Warm Your Heart With “Kitten Lady” Hannah Shaw’s Breakdown of How She Rescues the Most Fragile Kittens
**TW: Sick kittens and cute kittens.**
I’d somehow never heard of Hannah Shaw until now, but she is currently doing something that both makes me cry and smile at the same time, rescuing sick kittens. In her new book Tiny but Mighty, she outlines how to provide care for the most at-risk kittens. Her NPR interview is both the most adorable and saddest thing ever, listening to it on the way to work.
The YouTuber has rescued hundreds of neonatal kittens, many who come into her care orphaned and unweaned. Due to their size, they are seen as way too vulnerable to be in an animal shelter. As a result, kittens are a highly euthanized population in shelters, because they need a level of care that most shelters cannot provide. Thankfully, Shaw has been stepping in to provide that level of care.
“They fit in the palm of your hand. Their eyes are closed. They need around-the-clock feeding and care,” Shaw says. “Sometimes they have a life-threatening illness or they are in really critical condition, and I want to be able to give them the attention that they deserve so that they have the best chance to survive.”
One of the kittens she found in that condition is the adorable little baby on her book cover, Hanky, also known as Hank, named for the fact that she was left at a pet supply store in a tissue box. Hanky was in tough shape. Her umbilical cord still attached, the poor thing was covered in fleas, her eyes were also infected, and most dangerously, she had panleukopenia, a virus that kills 90% of cats when untreated.
Shaw says that Hanky became her full-time patient for the week. “For every kitten that I’ve lost in the past who had [panleukopenia], they’ve taught me something that helped me to save Hank,” she explained. Thankfully, after regular and attentive monitoring with fluids and tube-feeding, Hank emerged from her illness. “Her eyes were bright — she was like a new cat who was finally learning what it is just to enjoy being alive.”
It’s really important that Shaw is giving attention to this population of kittens, because they are underserved and highly vulnerable. Many people love the idea a cute tiny kitten they can fit in their hand, but these neonatal kittens, who may have never been loved or cared for, need many of the same building blocks that any neglected newborn would need. That takes time, and it’s not always fun.
Shaw also says it’s important if you’re trying to rescue kittens to make sure to see if they have a mom first, because if they are being cared for, you don’t want to tear them away from a stable environment that will help them learn to socialize and be fed. Her kitten nursery is a health center for these little balls of fluff:
“We have a very sterile environment for them. Everything is stainless steel, can be sanitized. We have incubators for those babies (0 to 3 weeks) who come in, and they don’t have mom, and they need that constant radiant heat to keep them warm and healthy. I have a refrigerator where all of their formula and medication is capped. We have lots of baby supplies, everything from soft blankets to surrogate mamas that have a little heartbeat inside of them [that] these babies can cuddle up to. Really everything that we need for the tiniest neonates is in that room.”
During these 8 weeks of care, Shaw also takes pains to make sure she uses tools and techniques that will make the kittens feel familiar, using a toothbrush for grooming because the bristles can feel like a cat’s tongue, or using a warm, wet baby wipe or a soft tissue to help teach the kittens how to use the bathroom. (Apparently, mom cats will lick the butt and genitals of kittens to stimulates them, so they learn it’s time to potty … which also means the mom cat consumes their waste. Parenthood!)
If you have ever been interested in rescuing or are just looking for a heartwarming story featuring kittens to start your Friday, I’d highly recommend the interview and Tiny But Mighty is also out in stores now.
(via NPR, image: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
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