Meet Hercules, the Rescue Cat Who Became a Target Model

Feline escaped from hot car in Minnesota in 2022, went missing and almost died, then became a star
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2024 11:00 AM CDT
Cat Saved From Hot Car Is Now Modeling for Target
Hercules' star turn for Target.   (YouTube/WCCO)

When authorities discovered 50 or so cats crammed into a car in Minnesota's Chisago County in June 2022, the temperature was hovering around 95 degrees. Officials were able to transport most of the felines to a shelter, but one escaped and went missing—until a month later, when volunteers found him "lying motionless, near death, his fur drenched in urine," per CBS News. Now, a happy ending for the kitty named Hercules, who has since become a proud model for Target.

  • Origin story: The man who'd been living in his car with all of those cats was said to have fallen on hard times and been evicted from his previous residence. "He was very polite, and it seemed he loved [the cats] very much," veterinarian Nicole Perreault, who also runs a Minnesota pet adoption and foster group, tells the Washington Post.

  • Hercules' rescue: When the missing cat was found, he had a maggot infestation so bad that they'd eaten through his cheek tissue; he also had a bad break in his jaw that left his tongue hanging out. He required several surgeries that were worth around $12,000, by Perreault's estimates.
  • Modeling career: Registered nurse Jill LeBrun, who fostered and ended up adopting Hercules, spotted a promotion last fall from an animal talent agency that was seeking pets with unusual faces. "I sent them a picture of Hercules and they wanted him for [a] photo shoot," she tells CBS.
  • Target spot: Hercules was paid $100 for that gig, and LeBrun was told he would appear in an ad sometime in early 2024. She didn't hear back, but in mid-March, she was strolling through her local Target when she spotted her rescue pet on containers of Up & Up Fragrance Free Clumping Cat Litter. He recently did a second shoot soon, "which means he'll probably be appearing on other merchandise in a few months," per the Post.
  • Happy cat: Despite his star turn, the cat who WCCO says "may have lost a few lives" along his journey, lives a mostly quiet, enjoyable life with LeBrun and her other pets, cat Kay and new puppy Juni, per the Post. "He's a natural and he loves to be the center of attention," LeBrun says. "I feel very lucky to be the person who gets to spend every day with him."
(More uplifting news stories.)

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