Volunteer of the Month: Ginny L.

With kitten season already underway, we wanted to take a moment to shine a spotlight on Ginny L., one of Cat Town’s most dedicated volunteers helping lead the charge with our Forgotten Kitten Project. Thanks to volunteers like her, we’re able to give older shelter kittens the second chance they deserve after missing the ideal window of socialization in their early weeks of life. It’s because of big-hearted people like Ginny that we continue to change the face of cat rescue, nationwide. 

As the Forgotten Kitten Project manager, Ginny works tirelessly to help these kittens grow and become more used to human interaction, in addition to regularly sharing updates about their progress for the Kitten Wire blog series. We can’t thank her enough for everything she does at Cat Town!

I talked with Ginny about what inspires her to work with Cat Town’s Forgotten Kittens.

Leo, Bella, and Ginny sharing a moment on the couch. Photo by Ginny L.

Leo, Bella, and Ginny sharing a moment on the couch. Photo by Ginny L.

Larissa C.: How did you get involved with Cat Town?

Ginny L.: When I first moved to the East Bay, I was looking for a way to get involved with the local animal welfare community. As it happens, Cat Town’s Foster Coordinator and Deputy Director Dawn Pieper was the very first person to get back to me! She described the cats immediately in need of a foster home. Two days later, I had two very scared, stressed senior cats in my spare room who needed a lot of love and patience.

LC: Have you been a cat person your whole life?

GL: In 1st grade, everyone in class was asked to write a poem and then read it aloud to an auditorium full of people. Mine was:

Cute, cuddly, cool.

LC: What is/have been your role(s) at Cat Town?

GL: I started out fostering but quickly became more involved when I saw how many different ways volunteers can contribute to this small but mighty nonprofit. The most rewarding thing I do with Cat Town is a weekly shift socializing the most shy, stressed out, and sick cats who come in from the shelter or from other rescue partners. These cats aren't quite ready to meet visitors. Working with them in an environment designed to give them every chance at being happy and healthy has been amazing and extremely educational.

Now, I also have the super fun title of Kitten Program Manager and editor of the Kitten Wire, a regular blog feature I do with Cat Town's Communications Manager Cathy Niland, which highlights the innovative Forgotten Kitten Project.

A photo from Ginny's college days with a feline family member.

A photo from Ginny's college days with a feline family member.

LC: Having fostered senior cats and worked closely with our Forgotten Kitten Project, what is it that draws you to these special needs populations?

GL: The experience fostering my first two senior cats was life-changing. Their guardian died and they were surrendered to the local shelter. By the time they got to me, they were completely traumatized. At first, I wondered if anything I could possibly do would make them happy. Then I watched them transform before my eyes—slowly but surely. Seeing how much time and effort Cat Town put into them—supporting me and seeing to their medical care—opened my eyes to what is possible for the most vulnerable shelter cats.

So, while the animal welfare work can feel overwhelming with seemingly no solution to chronic problems that cause misery for homeless, abandoned, and neglected animals, working with these special-needs cats has shown me that every little bit of effort counts. Knowing I can make a small difference for even just one cat at a time means a lot to me.

LC: What is your favorite thing about working with vulnerable shelter cats?

GL: I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about my favorite thing that has to do with humans! And that is I have learned there are no bounds to what this community of crazy* cat people will do to help our vulnerable feline friends. I love seeing how many people make time each week to crawl around on the floor with shy cats, get themselves covered in cat treats, fur, and fuzz, in order to help them along their journey.

*Note: I use crazy in the most endearing way possible.

Ginny with Oak, a 2017 graduate of the Forgotten Kitten Project. Photo by Cathy Niland.

Ginny with Oak, a 2017 graduate of the Forgotten Kitten Project. Photo by Cathy Niland.

LC: What is something you’ve learned about under socialized cats during your time at Cat Town that you think people wouldn’t expect to be true?

GL: Remember the black-and-white cat who learned to high five and twirl for treats? That cutie was one of our most shy members of the Forgotten Kitten Project last year. And look at her now! She has her own Instagram account.

There are a lot of cat behavior experts who talk about how engaging with cats in a reward-based system to train them to do fun things helps keep them stimulated and makes them happy. So, that is just one example where I have learned that all cats deserve a chance—and that means working with them in a variety of ways to help them develop.

LC: Why would you encourage someone to adopt a senior or Forgotten Kitten?

GL: Can I answer this with a photo? This was one of the most aggressive, scared kittens who arrived at Cat Town in 2017. When staff walked in her room to deliver a bowl of food—WHAP! POW! She would swat it. This is Blossom. Dozens of volunteers worked with her in the Studios, then an amazing volunteer fostered her to give her even more specialized attention, then she came to the Cat Town adoption center, where she met her new family. And look at them!

Blossom with her feline sibling in her new home.

Blossom with her feline sibling in her new home.

We’ll have Blossom's full story on the Kitten Wire soon, so be sure to check back here in the coming weeks! And if you're inspired to volunteer with Cat Town, visit our website for more information.

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