Kitten College: Higher Education That Saves Lives

For this week’s Innovation Bank series of short, recorded webinars, welcome Marnie Russ of the highly successful Kitten College at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA).

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” -Leonardo da Vinci

The Kitten College at AWLA is the region’s first kitten nursery in the Washington, D.C., area. Boasting a large base of well-trained fosters, a Kitten Transport program to pull needy kittens from other shelters, several satellite campuses, and even a Kitten College apprenticeship program, Kitten College serves as a fantastic model for other shelters to develop similar initiatives. 

Foster Power

Marnie gives a well-deserved shout-out to the dedicated fosters at the AWLA Kitten College. Divided into “classes” of expertise, volunteers begin at the freshman level, and eventually may move up to sophomore, junior, senior, and dean’s list. New volunteers begin by caring for healthy kittens, while upperclassmen require specialized training with more demanding cases. The foster program has become a powerhouse, reducing in-house care for kittens in the shelter and preparing the kittens for adoption.

Satellite Campuses

As of 2020, Kitten College has expanded to six satellite campuses at shelters and rescues in the area. The main AWLA campus has helped to develop sustainable kitten programs in these communities via resources, training, and walking them through the process of how to maintain a safe kitten nursery. The hope? That the numbers of kittens at the AWLA shelter will diminish if these satellite campuses can thrive in their own communities. 

The Impact of COVID-19

Ironically, the pandemic has had little impact on Kitten College.  Reports Marnie, “We are on track to surpass our intake numbers from last year, which is great since we did have to halt intake at the shelter for everything except bottle babies in the early days of the virus.” They’ve also worked closely with TNR groups to triage and transport kittens from their events—something new! “Prior to the pandemic we weren’t really involved in the TNR events,” says Marnie.

Want to start your own kitten program?

The AWLA has many resources to share with orgs wishing to start a successful kitten program. Learn more here or contact Marnie for more information.

More great ideas

Visit The Association’s Innovation Bank
The Genomics of the American Mutt
Spotlight on: Tree House Humane’s FeLV+ Adoptions Program

Zoë is an extern for The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement. A student at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, she plans to major in Sociology-Anthropology. Her passion for veganism and animal rights inspires her interest in the animal welfare sector.

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