GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) — On any given day at the Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary, guests can wander in and play with the shelter’s resident cats.
All of the cats are adoptable.
They’re also all a little different.
“I just wanted to have somewhere where cats could go instead of being euthanized when they had a disability or special need,” Elizabeth Feldhausen, Founder of Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary explained.
It all started when Feldhausen’s cat was partially paralyzed. She was told that putting him down was the best option.
“He was still enjoying life and purring, he just needed help getting around,” she told Local 5.
So she took matters into her own hands. “I rehabilitated him myself, and I was pretty young at the time,” Feldhausen said, “and within six months he was back to being a normal cat.”
Seeing first hand what some TLC could do for a cat with special needs gave Feldhausen an idea.
“I kind of saw a need in the community, somewhere where cats could go instead of being euthanized when they had a disability or special need,” she explained.
Originally located in a smaller space in De Pere, Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary’s first location opened in December 2016.
It turns out, Feldhausen was right about the need for a special needs shelter.
“We kept getting more and more calls for us to take cats from owners or other shelters who didn’t have the resources or time to care for them, where their only other option was euthanasia,” she said, “and before we knew it we had more cats than we could handle in our little location.”
Since opening in 2018, the sanctuary has grown into its downtown Green Bay location.
At the same time, Feldhausen grew into her role.
“We got so big so fast, and I’m not a boss,” she said, “It was just me and a couple friends running it. [I] had to quickly learn how to have a staff and have a bigger business.”
She shifted her focus to developing new skills and learning to utilize existing ones.
“I was actually working in social media before I started Safe Haven, so that’s always been my special thing,” Feldhausen said.
Feldhausen’s “special thing” is what has put Safe Haven on the map internationally.
In September 2018, she posted photos of “Cat Grandpa Terry” dozing off with some of the shelter’s cats.
The post quickly went viral.
“I got emails from England and Portugal every other place you can think of,” Terrence Lauerman, the so-called ‘Cat Grandpa’ told Local 5, “saying that they saw the picture on the internet, so it was quite surprising that it spread that quickly.”
More than 45,000 Facebook users follow Safe Haven’s page, a lasting effect from the post featuring Lauerman.
“We have people from all over the world who follow us on Facebook, and then we have people who travel to Green Bay just to come to the cat cafe or just to meet Grandpa Terry,” Feldhausen said.
The attention has helped the shelter grow.
“A lot of people sent gifts and donations for the cats just because they saw my picture on the internet,” Lauerman said, “so it was great for the cats and that’s what we’re working for.”
For Feldhausen, it’s all about the cats.
“Before we were around, most of these cats would have been euthanized,” she said, “and I think it’s important for more and more people to come see Safe Haven and meet these cats, because the more we can get the word out there, the fewer cats that will be euthanized.”
Her business is still growing, along with her dreams.
“I thought I was going to own a tiny little cat rescue in De Pere forever,” she said, and I was totally cool with that, so this is all like beyond my wildest dreams right now.”
Feldhausen is also A co-owner of the Pawffee Shop Cat Café in Appleton.