Rescuing kittens sounds like a dream job.
For Hannah Shaw, a self-proclaimed "professional cat lady," this isn't a dream but her passion and work.
Hannah runs Kitten Lady, a non profit rescue and advocacy project dedicated to changing the lives of neonatal kittens and educating others about what she does.
Her primary focus is animal advocacy, policy work, and helping shelters develop programs for certain populations of cats, mainly neonatal kittens and community cats. Most shelters have programs in place for adoptable cats, but not for these un-adoptable populations. Due to lack of programs, these populations are usually euthanized.
It doesn't have to be that way though, and that is Hannah's mission.
Her social media accounts document the care she provides for various kittens that come into her life, as well as the shelters she visits and her conference presentations. But her vast social media presence isn't designed to show the world how cute her work is. It's to show people that for every kitten she rescues, there are thousands that don't get rescued and could be saved if others stepped up and got involved.
"This is hard work, but it's absolutely attainable and anybody can saves lives if they just dedicate themselves to doing so."
The main population Hannah works with is orphaned kittens- younger than eight weeks old. These kittens are almost always the product of un-sterilized outdoor cats, which is one of the reasons it is so important to get outdoor community cats spayed and neutered.
Orphans are almost always found outside; they are typically orphans because people pick them up, not because they don't have a mom. People think they're doing the right thing by bringing them to the shelter, but the fragile kittens usually get euthanized because shelters don't have the resources or foster homes to house them.
The best option for these orphaned kittens is to leave them with their mom or care for them yourself.
Not only does Hannah save the lives of tiny little kittens and foster them until they find their forever homes, she also travels globally to educate shelters and communities on how to properly care for these fragile lives, giving them the tools and resources to successfully save lives themselves.
Locally in DC, Hannah is involved in rescuing and fostering kittens, as well as TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return). She also travels globally to teach others how to do what she does. She hopes that the biggest take-away from her talks is personal empowerment. In trying to create viral media, she hopes that it inspires people to get involved.
Kitten Lady started when Hannah found her first orphaned kitten.
Having been very involved with animal care her entire life, from wildlife to farm animal advocacy, she wanted to save this little kitten she found. She realized that there was a huge lack of resources and found it upsetting so she did everything she could to save this little kitten. Eight years later, she still has her first orphan, Coco.
Within a few weeks of finding Coco, she found more kittens and it opened up her eyes to how many kittens were out there that needed these resources. Now she's realized that "no one is really championing kitten issues," even the large animal advocacy groups. Nor are there any programs raising awareness about what happens to these kittens in shelters.
Earlier in her career she worked with a shelter in North Carolina, a place that used to break her heart. In June she was able to go back to the same shelter and save an individual kitten from that shelter, as well as be in a position to help the shelter rewrite their program. Her biggest rewards come from being able to put a program in place to impact thousands of lives, not just one.
For those of you who are over 18 and have worked with orphaned kittens, Hannah is conducting a survey which can be found here.
Be your own Kitten Lady and start by being aware of the challenges these little munchkins face.
All images via Kitten Lady on Facebook.