by Nancy Peterson & the National Kitten Coalition
(with some kibbitzing from ANIMALS 24-7)
Five years ago––six years ago in July 2021––I retired after 18 years as first and still only national cat program manager for the Humane Society of the United States.
Having a national and even sometimes international platform to help animals, especially felines, was among the greatest joys of my life.
Since retiring, I have continued to follow my passion. I volunteer as a cat foster and cuddler for my local animal shelter and serve on the boards of two national cat nonprofits, including The National Kitten Coalition.
What is the National Kitten Coalition?
The National Kitten Coalition exists to increase the survival rates of kittens. Our staff and volunteers include veterinarians, veterinary technicians, staff from animal shelters, rescue, and trap/neuter/return groups, and foster care-givers with expertise and hands-on experience in saving kittens.
The National Kitten Coalition defines neonatal kittens as unweaned kittens who require extensive round-the-clock care, including bottle feeding. Neonatal kittens are often euthanized because animal shelters, rescue groups, and the veterinary community lack the time, resources and/or knowledge to care for at-risk “bottle babies,” but the National Kitten Coalition––along with many other organizations around the U.S. and abroad––is now working to change that.
Which came first, the cats or the kittens?
National Kitten Coalition founders Rosemarie Crawford and Susan Spaulding met in 2004. Both were then fostering neonatal and sick kittens for animal shelters and rescue organizations in the greater Washington D.C. area.
This was the same area where trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs emerged into public view and recognition about 15 years earlier, after Louise Holton and Becky Robinson cofounded Alley Cat Allies, the first TNR organization with a national presence.
Several years later, Holton formed Alley Cat Rescue, which has also established a national presence.
While the success of TNR rapidly reduced the numbers of cats at large, litters of kittens are still born to cats who had not been reached. Local shelters, moreover, still receive many neonatal kittens, especially kittens born to pet cats who have not been spayed early enough to prevent their first litters. This is the problem that spay/neuter education pioneer Esther Mechler founded the www.FixByFive.org organization to address.
(See “Fix Felines by Five Months” — Spay/USA founder Esther Mechler.)
Feline Outreach, Rescue & Education
The number of kittens whom Crawford and Spaulding were asked to foster was overwhelming. Sadly, they were not able to foster every at-risk kitten. They recognized the need to have more highly trained volunteers and staff join them in their efforts to successfully care for all the kittens brought to shelters and rescue organizations, so they started teaching others. They began their education and training endeavors by giving small, informal classes to local shelters and rescue groups.
In response to the growing need for a formalized education and training program on successful kitten care, Rosemarie and Susan founded Feline Outreach, Rescue and Education in 2008 to bring more lifesaving workshops to shelters, rescues and conferences around the country.
Marnie Russ joined with Susan and Rosemarie in 2014, and in recognition of the organization’s by then truly national reach, Feline Outreach, Rescue and Education changed its name in 2015 to the National Kitten Coalition.
“Kitten season” is just around the corner
The National Kitten Coalition today strives to increase the survival rate of kittens by providing quality education, training and resources to the humane sector, including sympathetic volunteers from among the public. We offer kitten caregivers information sheets, free webinars, conferences, our Kitten Nursery Manual, consultations, and more.
“Kitten season” is just around the corner for many of us; and in some areas, kitten season occurs year round. Will you help us increase the survival rates of these vulnerable kittens by doing any of the following?
What you can do
* Visit kittencoalition.org to learn about the National Kitten Coalition’s resources, upcoming webinars and conferences.
* Link to the National Kitten Coalition from your website.
* Like the National Kitten Coalition page on Facebook.
* If you manage an animal shelter, humane society, or veterinary clinic, distribute National Kitten Coalition resources to your foster caregivers, volunteers, adopters, clients, and professional organizations of which you are a member.
* Write an article about the National Kitten Coalition and our resources.
* Provide a guest blog for the National Kitten Coalition web site.
* Reach out to your colleagues, friends and community to tell them about the National Kitten Coalition’s resources.
“Keep up the good work!”
What’s in it for you? You won’t have to reinvent the wheel and will save even more kittens!
I would love to hear from you about how we can work together to make 2021 and beyond better for YOU and all of the kittens you care for. Thank you for all you do.
As I signed off during my years at the Humane Society of the U.S., I do so now. Keep up the good work!
––Nancy Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Nancy Peterson:
Nancy Peterson, as ANIMALS 24-7 noted at her retirement, brought to the Humane Society of the U.S. a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, an associate’s degree in animal health technology, clinical experience as a registered vet tech, additional experience as a trainer of service dogs, and longtime membership in the Cat Writers’ Association.
(See HSUS Cat Herder Announces Retirement.)
An author of numerous award-winning magazine articles about various aspects of cat behavior and health, Peterson later served for several years as Cat Writers’ Association president.
Brought order from chaos
Before Peterson arrived at HSUS in 1998, the organization had no one go-to spokesperson on cat-related topics. Most media inquiries pertaining to cats were routed to the Companion Animal Welfare department, but were answered by a variety of people whose backgrounds were actually in dog handling or shelter management.
While Peterson was not hired to rewrite HSUS policy, her first task as HSUS “cat herder” was to coherently reconcile the various past, present, and at that time frequently changing positions of the policymakers in publications and public statements.
That required facilitating a great deal of often heated discussion, both internally and with outside experts, including the leaders of other animal advocacy organizations that had taken an interest in cat issues, especially involving feral cats.
“Rethinking the Cat”
Peterson took essentially the same quiet approach to “cat herding” people that she took to handling cats, managing to be simultaneously one of the most often quoted of all Humane Society of the U.S. spokespersons, past or present, and one of the least controversial, even when addressing explosively controversial topics.
Peterson’s last big project before retiring was organizing a two-year series of “Rethinking the Cat” symposiums in major cities around the U.S., featuring as keynote speaker Bryan Kortis, founder of the New York City neuter/return organization Neighborhood Cats, and author of the widely used handbook Community TNR: Tactics & Tools.
You may also be interested in the Kitten Lady’s YouTube channel. I like to suggest these videos, especially to younger people who are interested in cat welfare. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5VvB6tmC4lu_WCx7hE0PZA
“Kitten Lady” Hannah Shaw rescues and fosters neonatal kittens and offers multiple tutorials on a wide variety of kitten care topics. She is also a rational and nuanced voice on certain controversial cat topics–which is a welcome thing, especially among a younger audience.