When Kelley Peters learned about Justin, an adorable black and white kitten who had survived being set on fire in May 2013 when he was just a month old, she instantly felt a connection to the resilient and awe-inspiring young cat.
“Justin was just baby kitten when someone intentionally doused him in accelerant and set him on fire,” says Kelley. “A good Samaritan saw him and contacted the police who in turn brought Justin to the SPCA.”
The four-week-old tuxedo kitten suffered serious injuries all over his body as a result of the heinous attack, including severe burns on his back, rear legs, and head. “His injuries were so extensive,” says Kelley, “he lost his ears.”
Animal Alliance of New Jersey, a non-profit rescue in Lambertville, came to Justin’s aid, doing everything they could to help him recover from his shocking injuries. “Justin spent the next month or so in the hospital in intensive care, receiving laser therapy sessions and undergoing surgeries to mend his burned body,” explains Kelley.
With the help of Animal Alliance of New Jersey and excellent medical care, Justin recovered, and by the end of June 2013, he was ready to be adopted.
Not surprisingly, when Kelley — who lives in northern New Jersey — learned about Justin and his incredible story of survival, she was eager to make this brave boy a part of her family. “In July 2013, Justin came home to me,” says Kelley. “Since that moment, we’re on a mission to help other kitties to feel good again.”
Unfortunately, despite a police investigation, media coverage, and a reward, the person responsible for attacking Justin has never been identified. However, the horrific violence he experienced when he was a homeless kitten has inspired Justin’s mom to start The Kitty Krusade to help cats in need.
“With his non-profit animal rescue, The Kitty Krusade, and his army of kind followers, called ‘Kitty Krusaders,’ he is big brother to foster kitties,” says Kelley, “kitties who are rescued from perilous situations and are victims of severe trauma.”
It would be understandable if Justin, who suffered severe burns all over his body when he was intentionally set on fire, was wary of people and other cats, but part of what makes him so incredible is that he hasn’t allowed this traumatic experience to negatively impact his outlook on life.
“Despite the cruelty and pain he suffered, Justin is a sweet boy who loves other cats,” says Kelley, and he relishes his role as a foster brother. “He is by their side through recovery until they are adopted,” says Kelley, “extending a paw to help other kitties in need.”
When Justin’s not providing love and comfort to his foster brothers and sisters, this handsome boy enjoys playing with string toys, sleeping in the sunshine, and hanging out by the window in order to watch birds and butterflies or to simply enjoy the warm breeze.
However, Justin is so beloved by his foster siblings, he’s rarely on his own, something this handsome tuxedo boy definitely doesn’t mind. “He loves his kitty brothers and sisters and they adore him,” says Kelley, “often sleeping on top of him to be as close as possible to him.”
Justin, who was attacked and left for dead five years ago, is absolutely loving his life today, and Kelley is confident he — and the many special needs felines she has helped through The Kitty Krusade — are living proof of just how strong and resilient cats can be.
“We say ‘what makes you different, makes you special.’ People often think an injured kitty should be ‘put down,’ but with time and care, many of these injured souls make miraculous recoveries and go on to live happy lives!” says Kelley. “They just need a chance; someone to believe in them.”
Thankfully, since the moment Justin was rescued from a cold and dirty street in May 2013 — injured and alone — he has had someone by his side every step of the way, including the staff at the SPCA and Animal Alliance of New Jersey; the many medical professionals who performed treatments and surgeries and administered medications; and his biggest supporter, his mom, Kelley.
While Kelley is thankful for the many people who came to Justin’s aid when he needed help the most, she thinks this adorable cat’s unique personality and attitude is equally responsible for his ability to triumph in the face of adversity. “He is soulful, wise beyond his years, comforting and willful,” says Kelley. “It’s that spirit and determination that helped him get through all those painful days and weeks when he just a baby.”
No longer a tiny kitten covered in burns, Justin is now a five-year-old feline who — with the help of his mom — is inspiring both people and other cats. “We hope more people will open their hearts and homes to these kitties, whether they be blinded, paralyzed, tripods, earless, because those scars are badges of courage,” says Kelley. “It means these kitties survived and are stronger than whatever hurt them.”
Without a doubt, Justin is incredibly inspiring and resilient, and he is far stronger than the person who harmed him could ever hope to be, especially because he has the fortitude of his mom’s admiration and unconditional love. “He means the world to me. He is everything to me,” says Kelley. “I love him more than words could ever express.