Why Hannah Shaw created a guide for saving the most vulnerable felines

Hannah Shaw, better known as the Kitten Lady, is a professional kitten rescuer and humane rescuer who has dedicated her life to helping neonatal kittens. Along the way, she's shared her work and her story on social media, acquiring nearly a million followers on both Instagram and YouTube who're tuning in for her latest crop of cuties. And now, Shaw has released her first book, Tiny But Mighty, to not only tug at your heartstrings but propel a growing movement that's saving the lives of the most vulnerable felines. We sat down with the Kitten Lady herself to learn why she decided to write this book and what readers can take away from this all in one guide.

Why'd you write this book and what was the process that you went through to make it happen?

Writing a book has been my dream for as long as I can remember because there is such little comprehensive information out there about kitten care. And not just kitten care, but the why of the kitten care. Why this is something that there's such a great need for. As a person who does five minute YouTube videos or three sentence Instagram captions, it can be frustrating when I have so much more to say about all of this. So, writing a book was the most exciting thing that I've ever done.

For the last three years, I have these orphan kitten booklets that are used in hundreds of shelters throughout the country and I'm told that they're so helpful because there's not much information about kitten care out there. And while twelve pages is great, 300 is much better. This is a 300 page book that opens with the state of kittens in the United States and why hundreds of thousands of kittens are dying every year in shelters or on the street. I talk about where kittens come from, how the 80% of kittens born every year are born outside. So a large portion of the beginning of the book discusses why kittens are being born outside and what we do if we find a kitten outside. I talk a lot about trap, neuter, return, and then the book dives into everything that you need to know to feel empowered to help kittens as a foster parent. The journey from rescue to adoption and taking care of them, from giving them a hot bath to treating them for fleas. I talk a lot about the emotional part of rescue, such as saying goodbye to a kitten and setting boundaries to be sustainable in what you do. Then, the end of the book is really about the personal journey of doing this work sustainably. Such as, capacity and self-care, which is a huge part of my message. We don't have to keep the kittens, we just have to keep them alive.

The process of writing the book was in between feeding kittens and taking it piece by piece. There's so much to share and I think there's something in this book for everyone, whether you're a seasoned rescuer or just a cat lover who's looking to learn more about kittens. I also have a ton of kitten stories in it and it was really fun to write those because I got to take a walk down memory lane to remember so many of the rescue adventures I've been on. Then we took lots of photos, there's more than 200 photos in the book and it was fun getting to take so many photos of the babies.

What was it like working with your fiancé, Andrew, who took many of the photographs for this book?

About 50% of the photos were taken by me and 50% were taken by him. A lot of the photos, we already had organically because we take pictures of kittens all day every day. But sometimes, I really needed a photo of a specific  thing and we had to set up a photo shoot. For instance, there's a very silly section in the book that follows a sad section about grief and loss. It transitions into levity and joy, so in this section, I have a guide on how to make a paper hat for your kitten. I was like "Andrew, I need photos of step-by-step of crafting kitten hats." I think he was happy when the book was done because I wasn't calling him for emergency shoots anymore.

In the end, what was the most challenging part about making this book?

The hardest part was that I just have so much to say. I wanted it to be a thousand pages long and even given the long format of a book, there's always so much more to learn and share. For me, the biggest thing was figuring out exactly the right mix of what to put in the book. But, I think that I achieved it. I got to voice my audio book recently, so Tiny But Mighty is also available in an audio book. That was really cool because I got to read it front to back and cried at the end. I feel so grateful that I've been given the opportunity to share all of this and I feel so hopeful that this is a resource that can make a big impact for what's such a vulnerable population.

I think that I chose the right amount of everything but it's tricky because I wanted to intersperse as much cuteness and sweet kitten content while also talking about what is a very serious issue. Which is, a population that's being euthanized by the hundreds of thousands in our country and a lot of people don't know is at risk. It's a balance and I wanted to lure people in with the cuteness of kittens, then get them to stay with the important message that these kittens are at risk but every single person who steps up to help them has the opportunity to change that.

For me, the idea of Tiny But Mighty is the small actions people can take that can make this very mighty difference. Even in the years that I've done my advocacy work, I've seen this go from a small number of people invested in kitten's lives to a movement. I'm very eager for this book to come out so that it can play a role in pushing the movement ahead.

Because you've mentioned that you have more to say, is there more books to come?

Yes, absolutely. I have a lot of books in me. I do have a children's book coming out October 8th called Kitten Lady's Big Book of Little Kittens. That book is for children 4+ and it's an adorable book all about the journey from foster kittens from rescue to adoption. It teaches kids what happens when people are fostering kittens and the celebration of adoption day.

But right now, I'm in Tiny But Mighty land. I'm doing a book tour in six cities and all of that can be found on Kittenlady.org/events.