Animal D'Oh! Leonard Picks Up the Mail
06/15/2011 AT 03:30 PM EDT
Kenneth Kothe took in tortoiseshell cat Leonard when he found him abandoned in the back of his Alexander, Iowa home in 2006.
"Leonard was the runt of the litter," he tells PEOPLE Pets. "His mother just left him on my back step and I had to bottle feed him for several weeks. He started growing from then on."
Three months later, a healthier Leonard sat for a photo shoot inside Kothe's mailbox.
"Took me about 10 tries to hold him still to get that picture," he says. "That year, I happened to plant morning glories, which happened to grow over the mailbox. I don't think it'd be quite the same photo without those."
In fact, Leonard's photo shoot proved so successful, he was featured in an issue of Parade magazine in June 2007, winning a contest in which readers submitted pet photos.
"He beat out 340,000 other entries," Kothe says. But celebrity didn't go to Leonard's head.
"He's very affectionate," says Kothe, noting that Leonard often likes to care for his five cat siblings by cleaning them. "After he was deposited on my back step, he's been my baby ever since."