Ellen Carozza doesn’t remember the exact moment she realized her cat was an amazing cat-daddy.
The kitty, appropriately named Benedict Cumbercat (a.k.a. Benny for short), has always been like his namesake Benedict Cumberbatch: handsome, adorable, and utterly squeezable — and the way he interacts with Carozza’s foster kittens? Completely un-fur-gettable.
“Benny makes friends very easily with every kitten he comes across, it is a daily occurrence and very routine,” says Carozza, a licensed veterinary technician at the Nova Cat Clinic in Arlington, Virginia, who first told her cat’s story to TheDodo.com. “Cats LOVE routine, and if you involve them in a routine, most cats will adapt with no problem. Benny likes to HELP with the routine.”
That means the cat helps with the small foster program Carozza runs out of the hospital for complicated neonatal cases that need further medical care or intensive care beyond what a regular shelter or foster family can provide. She typically fosters two to five kittens at a time, and has had up to 12 in her house at once — and Benny couldn’t be happier about it.
“Benny will nest with them whether they like it or not … all of them like it,” Carozza tells PEOPLE. “There is something more that a surrogate cat can give to a kitten vs. a human. They connect better, can communicate in their own way, and be provided with cat to cat comfort.”
Carozza says that Benny actually serves a very important purpose. “There is a reason why kittens with a surrogate mom look MUCH better than a bottle-raised baby,” she says. “There is a very primal bond that humans cannot replace. I’d like to think he is giving back to what we provided him, a chance at a life.”
Benny, too, was nursed back to health by Carozza after she answered the call when a rescue asked for help with a group of kittens with “mild” upper respiratory infections.
“Needless to say, it was not mild but a severe upper respiratory infection along with conjunctivitis and diarrhea,” she remembers. “And there were five of them to deal with! But the moment I saw him, he was mine.”
Now Benny is an important buddy to so many of these fragile felines — who are mostly adopted out to Carozza’s current clients who want to add to their home or are ready for a new cat after one passes. Day in and day out, he teaches them the ropes of being a cat.
“He’s naturally curious and gentle but knows his boundaries with the very new neonates vs. our older pediatric fosters,” she says. “He simply adjusts to their personality and goes with the flow with the kitten. He is excellent in socializing them.”
And when one of the “bratty singleton bottle babies,” as she calls them, steps out of line, you can bet that Benedict Cumbercat will rein them back in — with a certain suaveness, like the movie star he’s named for.
“He will groom the babies and also discipline them as well when they are acting out of place,” she adds. “We want them to be cats, not cats who think they are human.”
The Nova Cat Clinic works with very little funds to care for its kittens, so any donation helps, Carozza says. To help with the cause, donate to the Chris Griffey Memorial Feline Fund.
To see more of Benny and his foster kittens, follow Carozza on Instagram.