by Steve Rogers

Nine years ago next Tuesday, I trapped a stray cat at Zachary’s in downtown Columbus and gave it to Brennan for her birthday.

It launched not only our relationship but also what has been a nine-year love affair with rescuing stray and feral cats.

We named that first cat, a solid black male, “Sneakers” because of the way he would slink in the shadows and reach way up with his paw to try to take food from your plate.

Our house on Eighth Street North became a magnet for feral cats. The first was Momma Cat, who had a litter under our house. Those first four we managed to catch as they got older, but Momma Cat produced another litter before we could capture her. Two of her kittens did as well.

While walking one night, Misty Dog pulled an abandoned kitten from a cedar bush. Its eyes were infected and swollen shut. It had many other problems and when I took it to the vet the next morning, I didn’t expect it to make it.

The vet didn’t, either, but gave me a couple of suggestions to try. Four days later when I returned, the vet was amazed at the progress “he” had made.  Not thinking any more about it, that ”he” turned up pregnant.

A friend came by to visit and took one look at it and observed, “That cat is swole.”

So another litter was born. I was naming cats after my favorite New York Yankees and the cat saved from the bushes was named “Reggie” after Reggie Jackson. I forever called her “Reggie Man,” even though the Reggie went from being short for Reginald to short for Regina.

At one point, we had as many as 24 cats during the years as the mothers sometimes worked faster than we could, producing litters before we could get them fixed. The numbers also increased periodically as strays wandered up and joined the flock.

We would find good homes for them so the numbers would ebb and flow. When we moved to 10th Avenue North four years ago, we brought eight or 10 with us, including the original “Sneakers” and some of the older offspring of the first mothers.

Those first few weeks were difficult as “Sneakers,” “Gray” and two or three others did everything they could to escape and trek the seven blocks back to the old house. Finally, we just let “Sneakers” take up with a former neighbor who loved him dearly until he died two years ago of feline cancer.

His namesake, “Little Sneakers,” took the same path and still lives with another neighbor. We see him regularly lounging in the neighbor’s driveway.

He looks up when we call his name, letting us know he recognizes us, but giving no indication he wants to come home after almost four years with Vee Ferguson.

We haven’t had any litters in more than two years. But, our house still is on the map along the homeless cat trail as two have shown up in the not-too-distant past, including an orange tabby in February who we named “Maynard” and a tortoise-shell kitten in July we named “Brownie.”

So all told, we are now have 16 cats, although two who we have given to friends occasionally show back up for a visit and then wander back to their new homes again.

We can’t begin to list all the memories.

“Reggie Man” lying on her back and letting eight or nine kittens – some hers and some belonging to others – wrestle with her. The two or three who got nipped by passing cars and had to go into the “recovery room” for a month to allow their hips to heal.

The thundering herd of 10 gray kittens born in June and July 2017. They all hung out in the side patio and when we opened the door in the morning to feed them on the deck, they all would come romping around the corner in unison, tumbling over each other to get to the food plates.

Coming out of the bedroom in the morning to the few that might have been lucky enough to stay inside overnight and saying “Good morning” to them as they greet us with their own version of good morning or complaint or demand.

Sometimes they sound like young brothers and sisters tattling on each other for their overnight hijinks, the evidence of which usually can be found in balls strewn about, pens knocked off the table, flowers tossed about, and shoestrings left tangled. Or opening the front door at 6:45 in the morning and watching them come dashing from all directions because they know it’s time for breakfast.

Calling P.J. and watching him waddle, like a four-legged penguin, as he hurries up the street. Walking the dog at night with as many as 12 cats coming along as if they, too, are on leashes.

The snuggles they share when we are napping on the couch or how “Big Twin” helps Brennan put on her makeup every morning. “Goatee,” “Sam,” ”Oyster,” “Pearl” and others helping me type on the computer.

The whole group playing soccer at times with Christmas ornaments, turning the house into a soccer field or skating rink.

The licks and kisses they’ve brought to our faces when we’ve been crying or are sad. Them lining up for cat baths from Misty Dog, their 80-pound bird dog, friend and protector.

We’ve been blessed by their love and affection, entertained by their playfulness and antics, and amazed by their intuition and insight.

Quite simply, Brennan and I can’t begin to explain the joy they have brought to our lives.

But now we need help from other cat lovers.

Brennan and I are moving to Lexington, Ky., for a wonderful job opportunity in her career. We can’t take the cats with us, so we need loving homes for them here.

They all are fixed. Most are outdoor cats who love to be inside when they can but usually only stay for a brief visit – eat and run, so to speak. We have two or who are inside cats. And we almost all would be if given the chance not to have to compete with all their brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.

The females are good hunters and all can take care of themselves, although like any animal, they do appreciate attention, even if they don’t always act like it.

If you want a cat or know someone who does — or even two or three – e-mail me at bdsteverogers@hotmail.com. We can send pictures or descriptions. I hope to post pictures to my Facebook page in the next day or so.

We will help acclimate them to their new home and provide some food to get them started.

We don’t do this easily or lightly. We already have cried many tears over this difficult decision and will shed many, many more.

But we also take comfort in the places they always will hold in our hearts and in knowing they will bring the same joy to others they have brought to us all these years.