ANCHORAGE – Jim Hershberger doesn’t get into town very often but Friday you could find him at Ship Creek standing next to his truck tending to his 22 cats. Hershberger normally lives on a remote homestead about 50 miles outside of Tok. Every few years he brings the cats into Anchorage to update their rabies shots and run errands.
But pretty much wherever he goes he turns heads. People want to know about the cats. “They’re my family, I raised them from kittens,” said Hershberger, who doesn’t mind when people stop and take photos.
Hershberger didn’t always have so many cats, he started off with one and then got another from a friend. He thought he had two females.
He was wrong.
Now he has 11 males and 11 females — all of them are spayed or neutered.
It’s clear that Herberger considers his cats family. He said they keep him company on his homestead where, besides the cats, he lives alone. “That’s why I’m still single. It’s hard to find someone who will accept you with 22 cats,” he said, adding that he’s pretty much given up on dating. “My cats come first.”
Hershberger transports the cats in a custom cathouse on the back of his truck. It features automatic food dispensers and a second-story sleeping loft.
He didn’t always have such a nice ride. Several years ago, Hershberger brought the cats to Anchorage in winter in a small cramped car, where they spent several nights without any heat. Animal Control seized his cats while Hershberger worked to get them back.
Now Hershberger says the animals only travel in summer and rarely at that. He says they prefer the homestead to the city and knows they’ll be happy when they head home in several weeks.