Best friends fur-ever

Party guests spotted feline herding the sheep in their pen

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SHAWN GUST/Press Snowy, a Barbados sheep nuzzles his nose against 5-month-old calico Tori Thursday in Twin Lakes. The stray was adopted by Colleen Flowers after it was seen herding the sheep in their pen.

Friends and family noticed it first, during a party at the Rathdrum home of Colleen and Jerry Flowers.

While watching the couple's herd of sheep glide back and forth inside a spacious pen on the Flowers' 5-acre property, some of the party guests saw something strange.

Among the sheep's legs and hoofs, there were four much smaller, daintier legs moving about the pen.

"There's a cat herding those sheep," said a surprised Darci Austin, one of the partygoers.

For hours, the tiny cat ran around the pen with the larger animals, a dozen Barbados sheep that look like goats because they've shed their hair.

When the herd stopped moving, the cat would continue winding its way around the sea of spindly sheep legs, often rubbing up against them.

The sheep would then encircle the little animal, and one of the larger members of the herd would lower its head and move toward the cat.

At the same time, the cat would raise its head to the sheep's and the pair would gently butt and rub heads.

Austin and other partygoers said it was obvious there was an unusual, deeply affectionate bond between the animals.

"That cat could have gotten out of there at any time," Austin said.

Busy with party hostess duties, homeowner Colleen Flowers was unaware of the furry friendship blooming in her backyard.

It wasn't her cat.

Flowers saw the stray animal in the sheep pen the day after the party and was surprised that when she and her husband called to it, it came to them.

"I gave it some food. It was hungry," she said.

The couple thinks the little cat was living out there with the sheep for a while and was likely drinking from a small pond not far from the pen.

They've had the herd for about 17 years, originally bringing the sheep home so they would eat allergen-producing knapweed that was growing in the Flowers' yard.

"We've bred a lot of babies," she said.

Flowers took the cat to the vet and paid for it to be vaccinated against diseases.

The veterinarian determined the cat is actually a 5-month-old calico kitten, a female.

Flowers isn't surprised her sheep took to the lone, and likely lonely, kitten.

"Several of them have had babies," Flowers said. "Other animals will take on a little one sometimes."

Flowers has put up signs and placed ads in the newspaper, in case the pet's owner is looking for it.

If no one comes forward to claim the cat, Flowers said she'll probably keep it.

"She purrs real loud. She's pretty smart. She's just extremely friendly," Flowers said.

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