Faster than an alley cat escaping a Doberman, more powerful than a CAT bulldozer, and able to leap over dumpsters in a single bound, here comes “Superman Shon” a.k.a. “Catman,” ready for feeding time in the back streets of Philadelphia, as part of his never-ending battle for truth, justice and after-dinner scratches in just the right place.
A force to be reckoned with, 5-year-old Shon Griffin is a familiar sight on Philly’s northeast side as he dons his different superhero capes to help his two aunts, Kia Griffin and Kris Papiernik, care for homeless cats and kittens in four locations served by their feline foster and rescue charity, Kolony Kats.
Since age 3, the kindergartener has accompanied Kia and Kris on weekends to fill up dry food bowls and water dishes, hand out cat treats and deliver chin and belly scratches to about 50 stray cats living in the women’s backyard, behind sheds in alleyways and at a gas station owned by a sympathetic cat lover.
“The first time he wanted to go out with us, we were hesitant, because feral cats are shy and easily scared and he was so little and rambunctious,” Kris tells PEOPLE. “But the cats really took to him, especially one named Bug that had eluded us for awhile.”
“As soon as Shon showed up,” adds Kia, “that cat came right over and started rubbing against his legs. This was a cat that we couldn’t even look at for two years without him running away from us. Because of Shon, we were finally able to take Bug to get neutered, then bring him back to his little colony. Shon simply has a magic touch with cats.”
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Their nephew (who lives with his mom and younger brother) has always enjoyed dressing up as superheroes, from Superman to the Flash, “so it only seemed natural to call him ‘Catman’,” says Kris, who is raising funds with Kia to build a shelter for stray felines. “There’s nothing he loves more than hanging out with the cats and making them happy.”
Using a special move that he calls the “superpower scratch,” Shon gives each cat equal time with petting and gentle scratching under their chins. Instead of a fancy slogan like other superheroes, his aunts say he’s content with his favorite phrase: “Be kind to cats.”
“He has a compassionate heart and it’s going to take him places,” says Kia.
“Hopefully, to The Ellen Show,” adds Kris. “His dream is to go on [Ellen DeGeneres’] show, have her dress up as Bat Girl and go with him to pick up all the stray cats. Then for dinner, he’ll take her out to Chuck E. Cheese.”
Until then, Shon is content to dress up as Batman’s sidekick, Robin, this year for Halloween, then change into a Philadelphia Eagles football uniform halfway through the day because he couldn’t decide on one costume this year.
Shon will take a break from saving the cat kingdom for one day, say his aunts, who document Shon’s adventures on Instagram, because nothing can keep “Catman” from making the trick-or-treating rounds.