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Forum Communications Co. report, Published June 17 2012

Cat rescuer says kittens trapped under house near Detroit Lakes

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Jim Johnson has been caring for neighborhood kittens in Shoreham ever since he saved a few of them from wasps and hornets in October.

Johnson, of West Fargo, suffered multiple wasp stings in that rescue, which was the subject of an article in The Forum.

Now, Johnson is worried that relatives of those same kittens may be in trouble – trapped under a house near a cabin he is staying at near Detroit Lakes on County Road 22.

The homeowners, Patrick and Kris Christensen, disagree, though, and last week filed a petition for a restraining order against Johnson in Becker County District Court, claiming that his actions to try to save the cats were threatening their safety and home.

However, the petition was denied on Thursday, and a court hearing has been scheduled for June 26.

But by then, Johnson thinks it will be too late.

“It’s a little too late. Without any food or water, and this length of time, it’s probably too late even now,” he said on Sunday.

A few weeks ago, Johnson was working on a cabin across the street, he said, when the cabin owner saw a cat under a neighbor’s house.

Johnson put food near the house for the cat, to coax it out from under the house. The cat ate the food, but wouldn’t come out, he said, and the hole in the foundation is too narrow for a person to crawl into and search.

“All I saw was that one cat; I had no idea she had kittens,” Johnson said. After discovering the kittens, he said they were probably the reason the cat didn’t come out.

Shortly after that, Johnson found he wasn’t able to feed the cats anymore because the Christensens had boarded up the space where Johnson had seen the cat.

According to Johnson, the kittens are trapped.

But the Christensens don’t agree.

“There are no cats under our house,” Kris Christensen said. “There are stray cats in the area; they’re feral cats. We boarded our house to keep them out.”

She said they have children and a dog, and they don’t want cats to bother or harm them, and she said cats living under their house could harm the house’s foundation. She also said their dog would have noticed if there were any cats on their property.

After the foundation hole was boarded up for a week, Johnson convinced the Christensens to open it up for an hour and a half, so the cats could escape. Several bowls of food left in the hole were devoured in that time, but no cats came out.

Johnson and the Christensens continued to argue about the cats, and after deputies visited, the foundation was unboarded overnight and Johnson set live traps near the hole.

No cats were caught, and the hole was boarded back up. But the second night he caught the mother cat and one of the kittens during a storm, apparently trying to get back into the boarded-up hole.

Kris Christensen says she doesn’t believe the cats caught in the live traps were connected to her house at all, since they were caught after it was already boarded back up.

The two cats that Johnson caught are frightened, he said. “They’re freaking out.”

Johnson said he’s heard kittens crying from underneath the boarded house, and has seen a cat he believes is the grandmother of the kittens scouting around the boarded-up hole in apparent distress.

He’s continued to try, without success, to convince the Christensens to open the foundation hole.

“He’s trespassing on our property,” Kris Christensen said.

“At this point, we’re comfortable with the fact that there are no cats under there, and we’re trying to protect the integrity of our house, and Jim has to accept that,” Kris Christensen said.

Becker County Deputy Dan Skoog said two deputies have been to the Christensens’ property and haven’t heard or seen any kittens.

“As far as we can tell, there aren’t any in there,” Skoog said.

Johnson said as far as he saw, the deputies didn’t even remove the board and look in the hole, and seemed more interested in serving him with the restraining order, which he intends to contest.

The Christensens have since removed the board and glued a piece of asbestos siding over the hole, making the covering permanent, he said.

He is worried that the kittens he believes are under the house will die soon, and is taking care of the two he has caught.

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