TOWN OF MCMILLAN, Wis. — Aria Rens, 12, has an easy smile and calm demeanor that can win her the adoration of the most frightened and wary of cats and kittens.
Her gentle and patient persistence to work with dozens of stray cats has helped them to become ready for adoption through the work of the Marshfield Area Pet Shelter, said members of MAPS.
Without a building to house strays, MAPS members volunteer to foster animals — predominantly cats, said Karen Rau, one of the MAPS organizers.
A small contingent of MAPS members have facilities for isolating sick animals to nurse them to health. Most of the cats are semi-feral and the volunteers work to make sure the animals are free of fleas, ear mites or disease.
When the cat's health is cleared, it's released to a home such as Aria's, where a volunteer socializes the animal so that it's suitable for adoption.
Where some adults would view hours spent coaxing scared cats out from under a bed to play a chore, Aria is in her element.
"It's fun. I like cats, and this is how I can help out," she told News-Herald Media (http://mnhne.ws/1g7nsBv ) during an interview in her bedroom, which has become kitty-cat central at her family's town of McMillan home.
A young black cat was stealthily patrolling the edges of Aria's room, warily watching while he sniffed at the furniture and carpet. As Bobby grew accustomed to the intrusion of strangers in Aria's room, he began to accept the loving hands willing to give him a scratch.
"He'll get used to everything. He'll want to play," Aria said as she sits on the floor and begins to wiggle a fuzzy ball at the end of a string in front of Bobby.
Soon Bobby was pouncing at the toy and playing with Aria. Eventually, his interest turned to Aria's lap, where he briefly lolled on his back. A new sound caused Bobby to startle and he jumped, ready to play with another toy.
Without volunteers to foster cats, MAPS would need to turn away many of the strays people find in the Marshfield area, Rau said.
"Aria is a very compassionate young teenager who wants to make a difference by opening up her heart and her parents' home," Rau said.
Bobby was initially fostered by Janet Gilbert, a MAPS member, who said the young cat was terrified of people when it was rescued.
"When he first came, he would bolt and run" when he heard a noise or saw a stranger, Gilbert said.
Aria's patience and compassion is helping Bobby learn to trust people and how to play, Gilbert said.
"She does a wonderful job. Bobby is going to be ready for (today's) adoption clinic. It makes a difference, too, when the entire family is supportive likes Aria's family," Gilbert said.
The Rens family happily supports Aria's volunteer passion because animals are a part of their lives, too, said her mother, Christy Rens. Christy and Troy Rens have three children, four cats and one dog, with Aria's younger siblings enjoying animals almost as much as she does.
"My brothers come in (her bedroom) and play with the cats sometimes. Our dog comes in too, but I'm careful," Aria said.
The variety of interaction helps to socialize a cat for a family, Aria said.
There aren't a lot of volunteer opportunities for older children or young teenagers, said Christy Rens, adding that Aria started helping to socialize cats when she was 8 years old.
Last summer, one of the cats Aria was socializing was pregnant and had 8 kittens, which became an adventure for the family since no one realized the cat was pregnant, Christy Rens said.
"One of boys lost his bedroom for a few days because there were a lot of cats," she said.
Information from: News-Herald Media, http://www.marshfieldnewsherald.com
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