By Megan Sando
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A love for kittens brought together hundreds of people who attended the Tiny Paws Kitten Rescue grand opening of its new facility on Saturday.
Director Holly Chapples said nearly 100 people came in by noon to admire the 20 kittens inside.
“Very wonderful turnout,” Chapples said.
A baby shower table was full of cat litter, cards, dishes and toys from guests.
Visitors could sit and watch the kittens through the building’s five play rooms. They were marked neonatal, just weaned, first ready to adopt, second ready to adopt and special needs. Another room was made specially for kittens with ringworm.
One cat, Roo, was special needs with neurological problems in his hind legs.
On a normal day, visitors aren’t allowed inside with the kittens.
Chapples said the kittens are too young and could be exposed to viruses.
Each room had hollowed out cottonwood trees for the kittens to play on, food, water, toys and bedding.
There was an additional apartment attached with washer and dryer, closet, living room and full kitchen for a night feeder. Chapples said they are in need of a night feeder for the kittens. They must be fed at 10 p.m., 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. throughout the night.
It is important to have the feeder during kitten season, which Chapples explained is during the fall and spring and lasts seven to eight months a year.
In the neonatal room, it was feeding time and Chapples gave them formula through a dropper. The kittens are sheltered and on heating pads.
Once the kittens reach 3 months old, they are ready for adoption. Owners can pre-adopt a kitten, meaning they will wait until it is spayed or neutered to take it home.
Some people came in to register to volunteer or adopt, while others hoped to pet kittens.
Two Oklahoma State University students from Dallas were glad they found it.
“We’ve been here a month and tried to find a shelter,” said freshman Mackenzie Darby.
“We would definitely adopt if we didn’t live in a dorm room,” said cat lover Leah Benator.
Chapples said she started the 501c3 nonprofit because she wanted to save the kittens from being euthanized by Stillwater Animal Welfare.
“I just couldn’t bare it; they need a chance at life,” she said.
The kittens come from animal welfare and from the public. A litter of three was recently saved from the middle of the road, Chapples said.
In the last nine years, Tiny Paws has saved 2,500 kittens from being euthanized.
At times, Chapples would bottle feed up to 23 kittens at home.
One of the things that Dee Dutt promised to make happen when she began volunteering eight years ago was to give the kittens a new facility.
Last July, the building at 901 S. Lowry St. was on the city’s surplus list to be auctioned.
“We just fell in love with it,” Chapples said.
Dutt contacted Chuck Hopkins, a Stillwater City Councilor. She was then told by the Director of External Services that for every renovation dollar, it would go toward rent.
“It was really a grassroots effort to fix it,” she said. “We were so appreciative that the city would give us the opportunity to do this.”
The old building would need new ceilings, floors, windows and more. The nearly $85,000 in costs were funded by donations since Dutt said grant funding fell through.
The rooms were specially designed for the kitten’s safety in mind.
Bill Bites, a retired interior design professor at OSU, helped design and construct the interior.
Bites said it was a cooperative effort with the city and local businesses.
He helped design the special features of the building at the request of Dutt and Chapples, who knew exactly what the kittens needed.
“Our goal was to make a safe, hygienic facility,” Bites said.
Rooms feature double doors and air purifiers. Because kittens cannot monitor their own body temperature, a generator is connected to the gas line to provide heat and cooling if the electricity goes out.
It took the Tiny Paws crew a little less than a year to renovate.
“It was the outpouring of generosity that kept us going,” Dutt said.
Dutt said Stillwater’s facility is the only neonatal rescue shelter in the state of Oklahoma.
There is something for every volunteer, whether it’s social media, thank you cards or general building maintenance.
Ninety-five percent of the kittens are sociable, healthy and will see a new home through adoption, Chapples said. There were 20 kittens Saturday but the Tiny Paws crew has more to move in. On a regular basis, there could be as many as 80 to 100.
“We’re a community of people from all walks of life and the kittens bring us together,” Dutt said.