Shelter volunteer gives kittens a paw up

BOTHELL — People from all over the world have watched John Bartlett’s kittens play.

Bartlett, a volunteer foster cat parent for Purrfect Pals, an Arlington-based shelter, last year rigged up a camera in what he calls his “Critter Room.”

First, he posted it on Facebook. Then, after People Magazine posted a link to his Web camera, as many as 21,000 people viewed the site at one time.

More than a year later, the site still draws an average of about 2,000 concurrent viewers, Bartlett said. He’s had hits on the site from nearly every country in the world and drawn donations for Purrfect Pals from several of those countries.

“A lot of people have made friends watching the kittens,” he said.

Bartlett, 42, of Bothell, has been caring for cats for Purrfect Pals since 2008. The shelter doesn’t have space at its main location in Arlington to house all the cats and kittens that come its way. As a result, the organization relies on 85 volunteer foster parents to care for the felines until they can be adopted or there’s room at the shelter, said Kat Dockstader, who manages volunteers for Purrfect Pals.

“Like so many of our volunteers, he has done so much above and beyond for Purrfect Pals — from supporting adoption events, to taking pictures, picking up donations at various locations, and he has saved more than 35 litters of foster kittens and their mamas since his time with us,” she said.

He also plays “Santa Claws” during Purrfect Pals’ December fundraiser and volunteers one night a week at the Woodinville PetSmart store, where the shelter keeps several cats available for adoption.

He got started with the organization by going into PetSmart on his lunch hour to watch the cats. He works nearby as a computer programmer for AT&T.

He showed up at the store so often it was suggested he volunteer, so he did.

Bartlett has been taking in litters through friends since 2003.

“I got fostering in my blood,” he said.

He grew up with cats and still has some of his own — “a single-digit number” — that he keeps separate from the foster groups.

He cares for one litter at a time, sometimes more. Some of the cats are feral. He names the litters and posts photos on the Web.

“Some are with me for a couple of days, some for months,” Bartlett said. The average is about two months, he said.

“I get a lot of sick cats that need a lot of TLC.”

In October 2011, he set up the camera.

“I wanted to see how the kittens were behaving when I wasn’t in there,” he said.

Then he posted the link on Facebook and later on Livestream.

“Besides the sheer geek factor of broadcasting kittens across the web 24-7, I kept the kitten cam to raise awareness for fostering and hopefully to encourage others to foster,” Bartlett said.

One litter, the Spice Kittens, drew $6,700 in donations to Purrfect Pals as of Dec. 1, he said. He estimates that the kitten cam has drawn at least $2,000 in other donations as well.

The money has come from several nations, including Russia, Australia and Croatia, Dockstader said.

Bartlett quickly got feedback from many people who told him they had recently lost a pet or loved one and that watching the kittens brightened their days, he said.

At first, “I never realized just how much the kitten cam has helped others in their lives in dealing with loss and depression,” Bartlett said. “I asked the fans of the Critter Room how the kitten cam has impacted them and hundreds have replied.”

When the kittens are ready to move on, many of them are taken to the Everett PetSmart store on Saturdays, where Purrfect Pals puts them up for adoption.

Often, people who have been watching the cats on camera will line up early at the store to adopt their favorite kitten, Bartlett said.

He said it’s hard for him not to get attached to his foster felines and it can be tough to see them leave.

“It’s never easy,” he said. At the same time, if they’re leaving it means they’ve been adopted or have a chance to find a permanent home soon, he said.

“It’s always bittersweet. Kitten withdrawal is a real thing.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

Videos show romping kittens

John Bartlett’s Critter Room on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCritterRoom

Viewer feedback: tinyurl.com/KittyCamComments

Livestream videos: http://new.livestream.com/ FosterKittenCam

More photos: http://strangejourney.net/cats/main.php/v/Fosters

More in Local News

Mayor tries new tactic to curb fire department overtime

Stephanson says an engine won’t go into service when the only available staff would be on overtime.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Paine Field fire chief will be allowed to retire

In his letter, the airport director noted Jeff Bohnet was leaving while under investigation.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

Lynnwood man allegedly cuts Marysville’s 911 dispatch wires

The man reportedly told police he intended to trade the wires for drugs.

Ian Terry / The Herald Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during the morning commute on Thursday, March 30 in Lake Stevens. Photo taken on 03302017
Pay a toll on US 2 trestle? 10,000 say no on social media

A GOP lawmaker’s chart shows theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one way.

Most Read