Woody and Buzz lay quietly curled up on their beds, ignoring the constant activity around them.

The 2-year-old, domestic short-haired cats have gray fur with splotches of white. The brothers were adopted from Animal Allies in Hermantown as “working cats” by Widdes Feed & Farm Supply, 93 County Road 61 in Esko.

According to office manager Meggan Urvig, the previous cats died, and a customer asked if Widdes would be interested in her last two barn cats she needed to find homes for.

Widdes Feed & Farm Supply, which opened in 1910 as MJ Widdes & Sons, sells agricultural supplies like bee hive equipment, cow tags and dog food. Outside, there is a variety of grains and seeds that attract rodents such as mice and chipmunks.

“If it needs food, we have it,” Urvig said.

Widdes Feed & Farm Supply in Esko. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal
Widdes Feed & Farm Supply in Esko. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

Animal Allies provides semi-social cats with similar placements when needed. While the facility successfully socializes many of the cats, some do not respond as well to people.

Animal Allies established the working cat program in 2009 along with the opening of its shelter in Hermantown.

“The working cats are typically stray cats who are considered ‘semi-social,'” Animal Allies Development Officer Michelle Sternberg said. “These are not ‘warm and fuzzy’ lap cats, but rather cats who seek independence and might come say hello occasionally on their own terms.”

Urvig said her "working cats" are active and good hunters. They enjoy naps on their cat stand inside the air-conditioned store for a few hours before venturing outside for a while. Later in the day, they come back in for another catnap and repeat the routine.

Buzz takes a nap in air conditioned comfort at his home at Widdes Feed & Farm Supply in Esko. Buzz and his brother Woody earn their keep by catching rodents that get into the grains and seeds at Widdes. The phone rang non stop and a steady stream of people came into the store, but Buzz did not let that disturb his cat nap. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal
Buzz takes a nap in air conditioned comfort at his home at Widdes Feed & Farm Supply in Esko. Buzz and his brother Woody earn their keep by catching rodents that get into the grains and seeds at Widdes. The phone rang non stop and a steady stream of people came into the store, but Buzz did not let that disturb his cat nap. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

“Every morning, there is something lying by the door,” Urvig said. “Some days, they bring live pigeons inside.”

Sternberg explained that working cats do not make good house cats, so they place them at locations like Widdes who may benefit from having "working cats."

“For cats who don't respond well to behavior and socialization training, this program is a great way to provide them with a full life in a safe, sheltered home,” Sternberg said.

She said the felines work for their keep by providing services ranging from pest control, to property protection, to loss prevention.

“Because they are fed and cared for by their owners, these kitties tend to stay in the comfort of their new home and do not hunt or cause issues for neighboring areas,” Sternberg said. “In fact, once the cats have established their presence, rodents and other uninvited guests tend to relocate, creating a safe place for all critters and people involved.”

All cats in the program have been altered, have updated vaccinations and are microchipped.

For more information on the working cat program, visit animalallies.net or call 218-722-5341.

Woody and Buzz as kittens shortly after they arrived at Widdes Feed & Farm Supply in Esko as 'working' cats. Contributed photo
Woody and Buzz as kittens shortly after they arrived at Widdes Feed & Farm Supply in Esko as 'working' cats. Contributed photo