updated 03/09/2013 AT 2:30 PM ET
•originally published 03/08/2013 AT 4:00 PM ET
Add Eva Longoria to the list of Hollywood’s cat ladies.
While the former Desperate Housewives star is too busy to parent one right now, she tells PEOPLE, “I always found that I identified with them. Cats are feminine and independent and playful, much like a woman.”
Her affinity for felines is why she’s partnered with Sheba cat food to kick off the Feed Your Passion campaign, in which cat lovers are encouraged to visit the brand’s website and share a photo of themselves and their pet, or a video of their greatest passion.
“It’s great because cat lovers are pretty passionate about their cats and about life, so we thought we’d engage them,” says Longoria of the contest, which will award $5,000 to a winner every month until May.
For the star, who is also executive producing a new dating show called Ready for Love, it was one cat in particular that stirred her own fandom.
“I grew up with a lot of cats, but one in particular, her name was Cindy,” Longoria says. “She was like a member of our family. I swear she lived for 20, 25 years because every childhood photo, she’s in it with all my sisters and me.”
In fact, so close was Longoria to the pet that when Cindy passed away, her mom shielded her from the truth.
“That was in college,” she says. “My mom didn’t even tell me she died. She told me she ran away … I believed her in college.”