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.
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.
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.