Lazarus, the Christmas Eve Miracle

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Lazarus the cat

Winters in Iowa can get extremely cold. Kristy Henning, the director of Emmet County Animal Shelter in Estherville, Iowa, knew this—so when she received a call on Christmas Eve from a vet tech one hour away in Blue Earth, Minnesota asking if she would be willing to accept a cat even though it was a holiday, Henning said yes, of course.

The vet tech and her friend had found the cat in the middle of the road in extremely rough condition due to ringworm. They had called several places first, but because of the holiday, they hadn’t been able to find a place to take him yet.

“Thankfully it wasn’t snowing, or I wouldn’t have wanted the girls to drive out here,” Henning says.

Emmet County Animal Shelter hosts about 130 cats at a time, depending on the time of year, with fall and the end of the year often being the busiest. As the weather grows colder, people start worrying about how the stray outdoor cats they’ve been taking care of over the summer and early fall will survive the winter.

Lazarus’ Healing Journey

before 4

Lazarus had ringworm and was in a rough state when he was found.

Lazarus was very emaciated when he was brought in, Henning recalls, and looked terrible due to ringworm. Ringworm kitties automatically get sulfur baths as part of the shelter’s intake protocol. He also had a severe upper respiratory infection, so Henning and her team immediately started him on antibiotics and gave him a B12 injection to help boost and support his immune system. He was in such poor condition Henning also gave him subcutaneous fluids to make sure he stayed hydrated.

Many cats brought into shelters have ringworm, though it is thankfully treatable. The process typically takes 21 days, though it took even longer for Lazarus to recover from his upper respiratory infection. He still bounces back and forth between his upper respiratory being good and needing to be on antibiotics again. “He’s kind of a chronic fella,” Henning says, “But often he’s fine, just needs some extra medicine sometimes!”

Lazarus the Christmas Eve cat is probably about eleven years old now. “He’s just such a sweet, gentle old man that loves to snuggle with the other cats,” Henning adds. “Obviously he’s lived a pretty rough life, but he’s pretty comfortable now. He loves to have his [cat] friends [around] to make a puddle cuddle with.” Lazarus reminds Henning of Grumpy Cat with his squished face, though he’s anything but grumpy!

Lazarus Is Ready for Adoption


Lazarus and Rosalina in the Emmet County Animal Shelter.

Emmet County Animal Shelter is a no-kill shelter, which Henning calls a luxury. “We have the luxury of saying no; we can’t take your pet right now because we don’t have the space. … [Because of this] we can focus on providing the best care for the animals because we are not forced to be overwhelmed.”

“One of the challenges, though,” Henning admits, “is that we do have animals that we will not euthanize for space, so we act as a sort of sanctuary. [W]e have dogs that have lived here for more than three years and cats who have lived here their whole life and will continue to live here their whole life because they’re unadoptable medically or because of age.”

While Lazarus might be a bit older than most of the cats adopted at the shelter, he has such a sweet and kind personality that Henning hopes he’ll find the perfect family to go home with one day. In a lot of ways, Lazarus is the shelter’s Christmas Eve miracle.

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About Margaret Kingsbury

Margaret Kingsbury is an experienced freelance editor and contract writer who has written feature stories for