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West Fargo man bonds with Detroit Lakes kittens he rescued in October

Jim Johnson bonds with his cats Lucky, left, and Buddy, who likes to nibble on his ear, in his West Fargo home Thursday. Johnson rescued the abandoned kittens in October from a cabin where they were covered in wasps. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

WEST FARGO - At the sound of Jim Johnson's call, Lucky and Buddy come running.

Johnson's voice is catnip to the pair of kittens rescued in October from a window well buzzing with wasps.

By day, the two kittens follow the West Fargo man around the house and occasionally accompany him in a cat carrier to his construction jobs.

By night, they crawl onto his chest and purr away.

"They think I'm their mama; that's what's so crazy," Johnson said.

The two kittens and a sibling were abandoned by their mother when Johnson discovered them in October as he was dropping off tile to a cabin near Detroit Lakes, Minn.

The kittens were covered in what Johnson initially thought were hornets, but he later learned were wasps.

Johnson was stung about 20 times as he reached into the window well and rescued them one by one.

"I don't think it was heroic," Johnson said.

One of the kittens didn't make it, but Johnson nursed the other two back to health using special milk and tiny bottles.

The appropriately named Lucky has the black-and-white markings of a

Holstein. Buddy, the more sociable of the two, is a brown tabby with white paws and belly.

The kitties have tiny marks on their ears where they were stung. Lucky is missing some fur above his eye and about 2½ inches of his tail.

"They got hammered, you know," Johnson said.

Johnson initially planned to find homes for the kittens and received 15 offers from people who heard the story from media coverage.

But the kittens formed a special bond with Johnson and even get along with the family's other cats and dogs - all rescue animals.

Johnson's wife, Marianne, said the kittens definitely prefer her husband.

"They really like him," she said. "They kind of know that he helped them, I think."

Lucky likes to snuggle in Johnson's armpit, and Buddy climbs up to nibble on his ear.

"How can you give up something like this?" Johnson said.

Johnson's story made several blogs and attracted attention from cat lovers around the world.

One blog, Kitty News Network, named Johnson's story the most amazing cat rescue of 2011.

"He did what he did even though he knew he'd be in serious pain afterwards," said blogger JaneA Kelley, who is based in Maine. "Not only that, but he risked real physical harm from multiple stings."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590