For decades, people knew Terrence Lauerman as Brother Terry. Now, millions of people know him as Cat Grandpa Terry — a YouTube star, famous catnapper, calendar guy and even coffee flavor.
The fame started about two years ago when Terry — a brother at Saint Norbert Abbey and retired teacher — started visiting Safe Haven Cat Sanctuary in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with a grooming tool to brush the feline residents, all of whom have special needs. During his daily visits with the cats, Terry would fall asleep on one of the sanctuary’s couches, and several cats would join him for a literal afternoon catnap.
“To me, cats bring out the best in humans, and humans bring out the best in cats,” Terry says. “To have an animal cuddle up next to you … it’s a great physical pleasure in a sense. You get the sense they are looking for companionship, and you can give it to them.”
Could it be, ahem, meowlatonin that puts him in a cat-atonic state?
“I’m just an old man, and I like to nap,” Terry jokes. At 78, he gets reliably sleepy in the afternoons.
Staff members, who made Terry an official volunteer, took a picture of him napping with a since-adopted cat named Louis and posted it on social media in September of 2018. Quickly, the picture and later videos and other images went viral; since then, Safe Haven has received more than $100,000 in donations from around the world, says Elizabeth Feldhausen, founder and executive director. Terry himself even gets tons of emails from around the world and even got some Christmas gifts.
“Now that we have gained so much popularity from him, we get so many donations from around the world all the time,” Elizabeth says. “We don’t know that it’s because they are cat lovers or because they know about Cat Grandpa Terry.
“It was a huge surprise to all of us how popular that got,” says Elizabeth, who started Safe Haven in 2016. “It was crazy.”
Terry had a cat when he was a young boy, and he got new cats over the years as the older ones passed away. He has not had his own cat for many years because he traveled too much, but when he retired, he wanted to do something fun, so he immersed himself in cats.
Some cats — including brown tabby Buckhorn and orange tabby Goldie — especially love their nap buddy and wait at the door or come running for Terry, who comes every Tuesday through Saturday when the shelter is open. Terry has kept in touch with people who have adopted his favorite kitties.
On any given day, three or four cats have climbed onto Terry by the time he falls asleep — and then, after he conks out, a few more come for the oxytocin fest, Elizabeth says.
The shelter made a wall calendar full of Terry’s pictures, and a nearby coffee company even created the Grandpa Terry Blend.
Top photograph: Safe Haven Cat Sanctuary