Saturday, April 16, 2016

Spotlight: The Kitten Lady

Animal advocate Hannah Shaw is a warrior for orphaned kittens.

"I got into rescuing because I found a kitten in a tree, I had no plans to start,” Shaw said.  Shaw is an animal advocate working with Photographers for Animals, a nonprofit organization.

Shaw is pictured feeding Bruno, in the correct position.
Shaw gave a neonatal kitten workshop 101 on Saturday, March 19, at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter to a group of potential kitten fosters. Shaw started her brand, the Kitten Lady, as a small project that became a big deal. Eight years of kitten rescue under her belt, Shaw now helps inform others about the care of neonatal kittens.

"Everyone here is in a great position here to plan ahead of time,” Shaw said. She noted that even daily planning is essential to fostering kittens that are orphaned or without their mother.
Shaw went into detail about creating plans for the foster kittens. She suggested putting them in a place that is “cozy, private and easy to sanitize.”          

“Bathroom kittens are the hallmark of fostering. Everyone’s got a bathroom, so they end up keeping the kittens there,” Shaw said.

The audience was engaged and involved, asking questions during her presentation. Shaw brought organic baby wipes and kitten milk replacer to show what brands she prefers.

Image from @fairfaxcountyanimalshelter Instagram account.

“I almost drank a can of kitten milk replacer the other day, it looks just like a can of soda!” Shaw said. The crowd laughed, as Shaw explained the different types of nipples used in bottles for neonatal kittens.
Shaw stressed that feeding the kittens is often done incorrectly because people assume they know what they are doing.

“The feeding position is really important; the kitten must be belly down. It’s an art form and you’ll get really good at it,” said Shaw.

Another shot of Shaw feeding Bruno.
Shaw discussed serious issues and made recommendations for fosters, urging them to contact their vet if any urgent issues arrive. She said that neonatal kittens are similar to human babies; they need their faces cleaned after eating and they can burp. Unlike human babies, neonatal kittens need to be stimulated to pee and poop. Shaw explains that mother cats stimulate the kittens to pee and poop by licking them.
Shaw had two of her neonatal foster kittens with her, Bruno and Boop. Shaw used Bruno in a demonstration to show the audience how to feed him, stimulate him to pee and cleaning him afterwards.

Shaw stressed to the crowd that learning everything for neonatal kitten care can be stressful. Health situations that arise may seem like emergencies, because it is easy to panic. Shaw recommended that fosters consult with a veterinarian, if they are worried. She emphasized having a helper who can wake up in the early weeks of kittenhood to help with the feedings every two hours.  A support system is essential for both the foster and the kitten’s health. It is important to keep foster parents from burning out from the mental and emotional strain that fostering takes. The reward, according to Shaw, is being able to place a foster with a loving family.

Image from (yes that is me in the bun & scarf on right). There was an ASL interpreter at the event.

The crowd asked Shaw how she felt about saying goodbye to her foster kittens. Often fosters “fail” by adopting their kittens because they have grown very close.

“Being able to say goodbye is an indicator of success. All I want to do is say goodbye to them, that’s the point,” Shaw said. Shaw told the crowd that each kitten out the door is room to save more. 

“You are amazing. You’re saving lives. You’re literally a life saver,” Shaw said.

Image from @kittenxlady Instagram account.

You can see the Kitten Lady, Hannah Shaw, teach her neonatal kitten workshop 101 at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Northern Virginia on May 28, 2016 at 11 am. Sign up here!

Find Hannah, the Kitten Lady on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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