What can you learn from kittens? For Kat Hamlin, cat adoption specialist for PetsConnect! in northern Indiana and southern Michigan, the answer is hands-on experience, lifesaving techniques and a new perspective. Her only complaint after attending Maddie’s® Kitten Lifesaving Apprenticeship Program at Humane Society Silicon Valley?  “I wish I could have stayed longer,” she said.

The 5-day educational opportunity is part of Maddie’s® Apprenticeship Program. Students learned about all aspects of setting up and managing several vital programs including kitten nursery, kitten foster program and ringworm and URI treatment rooms.

“It was an amazing opportunity to see how a large shelter works and get some useful hands-on experience. I can honestly say that I enjoyed all of it as a learning opportunity,” said Hamlin.

In addition to learning about ringworm treatment, students were taught about feeding neonatal kittens with an oro-gastric tube, which Hamlin admits she’d “always been afraid to do. Turns out, it’s easy and effective! I also learned about behavior modification programs for under-socialized kittens, which I’ve already put into practice at home.”

Hamlin said she now feels much more prepared to deal with kittens needing behavior modification. “I’ve already instituted HSSV’s protocols with one kitten who has airplane ears every time you get near her, and she seems to be improving.” Another change she’s already implemented includes making their application process more open and conversation-based.

As for a change in perspective, Hamlin said she realized three very important things.

The first was that there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. “We are all in this to help animals and if someone has a program that works – copy it! Rather than keeping our hard work secret, it’s super important that we do the opposite. If we have something that really works for the animals, then we need to spread it far and wide.”

Another realization was that it’s okay to aim for the low-hanging fruit. “It doesn’t mean we limit ourselves to the ‘easy’ animals, but it does mean that we maximize time, energy and money by first saving those that are likely going to be quick turn-arounds. Efficiency is key to saving more lives.”

Her third – and possibly most important realization? Change is hard, but oh-so necessary.

“Invest your time and energy in staff or volunteers who are willing to give a new idea a shot and don’t get stuck in a rut.  As new developments come about in shelter medicine and best practices, we need to be ready and able to give new things a try, even if ‘we’ve always done it’ a different way.”

Thinking about attending an apprenticeship yourself? Hamlin says, “Do it! There are so many things to learn.”

Learn more about Maddie’s® Apprenticeship Program. And, if you’re a former student, we’d love to hear about your experience! Reach out to marketing@maddiesfund.org.