Rex is not my cat.

Let me make that clear: Rex IS NOT my cat.

My cats have had names like Kitty and Lily or my current little cat, Cookie.

My cats sauntered out to rub my leg when I came home and slept at the foot of my bed.

When I come home now, Rex comes barreling out, skids across the tile and races down the stairs to stand waiting at his bowl, which by the way, is never empty. When he can, Rex sleeps between my husband and me and chews on my hair until I pick him up, shove him into the hall and close the bedroom door.

Though it seems much longer, Rex moved in on us less than nine months ago. We had one cat and certainly weren't looking for more when a mother cat and her three scrawny kittens arrived at our front door.

We put out food and water for them in July with never a thought to winter.

Our granddaughter Abby named them. The mom became "Princess," the little female was "Lily Jr.," the larger black and white male was "Oreo," and Rex was Rex.

Though he was about a third the size of his brother and half the size of his sister, Rex thought he was the main cat.

No one beat him to the food, no one edged him out of a place on a lap and no one played with his toys.

He picked fights with his big brother and didn't quit until he won. He bullied his sister and crowded his mom to despair.

Rex had no fear and no concept of danger.

He came sauntering over to my husband one day covered in grease after a nap under a truck. Roger used a degreaser to dissolve the black mess and began reading the container as Rex started to lick off the gunk.

When he got to the words, "Do not ingest," my husband grabbed the kitten, bundled Rex into the house and shoved him in a sink of soapy water. Roger got a chest full of scratches for his trouble.

Backing the car out of the garage got a little tricky last summer because the kittens liked to wait outside the garage door.

My technique was to push the garage door opener, pour milk into a dish on the deck, run to the car and back out while I could still see three little bodies lined up at the bowl.

Rex was the worst. For some reason he seemed to like snuggling up next to tires.

On one occasion, Roger got impatient and started backing out before Rex smelled the milk I was pouring into the deck dish. I turned to see Rex relaxing just inches behind a rear tire.

Visions of squashed kitten flashed through my mind. Luckily I'm a loud screamer.

"Rex will never last outside," insisted my husband, arguing to bring the little guy in from the cold.

"Dumb as a rock," I thought.

As winter approached we had decisions to make. In time we found homes for the other three.

Lily went to a family with a little girl. A man whose old cat had just died adopted both Oreo and Princess.

So Rex became an indoor cat, got his shots and suffered through the neutering process as soon as he was big enough.

Now that he's past his shade-shredding stage and I've gotten rid of all my plants, except one little African violet on a remote windowsill, Rex has become a pretty good housecat.

"Pretty good" just means he uses the litter box consistently and doesn't break too many things if I keep some rooms shut off during the day.

His ability to pick little objects up with his paws and carry them in his mouth is kind of cute. But I would like to know what he did with the fifth wooden cat from my collection of miniature cats and milk bottles.

I have to admit, it's flattering to have the kitten come tearing up the stairs, race across the living room floor and jump on my lap. And I do try to stay still when he plops his head on my leg and settles down for a nap.

But until he gets over that hair chewing thing, he's Roger's cat.