Regular customers at Shur-Gain Feeds & Needs in Amherst Town Square Mall know Hunter the cat is friendly and cuddly.
What they might not know is that he’s also an efficient killer.
“He’s got all the mice he wants to eat. It’s his job. That’s what we got him for,” said Scott Galpin, a full-time employee at the store.
Galpin says all Shur-Gain stores have cats to rid their store of mice.
“We have livestock feed, and when you have livestock feed you get mice,” said Galpin.
After the mice are cleared out, Hunter goes out to the field behind the store and brings his catch home.
Most of their customers live in the country and understand cat behavior, but some customers don’t understand and get uneasy at the sight of a mouse hanging from Hunter’s mouth.
“We had one lady who ran out of the store faster than she came in. She almost made a new doorway,” said Maxine Young, a part-time employee at the store.
Hunter also hunts birds.
“He tried to bring back a pheasant once, and we wouldn’t let him in the store,” said Young.
Although he hunts down pheasants, Hunter doesn’t bother with the chicks Shur-Gain orders in on a regular basis.
“We have chick days where we get boxes of chicks. He walks by and ignores them,” said Galpin. “Most cats would go after the chicks but not him. He knows it isn’t his job.”
At night, the chicks are taken out of their boxes and put in an open container where they are fed and kept warm.
“The chicks are in open containers and Hunter doesn’t bother them, not once, but if a mouse comes by that would be it. It’s game on.”
Hunter is about seven years old.
"The chicks are in open containers and Hunter doesn’t bother them, not once, but if a mouse comes by that would be it. It’s game on." - Scott Galpin
“We got him at the shelter about six years ago. He wasn’t a kitten. He was about one year old,” said Galpin.
Over six years, Hunter has been paid grandly for the job he does.
“He gets all the love and all the food and all the treats he wants,” said Galpin.
It’s not just Shur-Gain that treats him well, he’s also spoiled by stores throughout Amherst Town Square Mall.
“We give him top-quality food and top-quality treats, but there was a time when everybody was giving him treats and he put on quite a bit of weight,” said Galpin.
Young says you become his best friend if you give him food.
“He’s always there if you’ve got food and he’s always looking at you waiting for food, so he leads by the belly,” added Young.
Many stores that used to feed him are no longer at the mall, including Car Quest Auto Parts, which moved down the street from the mall more than two years ago.
“He still goes up to the Car Quest building. He hasn’t quite caught on to the fact he’s not going to get in,” said Galpin.
Shur-Gain often get phone calls from people who are worried when they see Hunter strutting through the parking lot among all the cars, but not Galpin.
“He’s smarter than most humans in that parking lot,” said Galpin. “Before he goes across he looks both ways.”
"He’s so friendly he’ll jump in the cars." - Scott Galpin
Some people call to complain that Hunter is outside, and they recently put a tag on his collar saying he’s and indoor and outdoor cat.
“He’s not a big fan of the winter, but in the summer we have a hard time keeping him in, so, in the summer, we get calls every day with people saying, 'Your cat's out.'”
Hunter also has a tag saying he is a Shur-Gain cat, but that didn’t stop one person from recently picking him up and taking him to the animal shelter.
“They didn’t see the tag and they took him to the animal shelter, and the animal shelter called us and we came and got him,” said Young.
Hunter also goes on unplanned journeys.
“He’s so friendly he’ll jump in the cars,” said Galpin. “We’ve had people come back and say ‘I took your cat home. I got home and he was in the back seat sleeping.’”
And Hunter also helps attract new business.
“People come in and say, ‘here’s your cat,’ and we say, ‘come in and look around,’” said Young. “And some people come in just to see him, so I guess he’s a bit of a celebrity.”