The Coolest Job Ever

Meet pro­fes­sional kit­ten res­cuer Han­nah Shaw!

Modern Cat - - Contents - BY JEN­NIFER NOSEK

Meet pro­fes­sional kit­ten res­cuer Han­nah Shaw!

My goal is to keep sav­ing lives for as long as I am on this earth.

Han­nah Shaw, aka Kit­ten Lady, is on a mis­sion to change the world for the tini­est fe­lines.

When she got started, Han­nah Shaw had no idea she'd be re­cus­ing kit­tens for a liv­ing. But af­ter her first kit­ten res­cue, she be­came ob­sessed with try­ing to save the lives of baby kit­tens, which grew into a mis­sion that be­came her full-time job. Fo­cus­ing her at­ten­tion on or­phan kit­tens, this tat­tooed res­cuer and humane ed­u­ca­tor is com­mit­ted to help­ing oth­ers learn how to save the lives of kit­tens in or­der to change the way we treat and per­ceive this most vul­ner­a­ble fe­line pop­u­la­tion. Along the way she’s gained a huge so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing and has been fea­tured by ma­jor me­dia out­lets around the world. How cool is that? We asked her some ques­tions.

Q: How did you get started res­cu­ing or­phan kit­tens?

I didn't in­ten­tion­ally get in­volved in kit­ten res­cue. Like many res­cuers, it was kit­tens who found me! When I was about 20 and liv­ing in South Philadel­phia, I found my first kit­ten, Coco, in a tree. Af­ter that, a veil was lifted and I started find­ing kit­tens ev­ery­where: in al­leys, un­der cars, in friends' back­yards. I learned that or­phan kit­tens are typ­i­cally killed in shel­ters due to the in­ten­sive care they re­quire, so I felt driven to pro­vide that care to them my­self. I be­came to­tally ob­sessed with giv­ing vul­ner­a­ble or­phan kit­tens a chance to live.

Q: What was your tra­jec­tory from help­ing a kit­ten to be­com­ing Kit­ten Lady?

I didn't be­come Kit­ten Lady overnight. At first, I just helped a hand­ful of kit­tens I found out­side, learn­ing as best as I could with fairly lim­ited re­sources. As more peo­ple found out about what I was do­ing, I started get­ting calls from friends, co-work­ers, and even strangers who had heard I was a “kit­ten lady.” Pretty soon I was co­or­di­nat­ing res­cue ef­forts with shel­ters and res­cue or­ga­ni­za­tions, and or­phan kit­tens started to be­come my biggest pri­or­ity. I've been for­tu­nate to work in an­i­mal wel­fare for most of my ca­reer, and through­out the years I have al­ways lamented that neona­tal kit­tens are so un­der­served in an­i­mal shel­ters. I'm grate­ful that as I've gained vis­i­bil­ity and sup­port, I've be­come able to fo­cus full-time on chang­ing that by pro­vid­ing humane ed­u­ca­tion that helps shel­ters, res­cues, and in­di­vid­u­als save the lives of kit­tens.

Q: What’s the best part of be­ing a pro­fes­sional kit­ten res­cuer?

The most re­ward­ing part of my work is see­ing the im­pact I'm able to make for in­di­vid­ual kit­tens...and know­ing that I'm able to ex­tend that im­pact ten­fold by teach­ing oth­ers to do the same. When a kit­ten opens her eyes for the first time, I want her to open them to a world of hope and pos­si­bil­ity, and it's very ful­fill­ing to be able to give that to them. While I can't nec­es­sar­ily see ev­ery kit­ten I im­pact, it feels good to know that more kit­tens are be­ing saved us­ing the re­sources I've cre­ated.

Q: What is the hard­est part of your job? And what keeps you go­ing?

