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She Didn’t Consider Herself A Cat Person, Until One Chance Encounter Changed Her Life Forever

Hannah Shaw never considered herself a “cat person”—and she certainly didn’t think rescuing kittens would become her job.

Yet she changed her mind when she spotted something shocking in her hometown of Philadelphia. “I looked up and found this little kitten in a tree,” said Hannah, now founder of the animal rescue and advocacy project called Kitten Lady, in an interview. “I climbed the tree and got her down, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do now?'”

Hannah named the kitten Coco, but at just a few weeks old, she needed special care. Vets and volunteers at shelters were only able to tell her so much, though, so she did some research on her own.

“I discovered that there were very few resources for kittens,” said Hannah. “I really had to make my own path to help this kitten.”

Eventually, Hannah adopted Coco as her own, (as well as another cat named Eloise later on), but it quickly dawned on her that this was a service needed across the nation.


According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals(ASPCA), there are 7.6 million animals that enter shelters each year, 3.4 million of which are cats. And according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), 70% of the cats in shelters are euthanized each year. Newborn kittens are more likely to be euthanized because they require more resources to take care of them.

Feral cats that aren’t spayed or neutered, naturally, contribute to the high rate of stray kittens. “Kitten season” tends to occur between spring and fall.

“Seasonal kitten changes do occur every year, often filling shelters to the brim in the spring and summer months, although warmer climates may see two waves of kittens, or even high numbers throughout the year,” Katie Lisnik, director of cat protection and policy for companion animals at the Humane Society, said in an interview.

“Kittens pose an extra challenge when they’re too young to adopt out—they need to be put in foster homes and take a lot of resources, both time and funding, to adequately provide care for them,” Lisnik added.

Just two weeks after finding Coco, Hannah spotted a cat, later named Rufus, in a tree. A month after that, she found Zeke, who was even younger and smaller than Coco and Rufus.

Zeke’s story was a particularly touching one. “My friend called me and said, ‘Hey, I know you just saved some kittens. There’s one in my alleyway. Can you come help? He’s really young,'” Hannah explained. “So I got to her house and it was raining, and she’d been watching for hours to see if the mom came for the kitten, but she never did.”
Hannah couldn’t help but get emotional when she saw Zeke. “I just started to sob,” she says. “I think this kitten was maybe 3 or 4 days old. I knew I was in way over my head, and I already knew that there was no one who was going to help.”

 Hannah had to get advice wherever she could find it, and did a great deal of research online. “I was 20 or 21 years old, and I had no money,” said Hannah. “We knew we had to bottle-feed the kitten, so we went and got the supplies, but we were in way over our heads. So my friend and I agreed to co-foster and to both put money aside to try and help the kitten.”
Hannah and a friend picked up a nursing kit, complete with a bottle and nipples, kitten formula, and other necessities like toys, litter, and blankets.


“I used to work in the public schools in Philadelphia,” said Hannah. “I was so dedicated to this kitten that I would sneak him into school with me because he needed to eat every couple of hours. I would actually wear a scarf around my neck, and I would keep the kitten in my scarf, and I’d just excuse myself every once in awhile to go to the teachers’ lounge, and I would feed him in there, or feed him in a bathroom stall.”

Luckily, when the school inevitably found out, they were quite supportive. “I was able to have Zeke kind of join the classroom a little bit, and he learned how to walk on the floor of the classroom I was working in,” Hannah says. “He went everywhere with us—even field trips. I was bottle-feeding him outside of this museum, and I have a picture of him with a giant milk mustache.”

When Zeke reached the standard adoption age of eight weeks old, a good friend of Hannah’s in Arlington, Virginia adopted him. “She’s a huge cat lady, and she just loved this kitten,” said Hannah.

It was saving Zeke’s life that sparked Hannah’s “(obsession) with finding ways to save baby kittens’ lives.” She didn’t want to just help kittens herself, though—she wanted to help others find the resources to do the same thing.

“The lack of good information and resources is what inspired me to start my project Kitten Lady,” said Hannah. “I wanted to give people a resource when they find a kitten in need.”

Hannah now spends her days organizing, providing resources for adoption, and educating the public about caring for kittens.


“There’s no end to the work that needs to be done, so I try to make it fun for people, and make it feel like something people can do and be proud of what they’re doing,” said Hannah. “My goal is to save as many lives as I can.”

For more information about Hannah’s wonderful organization, and to see what you can do to help, please visit Kitten Lady’s website, their Facebook page, and their YouTube Channel.

Its so wonderful that Hannah went from not being a “cat person” to being such a great advocate for them. They’re lucky to have her on their side!

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