Christel Connelly of Ocean Ridge adopted two kittens from the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League. Connelly, a high school French teacher, named them Binoche (left) and Juliette and says, ‘They make our house feel alive.’ Photo provided
By Arden Moore
Kittens do the darnedest things. They can tackle toes, ambush ankles, leap like acrobats, wink at you with soft eyes, suddenly plop into a deep nap and try to chat with you in high-pitched mews.
Finding out what makes kittens tick can be tricky. They aren’t born with owners’ manuals. I often equate the first year of a kitten’s life as the wonder year — as in, you wonder where your sanity went.
Too often, nouveau kitten adopters learn as they go — and as their kittens grow. Just ask Christel and Jim Connelly, of Ocean Ridge. Their quiet home has erupted into delightful energy thanks to the arrival of a pair of sibling kittens they named Binoche and Juliette.
They were bestowed French names on purpose when the Connellys adopted them last month from the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League (via foster volunteer Emily Minor). Christel was born in Dijon in the Burgundy region of France (known for mustard and red wine).
She teaches French to high school students, usually via her home laptop due to the pandemic. In the background, her new kittens often make surprising and fun appearances.
Their antics have made Christel realize she needs to learn a third language — cat.
“They are super sweet and love to play, cuddle and sleep, but I do feel like I am learning a new language so I can communicate with them,” laughs Christel. “Sometimes when I am teaching, they try to play with my computer screen and then they will lay down on my attendance book, purr and fall quickly asleep. Building relationships remotely is not always easy, but my kittens are definitely helping me connect with my students who love their antics.”
Christel admits her feline knowledge is limited, but she is determined to learn more about cat health and behavior. Years ago, she had a cat named Chloe and is grateful now that her kitten duo received a healthy start from Minor’s fostering for a few weeks.
“I think that they are better-behaved than I expected and I believe it is due to the fact that they were fostered and the foster mom did a good job,” says Christel.
Minor and her husband, Marty, of West Palm Beach, picked up this kitty pair on Christmas Eve from the Peggy Adams Rescue League. In about one year, they have fostered 23 kittens, including a trio currently with them named Linc, Pete and Julie (from the classic Mod Squad television show of the late 1960s and early 1970s).
“Even before the pandemic, I felt like I needed more joy in my life and I decided to start fostering kittens,” says Minor, a former newspaper reporter who now also volunteers for Meals on Wheels. “It has been so much fun fostering kittens who are adorable, but very young.
“Peggy Adams provides us with everything we need — blankets, cat food, toys, kitty pens — and we socialize them in our home until they are ready for permanent homes to enjoy wonderful lives.”
Katie Buckley-Jones, associate director of animal operations at Peggy Adams, notes that kitten season in Florida typically starts around March and April and continues through November.
Check out the numbers from this shelter: In 2020, Peggy Adams adopted out 3,216 kittens that were born primarily from free-roaming cats.
“Most of our kittens come from outside community-cat populations, so it is really important that we follow strict quarantine protocols with the kittens,” says Buckley-Jones. “We do not put unrelated litters together for play sessions because of this. Our foster families make sure to keep their pets separated from the kittens as well.”
She continues, “At that fragile age, kittens are at risk for so many diseases that can be potentially fatal, so it is important we protect them from any possible disease.”
For anyone who is interested in fostering or adopting kittens, Buckley-Jones offers these tips and insights:
• Do not engage in any hand play with kittens. Felines need to learn at an early age that hands are not toys. Playful hand wrestling with kittens can unintentionally teach them to bite or attack hands and other body parts in play. Instead, redirect kittens’ high-energy play toward wand toys or toss cat toys for them to chase and pounce on.
• Size up the litter box for success. Newly adopted kittens fare best with small litter boxes with low sides to give them access. Also, initially confine your kitten to a small, cozy room like a bathroom that has kitty amenities like bed, litter box and food/water bowls.
“Letting new kittens free roam in homes can cause them to become overwhelmed and stressed,” says Buckley-Jones. “Give them time to gradually get acclimated into your home.”
• Do a room-by-room safety inspection. “Make sure to kitten-proof your home before they arrive,” she says. “Kittens like to play with dangly things like cords and wires. They like to try to climb up high and they like to scratch on things. Get them comfortable with having their nails trimmed while they are small and make it fun and rewarding with treats.”
Christel and Jim Connelly report that the fast-growing sisters Juliette and Binoche keep them amused and happy.
“They make me smile the first thing in the morning and with COVID-19 concerns these days, it is nice to smile the first thing in the morning,” says Christel. “I love to hear them purr and I love that they are cuddlers. They make our house feel alive.”
To learn more about adopting or fostering kittens, contact the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League via www.peggyadams.org. The adoption center is open between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily by appointment only.
Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, author, speaker and master certified pet first-aid instructor. She hosts Oh Behave! weekly on PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.