All photos courtesy of Kitten Scoop.
Amanda Coats co-founded animal rescue Kitten Scoop earlier this year to help the many animals who don’t have homes where they are safe and nurtured. But in addition to rescuing and finding homes for animals in need, she also educates and supports Pittsburgh-area families who also want to get involved in helping animals.
With the holidays on the horizon and cold weather approaching, it’s a season when many families are thinking about how they could give back. If helping animals is something you’re interested in — or if it’s some sort of volunteerism that your kids might be interested in — Kidsburgh spoke with Coats about how families could get involved and how she and her Kitten Scoop team can help.
How Families Can Get Involved: Cat Care
Coats and her team welcome volunteers who want to help with basic cat care at their location in Exton, Pennsylvania, about 20 minutes east of town. And they are happy to teach those skills.
“We’re teaching people while we’re taking care of the cat — like, ‘That’s why we do this. That’s how you hold kittens,’” Coats explains. “They definitely get an education that way.”
Families can also host pet food drives at their school or neighborhood, then bring the food they collect to the shelter (and play with the cats when they visit).
Learn more about trap-sterilization-release
Children and adults can also learn about a method called trap-neuter-release (TNR). The best solution for stray cats, which the Kitten Scoop team calls “community cats,” is to make sure they can be spayed or neutered and provide them with any medical attention they might need.
So, Kitten Scoop practices TNR, and they also teach local families how to safely trap a cat or kitten (or litter of kittens) in the open, and then how to help get that animal neutered.
Once strays have received this help, they can sometimes be adopted, especially if they are young kittens under 10 weeks old. But this is not always possible.
“We do breed assessments to find out if they’re going to be friendly and adoptable,” Coats says, “but adults often aren’t.”
In these cases, the cat will be released, but the folks at Kitten Scoop can help volunteers support that cat.
Learn to keep a cat
Many Kidsburgh readers have dogs and cats at home who are beloved members of the family. And while they’d love to welcome a “community cat” into the warmth of their home, some outdoor cats aren’t tamable, Coats says.
The good news is this: with a little practice, a family can take care of an outdoor cat, making sure they have food and a relatively warm place to sleep during the winter.
“Everyone has to survive, even the cats we trap and bring back. They always need a caretaker and someone to feed them every day,” she says. Even if they hunt, cats probably expend more calories trying to find and catch prey than they can get from consuming that prey.
That’s where Kitten Scoop’s training for volunteers comes in: families learn how to best help the “community cats” in their neighborhood.
“We can make sure they’re following all the golden rules that are best for the cat after neutering,” Coats says. “Make sure there is someone who will feed the cat and provide shelter. It doesn’t even take a lot of work. We’re talking three minutes a day to put food out.
Kitten Scoop has been operating in the Murrysville area for just under a year, but Coats has been involved in animal rescue for 20 years. She started by rescuing dogs, but over time she learned how many cats and kittens needed help.
“You can go out every day and probably find a litter of kittens under your bush. You won’t find a litter of puppies to rescue anywhere,” Coats says. “While I was rescuing dogs, I was always rescuing a mother and kittens every year because I always heard how bad ‘kitten season’ was.”
Since then, she has rescued nearly 2,000 cats and shares her knowledge with as many people as possible.
“When I first started learning about 10 years ago how to trap and how to do the best things with cats, it was a lot of research and there was really no one to guide me. had no one to show me the best practices. And so I learned on my own,” Coats says. “If I can teach you how to trap the cats yourself that you can feed…and I can show you the ways and how to use the best humane trapping methods and colony management so that’s great, I’m reaching 100 times more people than if I was in the field doing it myself.