Williamstown woman aids neonatal kittens

Stacy Kupfner holds a month-old kitten that she is caring for. (Photo by Amy Phelps)

WILLIAMSTOWN — The Humane Society of Parkersburg depends on a large network of volunteers and fosters to keep saving area pets that do not have a home.

Stacy Kupfner is just one of the many fosters that leads a helping paw…or hand to those in need. And her specialty is neonatal kittens.

“We have just a couple others who can care for neonatal kittens, but Stacy is our primary foster for those cases,” said Samantha Tannous, manager of The Humane Society of Parkersburg. “We typically reserve her for the neonatals, but if she is completely full, we will ask a few other people that we will use. We have a good amount of fosters who take on kittens, but it requires a special skill set to take on the most fragile cases.”

And Kupfner’s kittens are generally the most fragile, as her work for the shelter has her taking on kittens that are under 3 weeks old and seeing them through to the adoptable age of about 2 months.

“The work that Stacy does for our shelter is so important to us. If we didn’t have someone who is capable of taking on as many neonatals while providing top quality care, we would not be able to save so many,” said Tannous. “When Stacy fosters for us, the neonatal kittens are typically brought in to the shelter, where the staff will access their health status. At that point, we contact Stacy and she will start her magic after that. We are so thankful to have a foster that is willing to take these special cases on!”

A month old kitten looks in at one of the two month old kittens getting ready to go to their forever home. (Photo by Amy Phelps)

Kupfner started her rescue work right after high school. “I started at an aviary with birds, and it grew from there,” she said. “My family were all animal lovers, and I just learned as I went.”

Since Kupfner has become a foster for the Humane Society of Parkersburg in April 2018, she has kept a diary of all of the mostly kittens that have come through her doors and on their way to homes. “I have fostered almost 160, and have had 115 successful saves,” she said.

Unfortunately, statistically, an orphaned kitten only has a 20 percent survival rate, especially if they are found at under 3 weeks old. Kupfner credits her better than 20 percent success rate to the two incubators she keeps in her house.

“I also use a variety of supplements, do my own fluids for them and use kitten milk replacer. Good quality nutrition plays a big part.” She said she also keeps a close eye on them to try to catch any illness as soon as possible. “They can go downhill quickly.” She also has oxygen therapy ready to fight respiratory infections and a nebulizer for breathing treatments.

The expensive and life-saving incubators are only possible to her thanks to donors that follow Kupfner’s journey with all of her charges through her Facebook page, A Kitten’s Whiskers. She said she is thankful for all the help she has received through these donations.

Theo, one of the month-old kittens Kupfner is caring for gets his face washed after eating wet cat food, much to his dismay. (Photo by Amy Phelps)

“The shelter provides vet costs, medicines and vaccinations,” she said, and she sometimes gets food from them as well, but since she has donations, she many times leaves it for other fosters or the animals stationed at the shelter.

Kupfner has seen kittens with deformities, neurological issues, respiratory infections, anemia and emaciated. “You are very limited in treatments because of their age and size.”

Kupfner had two young kittens getting ready to go to their forever homes last weekend, as well as three that are around one month old and still growing, one tiny two-week-old kitten that was in one incubator, and picked up a second weeks-old kitten on June 26 that would go straight into the other incubator. The kittens will stay in the incubator until they are at least 3-4 weeks old.

She thought that was all for a bit. On June 29, she got three 5-week-old kittens that were very sick that had to go into an incubator as well.

After the kittens have spent time in Kupfner’s care and are ready to be adopted, she checks in the first week or so to see how they are acclimating to their new home. “A lot of my former fosters will send updates. I love seeing how they are doing and how happy they are.”

Gabby gets fed some kitten milk replacer through a syringe. (Photo by Amy Phelps)

Kupfner said that cat overpopulation is a problem in the area. “I’ve worked with all sorts of animals in the past, but I do kittens so much because of the overpopulation. People are not spaying and neutering.”

She said the tiny kittens come to be at the Humane Society because either something happens to the mother or someone finds the kitten. “Sometimes people just think the mom has abandoned them and she’s really moving them.” She also said if the kitten is sick, sometimes the mother will leave it behind and take the others.

While neonatal kittens are her specialization, she said there are many others fosters out there. “I am just a portion of the foster program. Some specialize in older animals, timid animals, ferals. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with neonatals, those are fewer and far between, not as many can do it, maybe because they don’t always survive.” She enjoys being part of the foster team for the Humane Society of Parkersburg. “We all contribute different things in different ways.”

If someone finds a baby kitten, or any animal, contact the Humane Society of Parkersburg at 304-917-4275 or visit their website at hsop.org. There is also a button on the website to make a donation to the Humane Society, as well as information if anyone would like to be a foster.

Follow Kupfner’s charges at A Kitten’s Whiskers Rescue Nursery on Facebook.

Gabby, a two-week-old kitten, snuggles up to a toy in her incubator. (Photo by Amy Phelps)

Contact Amy Phelps at aphelps@newsandsentinel.com

Stacy Kupfner bathes one of the month old kittens in her care. (Photo by Amy Phelps)

The month old kittens settle down after their baths. (Photo by Amy Phelps)

Two of Kupfner’s former charges, Lainey Lou (gray tabby) and Falkor (white) are shown when they were week old kittens.

Two of Kupfner’s former charges, Lainey Lou (gray tabby) and Falkor (white) are shown when they were almost a year old.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)