Meet Northport Cat Rescue Association’s Youngest Foster Parent
NORTHPORT, NY – Danielle Porqueddu has always loved cats. While she has never had a pet, she has always wanted to be involved with cats. Danielle hoped to do this by volunteering for an animal rescue organization, but one factor over which she had no control prevented it: her age.
Danielle, a 13-year-old Bethpage resident, was told she was too young to volunteer. She discovered this during the coronavirus shutdown when she was looking for care options with the help of her mother Astrid.
But from then on, life in the Porqueddu household would soon change.
Lora Wild volunteers with the Northport Cat Rescue Association, a Northport nonprofit that connects cats and kittens with potential adopters. Wild, who also serves as the organization’s foster director, said foster parents are instrumental in rehabilitating cats and preparing them for adoption into permanent families. Kittens need to be spayed or neutered and socialized as many of them are scared on the street. This is where foster parents come into play for a week-long process. This is where Danielle comes in.
When Danielle was told she couldn’t report on her own because of her age, she found a loophole. Astrid asked if, with the help of her daughter, she could become a foster mother. Wild and Seher Sehn, another director, went to Bethpage to meet Danielle. What Wild and Sehn saw made her instantly fall in love with the prospect of Danielle serving as foster parents.
“I immediately saw a collage of photos [Danielle’s] Wall of yourself with other people’s pets, “said Wild.” It was clear that she was an animal lover. Although she never had a cat of her own, she had furnished her room with all the comforts and luxuries a kitten or cat would ever need or love. “
The Porqueddus were recognized as foster parents and Danielle’s journey began.
Since partnering with the Northport Cat Rescue Association, Danielle has volunteered at the organization’s affiliated petco stores, attended events, and created videos to help cats stand out from potential adopters. Since then she has raised six kittens.
Astrid said she was very proud and impressed with Danielle.
“It was a great experience,” said Astrid. “But I’m even more proud because she can let go after she’s attached. Knowing that the cats will be adopted soon helps so much, but it’s still difficult. She does it because she knows there are other cats, who need help to get socialized or take a break from the living spaces of the store. “
Danielle said she became interested in cats because you really have to earn a cat’s trust, more so than other animals like dogs.
“They are predators,” said Danielle. “They hunt, they catch and they are also attacked. What I find so special is that they do not trust anything or anyone and cannot live in the wild.”
Danielle knows she has to work to build a bond of trust between her and any kitten she promotes. It does this by proving that it is safe. According to Danielle, a cat shows its confidence in someone by slowly blinking at you with its eyes closed.
“This is supposed to show from the end of the cat: ‘I close my eyes to you, so I don’t know what you can do to me now. You could do anything to me because I close my eyes. But I trust you enough to do that to do voluntarily, ‘”she said. “I think this is really something special.”
Danielle said that being a foster mom for cats makes her feel very special in ways that she did not expect. She didn’t know how kittens paddled off the street would react in a new environment.
“When you actually stand in front of the cat and look at it, it’s really heartbreaking for anyone,” she said. “After a while, regardless of what they went through and how scared, frightened and traumatized they were, they eventually came to me anyway. They didn’t have to volunteer.”
Wild believes that one of the teenagers’ greatest qualities as a kitten carer are their eyes. “Danielle has the nicest eyes,” she said.
“She’s full of compassion that isn’t often seen in adults, let alone someone her age,” said Wild. “As a caregiver, she is second to none. If she’s unsure about something, she asks. The cats and kittens love her. She’s the perfect mix of having a kid who wants to play with them, which in turn teaches them socialization, and then gives there is a grown up, responsible side to her … We are very happy and grateful to have her as part of our Northport Cat Rescue family and we are all so proud of her. “
One day, Danielle sees herself as a real, long-term foster mom for cats. But that day is not today.
“Right now, I definitely love being cared for because I want to help these other cats that need temporary homes,” she said. “I definitely want to stick with grooming for a while. But I definitely envision having my own cat one day.”
Danielle Porqueddu has one of her foster kittens. (Photo credit: Astrid Porqueddu)