September 21, 2010 11:45 AM

Lucas Hoge loves cats. It started when the singer and songwriter was growing up in Nebraska, and his mother, who worked for a kennel, would bring home all the pets that would have otherwise been put down.

“They had heart murmurs, crooked tails. We had all these pets around the house all the time,” Hoge, who appears on the Animal Planet series Last Chance Highway, tells

In an effort to kick-start his country music career, the aspiring singer moved to Nashville. He flipped houses to supplement his income, and in the process, he often saw dogs and cats running around the neighborhoods of the homes he was renovating. Before long, he wasn’t just mending the houses. “There’s so much more neglect going on in the South, and I had no idea,” he says. “I slowly started trying to take cats home to adopt them out.”

Hoge wasn’t looking for them, but the cats seemed to keep finding him. One day, he was out in his backyard when he heard a loud meowing coming from somewhere in front of his house. He walked around to see what was making all that noise, and “this little cat dead sprinted right for me and jumped up in my arms.”

Hoge tried to find the cat’s owner by putting up posters and calling local veterinarians, but no one claimed him. So the cat, Tunesis, joined Hoge; his wife, Laura; their four dogs; and an endless stream of foster animals the Hoges take in through Nashville Kitten Rescue.

During last spring’s flood, many Nashville-area rescues were displaced, and the Hoges found themselves hosting nine baby kittens in their laundry room at one point. They took turns getting up every three hours to bottle feed them. Hoge hopes to stage a benefit concert for local rescues sometime this year.

“I’m going to try to continue where Bob Barker left off,” Hoge says. “That’s my motto, too. ‘Spay and neuter. Spay and neuter. Adopt, adopt, adopt.’”

See more animal-loving country stars on
Country Stars & Their Pets
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