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Cats

A Tattooed, Animal-Loving YouTuber is Teaching Thousands How to Save the Kittens Shelters Can’t Help

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“I don’t even have a cat,” SummerUnicorn10 commented on a YouTube video posted by Hannah Shaw, aka The Kitten Lady. “Why am I watching this?”

The answer ­– the Washington, D.C.-based Shaw proves that even non-cat aficionados (We mean you, YouTube commenter Doug Ingram, who owns three dogs) can find joy in neonatal kitten rescue and care.

“I have no doubt this is having an impact,” said Shaw hours after returning from the Miami-Dade area where she hosted workshops for the 2017 Animal Care EXPO conference, hosted by the Humane Society of the United States, and Miami-Dade Animal Services. “I have people coming up to me crying, saying they watched one of my videos or read one of my [educational pamphlets] and decided to start working to save kittens, to get involved. That’s what makes this all worthwhile for me.”

Andrew Marttila

Underfunded rescue groups generally don’t have the equipment or staff to provide neonatal kittens (those four weeks old or younger) with the dedicated care needed. Neither do shelters that annually accept about 3.2 million cats each year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASCPA). An estimated 860,000 cats – many of them kittens for which care is unavailable – are euthanized each year, reports the ASCPA.

Andrew Marttila

That’s where Shaw comes in, as an advocate, educator and speaker she helps others start their own kitten rescue journeys through a YouTube page that now has over 106,000 subscribers. As someone who has personally rescued and fostered hundreds of kittens herself, she is a powerful champion, equally at ease talking to animal experts as she is interested individuals with no experience.

Although Shaw is not a veterinarian – though she works closely with them – the self-taught caregiver, who worked for a decade in major animal rescue organizations before striking out on her own, is inspiring.

Andrew Marttila

Her main animal advocate partner is boyfriend and professional pet photographer Andrew Marttila, and a smattering of volunteers. Otherwise, she goes it alone.

When Shaw graduated from college at age 20 with degrees in psychology and women’s studies, she planned for a career dedicated to helping children in foster care. She was working in that capacity when she found a kitten – which she later named Coco and adopted herself – in a public park in Philadelphia.

FROM PEN: What Happens If My Pet Eats Something He Shouldn’t?

“I didn’t know what to do,” said Shaw, whose accolades include a designation as one of Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls.” “I just knew I had to do something. And that changed everything.”

Hannah Shaw

As her profile and YouTube following has risen – she will be shown teaming with Jackson Galaxy to rescue 50 kittens on the June 3 episode of this season’s My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet, reps confirm – she is still married to her core mission.

“There’s a lot to do but I think it’s important to know your limits,” said Shaw, who personally fosters from two to 10 kittens at any given time in a dedicated nursery in her home. “My mission is not to open a huge rescue center… It is to continue to inspire and educate others, to continue to built a large, vibrant network to rescue and nurture kittens.”

Learn more about the Kitten Lady and support her efforts at her website.