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A Day in the Life: Professional Kitten Rescuer Hannah Shaw Makes Animal Advocacy Look Glam

Photography by Andrew Marttila

“I always say I'm everybody's midnight friend. If it's midnight and you find a kitten outside and you don't know what to do, I want people to feel like they have a friend who can help them through it.”

By Isabel Slone

Date August 6, 2019

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If the name Hannah Shaw doesn’t sound familiar, her Instagram handle @kittenxlady might. The California-based animal activist might be the most famous feline foster mom on the platform, boasting over 900k followers for a glimpse int the life of someone who is lucky enough to get to hang out with tiny kittens every day. After a decade of caring for  kittens found in unexpected places like trees, dumpsters, and parking lots, Shaw has written a book, Tiny But Mighty: Kitten Lady’s Guide to Saving the Most Vulnerable Felines, out today. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live behind the scenes of what might be a strong contender for the world’s cutest Instagram, this is a day in the life of Hannah Shaw.

Photography Courtesy of Penguin Random House


The first thing I do when I wake up is feed the kittens. I care for 2 or 3 litters of kittens at a time; some that are about to be adopted and some who just got here. I have 2 different kitten nurseries, so I go in there and I clean up everything and make sure everybody is doing okay. When I get [kittens in] sometimes they’re still wet from birth. These babies are small, so vulnerable and it’s just so heartbreaking that a life is born into the world without help. They’re so scared to be separated from their moms and they can’t even keep themselves warm at that age. I just want to be the person that helps them keep warm and get a full belly and feel safe before they grow up to be this wonderful majestic cat.


I make myself breakfast because self-care is important. I’m vegan so I eat a tofu scramble breakfast burrito and some fruit.


Time to sit down at my computer and get to work. My workload really depends on the day.  I’m finishing up the final edits on a YouTube video that I’m about to put up, and working on sending out a big email campaign about my book to all of my followers. It’s a lot of different moving parts.


I’ve been doing interviews this morning about the book, and I’m doing a podcast later today. Tiny But Mighty is a 300-page resource with everything I know about how to take care of kittens, explaining the why and the how of kitten advocacy. ‘Kitten lady’ was not a job that existed before, but I kind of made it into my life’s work. I create lots of accessible online resources on how to take care of kittens, whether it is a video or a written resource online. I always say I’m everybody’s midnight friend. If it’s midnight and you find a kitten outside and you don’t know what to do, I want people to feel like they have a friend who can help them through it. I have a super big job cut out for me but I enjoy it so much, I love helping people find their passion in rescue and help them do this well.


A lot of my life is preparing for events because I go so many. I have a function in San Jose this weekend where I’m doing a kitten kit workshop. We’re going to be building foster kits to donate to the local animal shelter, so it’s a lot of prepping and packaging.


Adoption day. I have a doctor coming to my house to pick up a dog that we’re fostering.


In my home, there are always kittens being cared for and their care always comes first. If something goes wrong, everything else gets put on the back burner until the babies are okay. For the last 12 days I’ve had these little kittens who were really not doing very well, so I had to stay focused on supportive care: giving them fluids and even tube feeding them. When that’s happening, I definitely spend less time creating content.


I’m a big bubble bath person. I take a bubble bath almost every single night to help me unwind and get me ready for bed. I also find it really helpful to listen to podcasts or read books that don’t have to do with animal welfare to focus on other things. I just finished a book called Childfree by Choice about all the ways people choose to not have biological children. I love Brené Brown and her book Dare to Lead. I love the Ezra Klein podcast. I’m always listening to the Spanish language podcasts just trying to practice my language skills.


I feed the kittens right before I go to sleep. I try to fall asleep immediately because once I see them, the clock starts ticking for their next feeding, which could be once or twice in the middle of the night, depending on the age of the kittens.

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