updated 9/27/2004 1:53:01 PM ET 2004-09-27T17:53:01

There are some pretty tough cats at Indiana State Prison.

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However, they’ve done nothing wrong. They’re pets of inmates.

“Come here, boy,” inmate Jerry Grinstead cooed as he recently cuddled his cat Thor in his tattooed forearms. “Say, 'This is dad’s baby.'"

The maximum security prison with its 29 cat-owning inmates is the only correctional facility in the state that allows these pets, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.

Cats were never part of the plan at the 144-year-old prison. They simply wandered in through the north gate that once served as the entrance for coal trains, said Barry Nothstine, administrative assistant at the prison. Others came in through the maze of sewer pipes, he said.

No one can say when the first cat appeared in the facility, or when inmates began adopting the animals as pets.

“This goes back years and years,” Nothstine said.

The cats have brought advantages: Their companionship has encouraged many inmates to keep their behavior in line, he said.

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