Amanda Whitman is quite the extraordinary cat rescuer and has touched the lives of so many cats in a short amount of time. Residing in Southern West Virginia and currently a Junior at the University of Charleston, Amanda is a pre-professional biology major, hoping to attend vet school soon. With no plans of stopping her cat rescuing efforts, Amanda is in the process of becoming a 501(c)3 rescue.
A conversation with Amanda
How did you get into rescuing?
I first started rescuing on February 1st, 2015. I saw on the Facebook page of a rescue group that eight cats were in our local high-kill pound awaiting euthanasia. I looked at their heartbreaking photos and said to myself this isn’t the end for them. I contacted two rescue groups, who agreed to help me by each rescue taking four cats. I haven’t stopped since that day – and since that day, there has been no cat euthanasia at that high-kill pound.
Approximately how many cats have you rescued in total?
I’ve honestly lost count. Back in the Fall, I lost track at about 500. I know that seems like a very large number, and it is. One of the reasons this number is feasible is because at one point I was moving mothers and kitten litters of 6, 7, 8 at a time, several times a week. I’ve sent up to 30 cats to surrounding rescues in a week’s time.
I know that the cats have gone to different rescue groups. How do you connect with the groups? Is there one you work with most of the time?
All I can say is thank goodness for Facebook! That is how I do my networking. I have a small group of rescues I work with when they have room. Unfortunately, there are very little resources for cats in West Virginia, and yet there are so many resources for dogs. As is gets warmer and the seasons change from winter to spring, kitten season arrives. This means that almost all of the existing resources for cats will be used for mother cats with litters of kittens. During this time, I have a very hard time finding rescues for “teenager” cats, adult males, and seniors.
What has surprised you the most about rescuing cats?
What surprises me the most is how little people care. No one wants to help me, yet they beg me to take in their cats. I get so frustrated sometimes having to do all of this on my own. Thankfully my mother has been very hands-on. She is my greatest friend and volunteer. I always need monetary donations, litter, food, cleaning supplies, kennel maintenance. It’s just mind boggling.
What is the hardest part?
The hardest part about this “business” is when a cat comes to me and they are too far gone to help. I don’t discriminate. I take in pregnant cats, cats with AIDS, cats with behavioral problems, cats with herpes, you name it. Sometimes though, I can do all I can for their health, and it’s still not enough. Out of more than 500, I’ve been fortunate enough to only lose a handful. But boy does it hurt. It hurts that people would let an animal, a living being, get so bad off and then dump them at the nearest pound to die. Several have died in my arms. I got to hold them and tell them I was so sorry. I would tell them it was okay to go and that they aren’t dying without anyone to hold them. When they die, they don’t die without knowing love.
Some of my harder cases – these cats have sadly passed away.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who is considering rescuing cats like you have done?
You have to be committed 100% to the animals. You will wake up at night thinking about them, you will think about them on your drive to work, you will think about them when you wake up in the morning. It’s exhausting, be ready to dive right in. I recommend to start fostering and volunteering with local 501(c)3 rescues to see if this life is for you.
I know you didn’t used to consider yourself a cat person. Do you consider yourself a cat person now?
Absolutely! :-) I have studied cats for what seems like such a long time now. I have learned from them, and I respect them. I bond with each cat. It sounds crazy, but I remember each one. I remember their face and name. I remember their personality. They fascinate me. I wish I could illustrate to people just how wonderful cats are as a species.
How much litter and food do you think you go through on a monthly basis?
We go through about a hundred pounds (or more) of litter a month. It just depends on how many we take in that month. With food, we use both dry and canned. I feel canned food can be a good icebreaker with a very shy cat. We go through around two bags of kitten chow a month, five bags of adult dry food, and three cases of wet food per month.
What’s a fun stat you can share?
I have had 21 fosters at one time, and I said NEVER again! I now have a limit of eight at a time, 10 if it’s an emergency.
How do the other people in your household feel about your rescue efforts?
I live with my parents, as I am still a college student. My mom, Amy, really believes in what I am doing. She has been such a blessing to me through this. My dad is pretty supportive too. He helps when he can. I think they are both proud, and which I am very proud of them.
Do you have a favorite cat story you’d like to share? Perhaps a certain rescued cat or kitten that stood out?
I pulled Hope from the Logan County Dog Pound in May. After speaking with the warden and several vet appointments later, we found out Hope had had some sort of chemicals thrown into her eyes. She was scared, nearly blind, and very broken. She was a handful to say the least. She was pretty wild and didn’t trust me. However, my mom and I managed to, very carefully, apply eye drops to her eyes every four hours for weeks. We knew her eyes wouldn’t be normal, but we hoped they wouldn’t get worse.
As time went on Hope, began to understand that we weren’t going to hurt her. After a while, I decided to try a scratching post in her kennel. She loved it! And after that, believe it or not, she started coming around! I began to hope for her. That if she kept improving socially, she would someday find someone to love her in spite of her eye problems.
Shortly after that, I had an inquiry about adopting Hope. I about fell over when I got that phone call. It’s hard enough to find homes for cats without any issues. Here Hope was, nearly blind, with behavioral issues. After months of recovering with me, Hope went to her forever home, where she is loved and so very well taken care of. I’m so proud of her. :-) She has a new nickname – Hopie. Hope is just one of the miracles I have witnessed first hand since I started rescuing unwanted cats. You can’t tell me God doesn’t love his creatures.
Have you had any foster fails?
I have had one foster fail out of 500+! I’m proud of myself for not foster failing more! I have six cats of my own. Number six was my foster fail; however, he didn’t come from our local pound. I am an advocate for TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) of feral cat colonies. I think this is something very important to decreasing the stray cat overpopulation. I’ve done maybe forty TNRs. Once, I captured (in my humane trap) a very wild mother cat and her three kittens. The kittens were old enough to be weaned, so I had the mother spayed and then released when she healed. I decided to tame her kittens, which is not an easy task. One in particular was the wildest, meanest, hateful-est little kitten I had ever come across. His siblings were quickly tamed and adopted; however, the kitten, who I named Pepper, was quite a project. It took me four months to be able to hold him for a short period of time. I moved to Charleston, WV and decided to bring him with me. Once he was in a home setting, boy did he come out of his shell. He and I formed a rare bond together. Until the day he dies, Pepper will go where I go.
Can you talk a bit about your own pets at home?
As I mentioned, I have six cats of my own – Pepper, Elvis, Priscilla, Izzie, Keith Richards Jr., and Omalley. I rescued Elvis from a desolate Memphis highway on the way home from a family trip to Graceland. As you can probably tell, I am a big Elvis fan! The rest of my cats were rescues as well. I also have a Pit Bull that I adopted from a shelter in Charleston, WV. Her name is Ruby and she loves the cats. I think she’s starting to think she is a cat herself. I’ve always grown up with animals in the house. My best friend, Mimi – a Bichon Frise I grew up with from the time I was six to 19 – passed away a few years ago from cancer. The loss of her really hurt me. I got some perspective, and decided I would build a legacy for Mimi. I am going to school to be a veterinarian. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it. Someday when I have my own animal hospital, I plan to call it Mimi Memorial Animal Hospital. She continues to inspire me every day.
Do you have a rescue organization or charity you’d like to give a shout out to?
One by One Animal Advocates in Huntington, WV and Meow Cat Rescue in Charleston, WV. I am so appreciative of these guys!