Lake Nebagamon areas in the past year. About 25 cats at a Maple farm are slated for the service Jan. 14.
“Our mission is to end euthanasia in the region here, much the same as the other shelters,” Nessehengel said.
Critter Harbor accepts animals directly from individuals and takes in local shelter animals in need of fostering. Funding for the organization comes from private donations and fundraisers. During the Tree of Hope fundraiser that ended Saturday, Petco customers gave about $7,000 to the organization. Employees, too, are embracing Critter Harbor. Two Petco associates have started volunteering to help maintain the cat habitats.
Thompson herself has taken the Superior-based rescue to heart. Three years ago, a Bengal-cross cat was at the store during a Critter Harbor adoption event. Every time Thompson walked past the feline’s cage, it meowed. She spent her lunch hour petting the cat and eventually adopted it.
“He was a perfect fit for us,” she said.
The feline named Teddy had been adopted and returned repeatedly in the Twin Cities area to the point where it was slated for euthanasia.
“Just knowing that this cat all the other humane shelters were going to give up on, Critter Harbor went in and rescued him and said ‘We’re not giving up on you, we are going to find you that home.’ That was really touching to me,” Thompson said.
Currently, Critter Harbor has about a dozen foster homes. More are always needed. The group is also in need of items to care for the animals and money. For more information, visit www.critterharbor.com, call Nesshengel at (715) 410-7666, e-mail email@example.com or check out their Facebook page. Animals available for adoption are also listed on petfinder.com.
The cat habitats are just one of the many ways Petco of Duluth supports area animals. The store has a dinner and dessert program. For $1 or $1.50, customers can buy a can of food and a toy to be donated to cats in area shelters. Petco also works with Churches United in Ministry to provide pet essentials for their food pantry. Customers can donate unopened bags of cat food, dog food and litter in an entryway basket to the CHUM program.
“We love helping out all the shelters,” Thompson said. “But if we can prevent a cat or dog going to a shelter” it also helps.
Critter Harbor volunteers are at the Duluth Petco from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The cats in the habitats are available for viewing during regular store hours, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.