Rusty the cat lives at Wild Birds Unlimited
A West Knoxville store specializes in birds, yet a cat plays an integral role in the business.
In fact, he has opened people's eyes to the value of reaching out to the less fortunate.
"He lived in an alley. He was underweight and underfed," Wild Birds Unlimited owner Kathy Getsey remembered.
That was before Kathy Getsey rescued Rusty the cat and brought him to her store in West Knoxville.
"Rusty entertains. We say he's in charge of customer service here," Getsey said.
Customers come to the store to buy bird supplies like houses, feeders, and seed. Many of them make a point to interact with Rusty. In fact, some show up just to see the cat.
"He greets people. He sometimes helps them shop. He gets carried around by children. He is regularly the recipient of presents from our customers," Getsey said.
She credits Rusty with being a catalyst for expanding the store's focus.
Wild Birds Unlimited isn't limited to selling bird supplies. It hosts a small breed dog rescue, collects supplies for animal groups, and has helped adopt more than 40 stray cats.
"He's been a great ambassador for not only our store but a great ambassador for animals that are in need out in our society," she said.
Rusty knows he's in the catbird seat.
"He is so appreciative," Wild Birds Unlimited employee Billie Cantwell said. "He just really knows that we love him and he shows his appreciation to us and he's just sweet. He's just a sweetheart. Everybody loves him."
This is Rusty's 4th Christmas in the store. He has his own Christmas stocking and he's already getting presents from customers.
"We would like to have people bring in food and we're going to offer coupons to people for discounts at the store. We'll donate that food to shelter groups around our neighborhood," Getsey said.
The store is Rusty's neighborhood. It is where he eats, sleeps, and even exercises with a little help from customers and employees.
"We run from the back all the way up to the front and he jumps on the seed bags and then we run back, and he always beats me on the way back," Cantwell said.
Rusty the cat has even become a bird watcher.
Getsey said, "We can open those doors and he likes life on this side of the door much better than he liked life on that side of the door. So Rusty will sit on the mat and watch the birds at the feeder and occasionally he'll step a paw out but never does he want to go outside and stay outside. He's perfectly happy to watch the birds from a distance."
He's perfectly happy at his home at Wild Birds Unlimited.
And that's the cat's meow.