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Elderly Volunteer Becomes A Hero After Photos Of Him Sleeping With Cats Goes Viral

Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary

It's surprising how kindness can spread around the world in the blink of an eye, usually when you least expect it to.

An animal shelter from Green Bay, Wisconsin was just trying to give their most dedicated volunteer a shout-out on social media.

Now, the entire world has fallen in love with Terry Lauerman, a retired Spanish instructor known as the "Cat Grandpa."

A Passion For Cat Naps

Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary shared a glowing tribute to Lauerman on Facebook, and the adorable photos featured in their post were a big hit.

The shelter wrote that they were "so lucky to have a human like Terry."

"Terry just came along one day and introduced himself. He said he’s like to brush cats. Eventually it became everyday."

"He brushes all of the cats, and can tell you about all of their likes and dislikes. He also accidentally falls asleep most days. We don’t mind - Cats need this! Terry is a wonderful volunteer."

But no one at the shelter expected their heartfelt tribute to go viral. Just three days later, the original post has already been shared more than 18,000 times, proving cat lovers can't get enough of Lauerman's story.

Safe Haven's founder, Elizabeth Feldhausen, said the attention has been almost overwhelming.

"Yesterday, when I told him he hit 400,000 views [Terry] said he hoped all those people would donate," she told BuzzFeed News.

“I kept telling him, ‘Terry, you're famous,’ and he would just do his modest laugh and go back to petting cats.”

Snoozing For A Good Cause

Safe Haven opened in 2016, as a much-needed sanctuary for mistreated cats and cats with disabilities that might have been put down at other shelters.

Because Safe Haven doesn't put animals down, anywhere from 20-30 cats might call the shelter home at one time.

But Feldhausen says Safe Haven has re-homed almost 300 cats with new owners since opening their doors.

Loving volunteers like Lauerman, who spoils his "best friends" daily, are just another part of Safe Haven's “cage-free” and “therapeutic” environment.

Other volunteers say Lauerman - who brings his own “magic brush” with him from home - has a knack for getting the shelter's most anxious cats to warm up to him.

For animals who were rescued from dangerous homes, Lauerman's healing touch can make a big difference. Socialization prepares them for a new, loving home, with a caring owner.

And yes, Lauerman has a favorite cat: a stray named Buckthorn who was once so shy he "hid behind the counter for weeks."

Cat grandpa
Lauerman and Buckthorn.Save Haven Pet Sanctuary

"Now he's come out and he's become my special friend and that's going to stay with me forever," said Lauerman.

(Lauerman can’t adopt a cat because he spends several months abroad each year, but are you going to question his dedication to Buckthorn? I didn’t think so.)

An Online Sensation

Live with Terry 😻❤️🐾 #catnapterry #catgrandpa

Posted by Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary Inc. on Thursday, September 20, 2018

While he “doesn’t know how Facebook works,” Feldhausen said Lauerman appreciates the attention he’s raised for the shelter.

"I don’t know if he realized how big of a deal it was,” she said. “He said he hoped all those people would donate.”

But fans hoping for more ways to follow Lauerman's story are probably out of luck, she explained.

"I keep telling Terry people want him to get a Facebook page or Instagram account. He says he has enough trouble keeping up with emails."

But a fundraiser started in Terry's honor has already raised more than $20,000, and was so popular it managed to crash Safe Haven's website as thousands of Lauerman's fans swarmed the page at once.

Of course, Lauerman's kind nature just comes naturally to him, so he's had a good laugh about his newfound online fame.

“I just fell asleep!” he joked to Upworthy. "I literally did nothing," he added.

You can learn more about Safe Haven and donate to the shelter at their website.

The shelter also has a fundraiser in Lauerman's honor on their Facebook page.

[H/T: BuzzFeed News, ABC, Green Bay Press Gazette, Upworthy]

Let's be thankful for all of the people like Terry making our world a better place!

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com