Kris Papiernik and Kia Griffin are a big-hearted couple who have helped cats in the Philadelphia region for over a decade.
The engaged pair started by fostering kittens from local shelters, but over the past few years have started taking care of feral and stray cats in the city.
Going by the name Kolony Kats, Papiernik says the couple currently feeds and cares for over 40 cats spread across four different locations a day.
“We feed them twice a day, no matter the weather, no days off,” Griffin says. “We also provide them with feral cat shelters and medical care when needed.”
Papiernik and Griffin also ensure that all of the cats go through TNR (trap, neuter, release).
With such a noble and massive undertaking, Papiernik and Griffin have needed some help along the way. That’s where their 5-year-old nephew Shon comes into the picture.
“When he was 3 years old he started showing interest in wanting to help us feed the outdoor feral and stray cats,” Papiernik says.
At first, the couple was hesitant to let Shon help, as feral cats don’t always adapt well to changes, new people, or rambunctious 3 year olds, Griffin says.
But, as fate would have it, the cats welcomed Shon with open paws.
In fact, it was Shon who helped his aunts in one of their biggest Kolony Kats accomplishments: trapping a feral named Bug.
“Bug eluded us trapping him for over two years,” Papiernik says. “But when Shon showed up, Bug became a different cat. He immediately gravitated to Shon, rubbing against his legs and wanting him to scratch his head. It was amazing.”
Bug was eventually neutered, given shots and ear tipped before he was released.
“From that day forward, Bug went from feral to friendly,” Papiernik says.
The pair says that Shon is very gentle with all of the cats they care for, and knows how to properly dish out and distribute the cat food and water.
“He never leaves without making sure everyone gets treats and chin scratches for the ones who allow him to touch them,” Griffin says.
Shon’s giving spirit lead to something else pretty inspiring, too.
“One day he asked if he could wear his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume to feed the cats,” Papiernik says. “We asked why, and his response was because when he feeds the cats, he feels like a superhero.”
Since then, Shon dons his superhero costumes almost every time he joins his aunts in helping the neighborhood cats. He’s also said that his superhero power is kitty chin scratches.
Papiernik and Griffin say they are so proud of Shon (“it makes our hearts happy,” Griffin says) and that his efforts give them hope for future generations like his,”especially in a world where feral and stray cats are so misunderstood.”
Kolony Kats has a GoFundMe page, but they also urge anyone who wants to help stray and feral cats in their own neighborhoods to lend a hand in ways big and small.
“If you see or are feeding any stray/feral cats within your community, please have them spayed or neutered,” Papiernik says. “Most cities and townships have TNR programs that provide free or low cost spay and neuter. TNR is key to population control, and TNR’D cats live healthier and happier lives.”
In the end, the pair hopes that Shon’s story inspires others to think twice about their neighborhood felines.
“These cats are a part of our community, and we should respect them and learn to co-exist,” Griffin says.
Images via Kris Papiernik and Kia Griffin; Kolony Kats Instagram
Aly Semigran is a lifestyle writer for the world and roommate of Ruby, the cutest dog in the world.