**Voting in the Purina Cat Chow contest ends Tuesday, Sept. 18. Click here to see all of the finalists and vote.

Lucky Howell remembers realizing within his first four years of life that maybe he didn’t

want to play with his toys alone.  His mom usually had him play inside, and most of his friends had siblings.

Howell’s mom knew her only child wanted a pet.

He arrived home on his fourth birthday to be told to go to his room. He said his mother wasn’t harsh in her tone, but it threw him off.

He opened the door to find a kitten. It had a red bow and was sitting on his bed.

“I had a little brother, but in cat form.”

The brother became Sinbad, a name inspired by Howell’s desire for a more unique moniker – and perhaps a cartoon popular at the time.

Howell had become accustomed to being without siblings, but when Sinbad joined the family and became a constant presence, Howell enjoyed that constant source of unconditional love.

This story of companionship is now a finalist in a national competition that will award five grand winners $5,000 each and a year’s supply of cat food.

Howell decided to share the story of how he came to have a furry sibling with Purina Cat Chow’s Real Stories Project . Now 19 and working with Internet videos, he had wanted to do a video of Sinbad and the competition gave him inspiration to do so.  Plus, he figured a year’s supply of cat food would help his mom.

His submission uses the theme “Always There for Me,” as he and Sinbad have grown up together.  “Any picture you were to find of me as a kid, Sinbad is in there somewhere.”

The tabby is always welcoming people the house, and Howell said his mom has told him the cat will wait in the living room until his brother returns. “I think his main goal throughout his life has been to be with me,” Howell said.

Sinbad even “hugs” Howell on command, a trick demonstrated in the video submission.

Watch the video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ksbJv87Ncek&rel=0

Howell said the money wasn’t a priority when he entered the contest nor when he learned he was a finalist.  “I’m a very simple person in the sense that I never wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut,” he said.  “Right now, I’m content and happy.”

The time spent with Sinbad and how the cat has made him more open and happy is part of Howell’s happiness.  “No matter what happened through my life though – through my dad, through my mom, through my girlfriend, through my friend … I knew Sinbad was always going to be at the door.”