HOLDENVILLE — Disabled Vietnam veteran Steven Gagnon moved to Holdenville six months ago for the sole purpose of saving the lives of his 68 rescued cats. But recent talk within city hall has created worry his rescue mission may be in jeopardy.

The saga began in Bakersfield Calif. when Steven, unable to work, prayed for a purpose for his life. He said one day he finally received a clear message and was led to an old abandoned Costco building. Inside, Gagnon discovered over 200 wild cats living in the ruins. Alarmed at the sight, Gagnon believed he would never be able to help but said he heard a voice ask him, “If not you, then who?”

Gagnon began that night the tedious task of trapping the cats for spaying and neutering.

During the year it took Gagnon to complete the rescue, he observed on certain nights at sunset a group of people meeting at that building. Gagnon said the group would gather in a circle, burn candles, and conduct some type of ritual. He was outraged when he learned these rituals corresponded with the Satanic High Holy Days, and Gagnon said he had no doubt the cats and kittens were being sacrificed.

Gagnon continued his task at hand, however, and eventually rescued all of the cats.

Once captured, all of Gagnon’s rescues were vaccinated and spayed or neutered as a humane solution to the stray cat problem. After time, the owner of the property wherein Gagnon was living with his cats began to complain. Gagnon knew he would have to move his new family to a city with no ordinance governing the number of cats one may own.

Gagnon said he began researching the nation’s real estate online and discovered he could afford a home of adequate size for himself and his rescues in Oklahoma. Further research revealed Holdenville, Okla. offered just such a house, but most importantly, did not place a limit on cat owners.

“Mr. Gagnon had called me prior to moving here and asked if there was an ordinance,” Holdenville Police Chief Jerry Young said. Although no ordinance specifically mentions a number of cats, they are public nuisance, disturbing the peace and sanitation ordinances that pertain, Young said.

In May 2005, Gagnon and his cats, then numbering 68, traveled from Bakersfield in his modest RV to their new home in Holdenville.

Gagnon purchased an eight unit apartment building and transformed his new home into one large house for his family. He continued to care for not only his cats but began to spay and neuter feral cats in his new community at his own expense.

Soon cat complaints began to arise in Holdenville as they did in Bakersfield.

“About a month ago some concerned citizens came to a city council meeting complaining about the number of cats in the community,” Young said.

He said the council has made no actions at this time but are now considering an ordinance.

“I want to be part of the solution, not the problem,” Gagnon said.

In a letter Gagnon recently wrote the Holdenville City Council he said,” All of my cats are spayed or neutered, and I don’t plan to ever have more than I have right now. They will die off one by one, and eventually I hope to have no cats.”

Gagnon said, “Since I’ve been here, 25 more cats have been dumped on me.”

Although it seems Gagnon’s cat population continues to grow, several of the cats are now missing and he believes those upset by his work have poisoned or shot them. Gagnon is offering a $100 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those poisoning the animals.

Gagnon told the council, “I don’t need 68 cats, they need me.”

Steven and his wife Michelle are participants in the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) rescue field and are members and volunteers of the Animal Assistance League. Part of the TNR method requires the veterinarian “eartip,” snip one-fourth of an inch from the tip of the cat’s right ear, after a feral cat has been spayed or neutered. This procedure is humane and painless, as the cat is under anesthesia at the time and is the universal symbol for a neutered feral cat.

Gagnon said the TNR plan is the most humane solution to the growing cat problem in the city considering Hughes County and Holdenville have no animal shelter.

In another letter Gagnon told the council, “I wish you would challenge me to be an asset. I am willing to volunteer to make regular trips at my own expense with Holdenville and Hughes County cats to the low cost clinic “Spay Oklahoma” in Tulsa.”

In addition to working with Holdenville’s feral cats, caring for his own 68 does not come easy. Gagnon changes 25 litter boxes and feeds his rescues twice daily.

Sister, Nico, Nightstar, Ayla, Angel, and their kin hear classical music to keep them calm and live in a cat paradise complete with electric blankets for warmth and a runway system throughout much of the house.

Gagnon said, “I am not a cat collector, I am a cat rescuer.” He believes he is following in the direction God intends.

“I’m obligated now,” Gagnon said. ”I know I am doing God’s work because I have been so blessed.”

Despite Gagnon’s offers to the council, he is unsure of what the future holds for his new home.

“They want to pass the ordinance because they don’t want somebody else doing what I did,” he said. “But I don’t want to offend anybody, I just want to fit in.”