Every time the 5-year-old nephew of Kris Papiernik and Kia Griffin, Shon, comes for a weekend visit, he just wants to do one thing — go out and take care of the street cats.
“Since he was born, we have been a big part of his life,” said Papiernik, an independent cat rescuer, to The Dodo. “He was around cats if he was with us. He’s following our lead.
Papiernik and Griffin have looked after over 40 street cats living in rough parts of Philadelphia and the surrounding area for the past 10 years.
While attempting to rescue and rehome as many cats as possible, others are too feral and unsocialized to adapt to domestic life, and the most that Papiernik and Griffin can do is feed them and try to get as many of them as possible spayed and neutered.
The Colony Kats, Backyard Boys, Stray Kitty Crew, Meow Squad, Gas Station Kitties and Indoor Kitties have been dubbed the various cat colonies.
When Shon first expressed interest in helping out with the cats, not too sure were Papiernik and Griffin.
“At first we were a little hesitant because they were feral cats, and we thought they would run from a rambunctious 3-year-old,” said Papiernik. But there couldn’t be more wrong with the women.”
“They just gravitated to him, it was the total opposite,” said Papiernik. “He would scratch and scratch their bellies. Seeing these cats that wouldn’t even allow us to touch them was amazing, but they took him immediately. He must have the magic effect the cats can pick up from.
A cat named Bug, who lives with nine others in the Kolony Kats group, was one of the first cats to be charmed by Shon.
“Because he wouldn’t come to us and he wouldn’t come near the trap, we couldn’t get Bug neutralized or anything,” said Papiernik. “But when Shon came and started feeding him, Bug came to him immediately and Bug has been a friendly cat ever since.”
Shon is still too young to help with the canned food or the cats living in Papiernik and Griffin’s home are given medicine. But he knows exactly how to eat the dry food, hand out treatments, and fill the water bowls of the cats.
“He likes to dress up sometimes,” said Papiernik. “He said it makes him feel like an animal superhero.” Shon loves the cats so much, he has no opportunity to see them.
“He gets really upset if it’s raining or cold or he can’t go,” said Papiernik. “He’s crying, and it’s really hurting him.”
But when Shon gets to spend time with the street cats, he’s in his element, making both Papiernik and Griffin extremely proud.
“We love it,” Papiernik said. “It makes us smile.”