GRAND FORKS — As an avid angler, Loren Keizer likes catching fish of several species, and when it comes to cats, he definitely prefers the variety with gills and fins.

As in catfish.

So, it was with some surprise last Saturday, Dec. 19, that Keizer, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., found himself in possession of a cat and five kittens.

It all started that afternoon, when Keizer; his son, Lucas, 12, and a family friend hit the ice of a small lake near Detroit Lakes for a late-day panfish excursion. They went out by snowmobile to the permanent fish house Keizer has on the lake and had been fishing maybe 2½ hours when he brought his buddy back to the landing.

Keizer’s original plan was to head back onto the ice to continue fishing — until he noticed the cardboard box on his snowmobile trailer.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“I didn’t think anything of it right away, and we started to unload things and all of a sudden I saw the head of a cat pop out of the box and I thought, ‘Oh boy, this isn’t going to be good,’” Keizer recalled.

He was right.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken

“I told my friend, I said, ‘I think there’s a cat and some kittens in that box,’ because I don’t know why an adult cat would just sit in the box like that,” Keizer said.

Walking up for a closer look, Keizer says he could hear the kittens mewing.

So much for spending a few more hours catching panfish with his son.

“I looked inside, and sure enough, there were five kittens in the box,” Keizer said. “The mom cat, she hopped out and was kind of checking things out, so before I went back (to the fish house) to get Lucas, I put the mother back in the box with the kittens.

“I got back to the fish house and told Lucas, I said, ‘We’ve got to get going, somebody left a cat and kittens on the snowmobile trailer.’ We loaded our stuff up, came back and they were all there yet.”

Keizer’s phone had died while they were fishing so he wasn’t able to call anyone about the present left on his trailer. He and his son stopped by the Humane Society on the way home, Keizer recalls, but no one answered the door at 6 p.m. on a Saturday.

Not knowing what else to do, Keizer drove home and put a post on Facebook to see if anyone had any suggestions. He also called a co-worker “who’s an animal lover and figured she could help me out.”

She gave him a number to call, but no one answered.

Keizer’s wife, Sarah, then called a friend who’s associated with the Marshmallow Animal Shelter, an animal shelter and adoption agency serving Detroit Lakes and several neighboring communities, and was told to call the local police department.

Long story short, the Keizers were put in contact with a woman who works at Essentia Health St. Mary’s, the hospital in Detroit Lakes.

“She said she would take the mom (cat) and the kittens, and we just had to wait until she got off work to come and pick them up,” Keizer said.

That was after midnight, but in the meantime, Keizer’s middle son, Caleb, 9, and daughter Elise, 4, spent some time playing with the cat and kittens, which appeared to be about 4 weeks old and were very tame.

The family’s Yorkshire terrier, Dexter, also got a lesson in cats.

“He was very curious and got swiped at once by the mother,” Keizer said. “We ended up putting the mom and the kittens in our dog’s kennel just because we didn’t need them running around the house, and we didn’t need all that excitement with our dog. We got the mom some tuna fish and some water, and she was good.”

Dexter also settled down and “kind of forgot” about the cats, Keizer said, a welcome turn of events.

“He and the mom cat were probably about the same size,” Keizer said with a laugh. “He’s only about 6 pounds.”

Fortunately, there was no drama with the kids wanting to keep the cat and kittens as pets, Keizer said. But in typical 4-year-old fashion, Elise was especially interested in the kittens, he said, probably from time spent watching “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” a TV reality show about a veterinarian.

“She was very interested in them right away and was over by the kennel checking them out,” Keizer said. “We didn’t get to the point where (the kids) were naming them or anything, which was good. We had told them we weren’t going to keep any of the kittens.”

The woman who rescued the cats will keep them until the kittens are older and can be on their own, with the hope that others eventually will adopt them, Keizer said.

How the cat and kittens ended up on his snowmobile trailer will forever be a mystery, Keizer says. It was a rotten stunt for the cat owner to pull, but as the old saying goes, all’s well that ends well.

Keizer just hopes the next cat he encounters is of the catfish variety.

“It seems like there’s always people interested in kittens and cats, but to just do that really wasn’t the right way,” Keizer said. “It took me a few phone calls and 15 minutes of effort, and we were able to find somebody to take care of them.

“It was a good ending to the story.”