WESTFIELD, Iowa -- Nancy Kahl said she will die a happy woman if she can find loving homes for her cats, but the thought of giving away the furry felines, who have become like children to Kahl, brings the 65-year-old to tears.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I've dreaded this day. I don't want to give them up," Kahl said, eyes watering and voice quaking, as she stood in her kitchen holding Millie, a 5-year-old orange tabby cat that she took in along with Millie's brother, Buster, when the two were just kittens.
Kahl said Millie, who is named after her mother, loves eating potato chips, being scratched underneath her chin and chasing birds, while Buster is content hiding out underneath Kahl's bed, which is king size to accommodate her 10 cats. Kahl can only take one cat with her when she moves from her home situated on a hill near Westfield to an apartment at a Sioux City retirement home.
Graycie, a growly, gray cat that likes to be carried and is the oldest of the bunch at 14, will live out Kahl's last days with her. Several years ago, Kahl was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which has since spread to her lower back. Every morning, Kahl said she wakes up in excruciating pain that powerful painkillers barely dull.
"Until my pain pills kick in, I can't hardly even bend over. It just hurts so bad," she said. "(My cats) come up to me in the morning and want to be picked up and I can't. I feel so bad."
Kahl said her condition has taken a strain on her finances, as well as her body. With bills piling up, she said she can no longer afford to keep and maintain the home she has lived in for 15 years. She said she doesn't want her "babies," who are all spayed or neutered, to be caged up at a shelter, so she's determined to find them good homes on her own.
Kahl's doctor's nurse is interested in Lil' Miss, a black long-haired cat. She said the man moving into her home could also keep a couple of the cats, most of which Kahl came upon by "accident."
Tinker Bell, a 5-year-old black and white cat who is laid back, likes to sleep on top of Kahl and knead her, while Peanut, 12, is a "man's cat," according to Kahl. She said the gray and white cat used to hang out with her late significant other, Jerry, in his workshop.
"He's going through a second childhood. He loves to play. He's got more energy than he had when he was a baby," she said chuckling as Peanut strutted across the kitchen table. "He loves to play with balls and he loves to play with the laser. He's just wild."
Peewee, 13, has a tuft of fur around his neck that resembles a lion's mane. Kahl, who described him as a "sweetheart," said Peewee always seems to have a smile on his face.
"He loves to play with balls. We have playtime every night, but my energy level is so low," she said. "I just can't keep up with these guys."
Baby Mya, a 4-year-old gray cat, sleeps beside Kahl every night. She likes to sit in the window and birdwatch. Kahl gave Baby Mya a home after her friend's son found the cat wandering around the Le Mars Daily Sentinel's parking lot.
"If the other cats get too close and she doesn't like it, she bats at them. She likes to show them who's boss," she said. "She won't back down to nothing."
Jack, a 12-year-old black cat, lost one of his eyes after developing an infection and a couple of his toes after cutting his foot, but Kahl said he "does fine" and thinks he's king of the hill.
Bowzer, a 5-year-old black and white cat and Tinker Bell's brother, also has an impairment, but he doesn't let that stop him. He was born bow-legged and is a bit timid around strangers, but he likes to play ball and once nearly overdosed on catnip, according to Kahl.
Call or text Kahl at 712-898-1984 to adopt one or more of her cats.
"Just love them and spoil them and give them a good life," she asked of potential adopters. "See that they have a lot of love."