Last spring, JJ Edwards had seven furry roommates: Fairley, Farley, Felicity, Finley, Fleur, Fritz and Friday. Sharing a room with that many animals may sound chaotic, but it’s no big deal for the 10-year-old. JJ and his family have taken in more than 50 homeless kittens over the past six years.
And they expect more in the next few weeks. That’s because it’s kitten season, the time of year when there is a surge of kittens born. Some are taken in by PetConnect, a Maryland animal rescue organization where JJ’s mom, Catherine, is executive director. The Edwards family volunteers to “foster,” or provide a temporary home for some of the homeless animals.
The kittens usually stay at the family’s Gaithersburg home for just a few weeks, until they’re old enough to be adopted.
Each kitten season, JJ turns his bedroom into a feline romper room. It’s decked out with cat trees, cat toys and carpeted stairs to help the kittens climb onto his bed. He gets them used to being around humans.
“They were tiny and super scared at first,” JJ said of last year’s kittens.
To help them learn to trust humans, JJ often sat on the floor outside his room and waited for them to come out.
The kittens grew more confident, snuggling and purring a little more each day. When JJ held up a wand toy with a dangling feather and danced it around, they chased, pounced and backflipped.
One challenge of fostering kittens is keeping things tidy, JJ said. The kittens he has cared for loved to scatter their toys and tip over their food bowl.
Another challenge is saying goodbye. When Jimmy, a gray-and-white kitten who stayed for almost three months, got adopted, JJ was sad.
“Letting a kitten leave is hard,” he says. “Sometimes I cry, but mostly I’m happy they got a good home and a good life.”
Last Christmas, JJ had a wish come true: His parents let him keep a kitten he had cared for. Puff Daddy, now 4 months old, makes friends with visiting foster kitties and helps JJ entertain them.
“I think the kittens appreciate me,” he says. “I watch them, stay with them, take care of them, and they purr.”
You can help
Springtime means lots of baby animals – birds, squirrels, bunnies and more.
“Wild animals have wild homes,” says Stephanie Shain of the Humane Rescue Alliance, an animal protection and rescue group in Washington, D.C. “But kittens need to be in people homes with a human family to care for them.”
She says kids can do a lot to help, such as:
- If you have a pet cat, make sure it’s spayed or neutered to prevent more litters.
- Learn as much as you can about helping homeless pets and share what you know.
- Work with your parents to raise money for a rescue organization.
- Check out rescue organizations’ wish lists and collect items to donate. (Try Humane Rescue Alliance, HumaneRescueAlliance. org/in-kind-donations, or PetConnect Rescue, PetConnectRescue.org/muddy-paws/wish-list.)
Another thing you can do is talk to your family about fostering for a rescue group near your home.
“We would never be able to save the lives of so many kittens if we didn’t have foster homes,” Shain said.
Fostering kittens during spring is usually a short-term commitment, because kittens tend to get adopted quickly.