Q&A With the Kitten Lady

PHOTO CREDIT: The Great Went Pet Photography

Hannah Shaw, aka Kitten Lady, has been taking the Internet by storm. Probably best known on Instagram, with half a million following the adorable pictures she posts of her foster kittens, she spends a lot of her time educating the public on how they can help orphaned kittens directly. Here at Dog.com, we were excited to have the opportunity to sit down with Hannah and ask her a few questions of our own.

It wasn’t my intention at all; like many rescuers, it was the kittens that found me! When I was about 20 and living in South Philadelphia, I started finding kittens outside constantly - in trees, in alleys, in friends’ backyards. I learned that orphans are typically euthanized in shelters due to the intensive care they require, so I felt driven to provide that care myself. One after another, I saw how simple acts of kindness could bring hope to a kitten’s life, and I became totally obsessed with saving them. From there, I started volunteering and working to save kittens from animal shelters, and eventually developed my career around saving the most vulnerable felines. Now I’m a full-time humane educator, shelter consultant, and kitten rescuer, and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t feel incredibly grateful for dedicating my life to them.

My goal is to self-replicate! There’s an old saying in rescue: “you can’t save them all,” which I find very discouraging and defeatist. Sure, I can’t save them all by myself with my own hands, but if I can teach others how to save them, I do believe that together we can save every one. That’s why I’ve focused my career on humane education, to educate people about the needs of neonatal kittens, and to make it cool, fun, and easy for anyone to save their lives.

One of my most significant moments was when I played matchmaker with two orphan kittens, and ended up finding my own match, too! I had been raising two five-week-old orphans, and was getting ready to introduce them to each other for the first time. I had heard about a cat photographer named Andrew Marttila, and I invited him to come capture their first moments meeting each other. It was the cutest little introduction ever: two kittens discovering their new best friend. By the end of the experience, we had become so smitten with each other that we didn’t want to say goodbye, and the rest is history! The orphans were adopted together, and Andrew and I totally fell in love. Now we’ve worked together to save the lives of dozens of kittens, and we plan to save hundreds more together.

I’d say: do it! Kittens cannot survive without a foster parent to help, so you will literally transform into a lifesaving superhero the moment you bring home your first foster kitten. You can only learn how much you are capable of by having the courage to start out, so give it a shot and you’ll be blown away by the impact you’ll make. Start out by first learning as much as you can about kitten care, and ensuring that you have all the right supplies on hand. Reach out to your local animal shelter and tell them you’d like to foster kittens. They’ll be so happy to have your help!

Compassion fatigue is a real thing, and needs to be talked about more so that rescuers know how to combat it. It’s a form of secondary PTSD, and can result in horrible feelings of guilt, sadness, and hopelessness. A few years ago, I experienced a very low point when I had multiple kittens pass away in a row - two of pneumonia, then five more a few weeks later of panleukopenia. My heart was absolutely crushed. When I felt myself wanting to give up, I started working through a self-care plan. I wanted to armor myself with resilience and strength so that I can continue this important work. Developing a self-care plan is essential; ensuring that you know when to take a break, when to ask for help, and when to forgive yourself is key to doing this work sustainably. Self-care is animal care. We should be right with ourselves before we can help others, and when we remember to care for ourselves, too, there is so much mutual healing that can occur!

I have named so many, but I never run out of ideas. Anytime I hear a word that I think would make a great kitten name, I add it to my massive list. There are so many things I’d love to name a kitten, but ultimately, the kittens should name themselves. I typically get to know them for a day or so before I give them a name, and I do feel strongly about giving them one that will best suit them. The healthier they are, the more willing I am to get super silly with my names-I’ve named kittens everything from Juicebox to Spicy Pinto. The more vulnerable ones tend to get more dignified names.

How can people follow your journey and/or get involved?

Kittenlady.org/savekittens is where I share tons of information on kitten care, including helpful charts, videos, and protocols to make everything less daunting and more accessible. I also share my rescue adventures and kitten care advice on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. I do everything I can to bring levity and joy into the rescue world, and to make it easy for people to access information about how to save kittens’ lives. I hope it helps!

Kitten Lady
  • Published:
  • Updated: 7/14/2019: 2:17:17 PM ET