The hard­est thing I deal with is the amount of in­quiries I re­ceive! Hav­ing a large so­cial me­dia plat­form is an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to dis­perse in­for­ma­tion, but it's also a lot of pres­sure be­cause peo­ple ex­pect me to be read­ily avail­able on a one-on-one ba­sis. I re­ceive more than 250 in­di­vid­ual mes­sages ev­ery day ask­ing me to help. This tells me that there is so much more work to be done, and it mo­ti­vates me to con­tinue cre­at­ing re­sources so that no one feels left in the dark, and ev­ery­one feels per­son­ally ed­u­cated and em­pow­ered to save lives.

Q: Do you ever keep any of the kit­tens?

“Good­bye” is the goal of fos­ter­ing, and I am a firm be­liever that you can't sus­tain­ably save lives if you don't know how to cel­e­brate say­ing good­bye. Af­ter all, kit­tens don't need us to keep them—they just need us to keep them alive. That's why I fo­cus on kit­tens age zero to eight weeks old, then adopt them into lov­ing homes. The point is to save the max­i­mum num­ber of lives, and we do that by

keep­ing space in our lives to foster. I per­son­ally have two cats of my own. Coco is the first kit­ten I ever found, and she's the in­spi­ra­tion for so much of what I do! My other cat, Eloise, came along about four years later—also an or­phan I raised. The two of them are won­der­ful com­pan­ions, but I do not in­tend to adopt more cats at this time. My goal is to keep sav­ing lives for as long as I am on this earth, and I will al­ways keep room in my life for fos­ters!

Q: Are any of your tat­toos kit­ten-re­lated?

While I don't have any kit­ten tat­toos, I do have sev­eral tat­toos of wild cats: a bob­cat, a cougar, and my favourite: a cir­cus tiger maul­ing a ring­leader. I'm ac­tu­ally ev­ery bit as pas­sion­ate about the wel­fare of big cats as that of tiny kit­tens. For sev­eral years I pro­vided an­i­mal care at a sanc­tu­ary for wild fe­lids, and I worked and vol­un­teered with wildlife pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions for much of my twen­ties.

Q: What should peo­ple do if they find a kit­ten or lit­ter of kit­tens?

It all de­pends on the kit­tens' age, where they're found, what re­sources you have avail­able, and whether there is a mom. Ev­ery­thing with kit­tens should be taken case-by-case! As a rule, you should not as­sume that a lit­ter of kit­tens is aban­doned just be­cause you don’t see the mom. If the kit­tens are un­weaned, it's im­por­tant that they stay with mom un­less they are truly or­phaned. Give the kit­tens a bit of dis­tance and see if the mom re­turns—if she does, that's great! They can stay with her un­til they are old enough to be weaned, at about five weeks old. Don't for­get that the mom should also be ster­il­ized so that no more kit­tens are born. If the mom does not re­turn within two to three hours, it's time for you to step in and care for them. Most an­i­mal shel­ters do not have the abil­ity to care for un­weaned kit­tens on site, so the most humane thing you can do is of­fer to foster them your­self. You can learn ev­ery­thing you need to know about how to raise kit­tens at Kit­tenLady.org/savekit­tens.

Q: How can other peo­ple get in­volved and help?

A: The best way to get in­volved with kit­ten res­cue is to sign up to foster for your lo­cal an­i­mal shel­ter. Fos­ter­ing is fun, re­ward­ing, and doesn't have to be hard! Any­one can foster kit­tens with the right sup­plies and in­for­ma­tion, and it's only a com­mit­ment of a few weeks. The im­pact you'll make will be life­sav­ing: shel­ters can­not save a kit­ten's life un­less there is some­one signed up to foster, so by pro­vid­ing a foster home you are lit­er­ally sav­ing an an­i­mal that would oth­er­wise be killed. You can find out more on Han­nah’s YouTube chan­nel and web­site, Kit­tenLady.org, and fol­low her on Face­book and In­sta­gram. Han­nah also pro­vides free printed ma­te­ri­als to shel­ters all over the coun­try so that peo­ple can learn to save kit­tens' lives.

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