His love is like a tidal wave, spinning over the heads of a string of humans who just can’t tie him down.

An adorable black and gray tabby has been loving and leaving people all over town — for at least a decade.

It started with Jeff Johnson, who adopted the cat from a shelter — he can’t remember which — and had him for about six months. In that time, BB, a “mellow” kitten, would cuddle and sleep with Johnson’s baby, Jacob. “They were very close,” he said.

But one sad day, the outdoor cat never returned to his south Minneapolis home. The freedom of the great wide world was just too much of a temptation for the little guy.

“I felt guilty about letting him out,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, that’s what he liked.”

BB’s whereabouts in the intervening years remain a mystery. (The cat did not return a request for comment.)

That is, until last month, when the cat began loitering around some apartments near the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

One night, Ariel’ Rose and her friend John Snell, two local musicians, were arriving at her apartment near Franklin and Hennepin avenues. Moments after they ascended the stoop, a cat “ran up to say hi and was rolling around and being lovey-dovey,” Snell said.

Some neighbors said they’d seen the cat around there over the past month, “so we really thought this guy doesn’t have a home,” Snell said.

Love at first purr

Both friends were instantly charmed by the cat. Rose took him in and dubbed him Swayze. (“I started calling the guy Strayze, and it just morphed,” she said.)

For a week, Rose and Snell searched for Swayze’s owners. But in the meantime, they fell in love with the purr machine.

“He’s a super snuggle bug,” Rose said. “He loves to lie on your chest, and touch noses with you and purr with his whiskers against your face.”

Kind of like the human Swayze (actor Patrick), “he’s super romantic,” she added. “He likes to make bedroom eyes at you while he’s kneading you on your chest” or, you know, making pottery to “Unchained Melody.”

Rose and Snell posted on Craigslist and with the Humane Society about a found cat, and were puzzled when no one responded. But a few days later, they came across a sign posted in the neighborhood about a found cat. They called the number, and learned that weeks before, another woman had taken the cat in. The cat refused to use the litter box, though. She brought him outside, and he took off.

“So he was kind of a couch-surfer,” Rose said. “A hippie.”

Snell brought Swayze to his veterinarian to get the cat’s microchip scanned. After several phone calls to the company, he finally found a match.

It took Snell and Rose eight days to track down Swayze’s family. Snell felt guilty that they’d kept the cat as long as they had. But when he spoke to the owner on the phone, he asked how long ago the cat had run away. Johnson told him it was 10 to 12 years.

“I just about fell over,” Snell said, adding, “I no longer felt guilty about eight days.”

Some cat

Upon hearing that that little runaway kitten had been found, Johnson was shocked. “The whole thing is almost too unbelievable,” he said. He’d given up looking for BB long ago.

In the years since BB disappeared, Johnson had moved to St. Louis Park, had another kid, gotten a dog that just recently died and vowed never to get another pet again. The baby Jacob, who used to sleep with BB? He’s now 13.

When he got the news that BB had been found, Johnson’s resolution to live pet-free quickly crumbled.

“This is the one animal that I would have said OK,” he said. “He was a terrific cat, absolutely fantastic.”

Snell and Johnson arranged to hand off Swayze/BB at the Walker Art Center parking lot. Rose couldn’t bring herself to be there. “I didn’t want to give him back,” she said.

Snell, too, had reservations. His own cat of 16½ years had just died, and “I was wondering if [finding this cat] might have been serendipitous.” But then he saw Jacob, who was at most a toddler when BB left home, holding BB and smiling.

Now, family and pet are back together, although the reunion has been bumpy.

“He’s a wild cat,” Johnson said. “He’s getting used to being in the house. He was cranky at first, but he’s settling down.”

A few days in, Jacob asked if they could take the cat outside. Johnson hesitated. “I’m thinking I’m not sure if I want to have him take off again,” he said. But he eventually gave in, and the family brought the cat out to the yard.

As soon as BB tasted freedom, he bolted.