By Karen Cimms

kcimms@tnonline.com [1]

Last spring a pair of orange kitties showed up in our yard. I had seen them before, but they always kept their distance.

When they came around this time, it was near the house or on our deck.

After a few weeks, my husband noticed they were getting scrawny, so he put out some food. The first one showed up, a polydactyl ginger cat with extra toes on each paw. He took a few bites, then sat by the dish and waited. Before long, the second cat, who had white markings and a beautiful face, joined him. They gobbled down the food together.

They came the next day and the next, and yes, we fed them. As they had seemed robust and healthy when I first saw them, we assumed their altered appearance meant they had been abandoned.

I contacted the Friends of Animals. They had no room, but offered to call when they did. It was June; it was warm, and we figured we could feed them until then.

A few weeks turned into a few months and both cats regained their round figures. They weren't always in our yard, but we would often find them curled up in the evening, sleeping on the deck chairs. They trusted us, but not enough to get too close.

Every time we put food out, the first cat would come (my daughter named him Sir Roger Fancyfeet). He would take a bite, then wait for his buddy, Admiral Whitenose. Then they would eat together.

Sometimes we would see Sir Roger sitting on the steps, looking out at the yard. When he would see the Admiral approaching, he would rush to greet him, rubbing his head and face against his companion's -- definitely a kitty declaration of love.

We knew these cats had to stay together. They survived whatever they had been through together, and I was certain splitting them up would be difficult for them.

We couldn't keep them, so I asked everyone if they wanted two cats, or did they know someone with a barn in need of good mousers. My friend Lysa offered, but as she lived only a mile away, we were afraid they would return to our house, since that was home as far as they were concerned.

As cooler weather approached, we worried how they would stay warm. The shelter was still full, and not only would they have to find a home, I was insisting they stay together. That wasn't going to be easy.

In the meantime, the Admiral and Sir Roger were living the life. They came and went as they pleased; sleeping on our deck at night and prowling during the day.

December came and temperatures dropped below freezing. We put a large box on our screened porch, then propped the door open so the cats could come inside. I put a pair of old cushions in the box for comfort and extra warmth.

As it got colder, I worried more. Before bed, I'd often flip on the porch light and see the two of them curled up together in their box. I have a picture of them asleep; Roger has his arm around the Admiral, as they snuggled together against the cold.

In mid-January Lysa called to tell me she knew someone with a farm who would take both cats. We rented a trap and within an hour, we had Sir Roger. We kept him in a crate in our dining room, and reset the trap, hoping to catch the Admiral just as quickly. A week went by and no luck. Roger went to his new home, but I was heartbroken. After all this time, doing what I could to keep them together, they were going to be separated after all.

A few days later, I saw a flash of orange outside. The Admiral was back, heading through the snow toward the neighbor's porch. We reset the trap, disguised it with an old quilt and put fresh food inside. By morning, we had our second kitty. That night the Admiral joined his buddy.

I recently heard from their new family. Both cats have adapted well and were neutered this week. When the vet gives the OK, they will be allowed their freedom on the farm. Having each other, we believe they will stay put.

For me, this was a happy ending. The sad part is two more cats have shown up in our neighborhood, and we don't dare feed them. People need to spay and neuter their pets, and remember it is illegal to abandon an animal. If you adopt a pet, accept that it's permanent and be a responsible pet owner.