The one who started it all for me. Smokey!!!
We bought this acreage 8 years ago and when we started moving things into this place we noticed there was a cat on the property. He didn't belong to the previous home owners as their kids were allergic to cats but he did live here. He had a hide in a pile of junk/wood the previous home owners left in the yard by the workshop building.
After we moved in, we went around to see if he was a lost cat and belonged to someone around here. No one claimed to own him. We moved from the city with 3 cats of our own and didn't want another cat but we wanted to have Smokey neutered and released to live as he had.
One day, we forgot to close the door to the workshop overnight and Smokey got in there. My SO checked in there and saw him before heading to work, and he asked me to give the cat some food. I took some wet food to him and meowed to him (I can impersonate a cat's meow very very well; the SO says I speak Catonese). He came to me and ate the food. After that I always took food out to him and called him Smokey and he would come and eat and rub on my legs and purr. I was able to pick him up and pet him.
We set up an appointment to bring him to the vet to be neutered but that day he disappeared. I got so worried and thought I had failed him, he was killed and eaten by coyotes or something, and I even cried. But he showed up two weeks later and we brought him in and made another appointment. After he was neutered we had to keep him inside for a week. Ah so that is where the mistake was. He was so lovey and easy going I didn't have the heart to put him back out there. He got along with the other cats. He got along with the dogs. He even loved my bunnies.
Smokey was probably the best cat I'd ever had. When we adopted our dog Belle, Smokey just fell in love with her and they were often found hanging out together. Smokey was diagnosed with kidney failure a few years ago and was given 2 months to live, but he lived another 2 years before he passed away. I really really loved this cat. He was a mellow guy, would rather walk away than fight. He was so quiet and cuddly. Because of Smokey we started rescuing more cats and kittens. He was the very first.