Tiny Paws, Big Heart
Co-op member-owner creates Oklahoma’s first and only neonatal kitten rescue.
The mission of Tiny Paws is to rescue orphaned, neonatal kittens and adopt them into forever homes. Photo courtesy of Tiny Paw Rescue
For information on how to volunteer or donate, visit raniamus.wixsite.com/tinypawrescue
At the corner of South Lowry Street and E. 9th Ave. in Stillwater, Oklahoma, reside the tiniest of creatures: rescued, neonatal orphan kittens at Tiny Paws, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the only kitten rescue of its kind in the state. Thirteen years ago, Central Electric Cooperative member and Founder of Tiny Paws, Holly Chapples, saw a need in her home state for the rescue. Today, 80 volunteers and several donors have helped rescue about 4,500 kittens.
But Chapples and volunteers agree the hearts they are saving daily include their own, too.
“Everyone who comes in here falls in love,” Chapples said. “When we spend time with these precious babies, we know we are making a difference in their lives and it’s very therapeutic in a way.”
The OG&E retiree was inspired to start Tiny Paws when she saw countless kittens being put down for severe health issues during her time as director of Stillwater Humane Society. These kittens needed care around the clock, and Chapples was going to do everything in her power to give them a chance for survival and ultimately, give them a forever home. And ironically, that’s where it all began: in Chapples’ home.
“Tiny Paws functioned really well in my home for nine years,” she said. “We knew we couldn’t successfully run our rescue out of my home forever so when the city of Stillwater brought an old, empty building to my attention, I was ready for us to have the extra space.”
After nine months of refinishing the building, Tiny Paws moved into it in September 2013. The past four years in the building have allowed their reputation to grow exponentially. Animal welfares and shelters from all over the state are constantly bringing them newborn kittens in need.
As the number of rescued kittens grows, so does the need for volunteers. Volunteers are assigned to perform one of two jobs at Tiny Paws; one is being a bottle feeder, which requires volunteers to wear scrubs and booties while they feed the kittens in the neonatal area, and the second is cleaning the “fuzzy feel good” room where the now healthy and adoptable kittens play every day.
“The purrs, meows and ear wiggles instantly warm my soul,” Tiny Paws volunteer Kathy Rosa-Coe said. “You won’t find a better group of people anywhere and I’m blessed to be part of the village that is Tiny Paws.”
Chapples said when the kittens are healthy and ready to adopt—thanks to the help of her volunteers—the rescue sends them to the local Petco store for adoption. When Tiny Paws kittens find their forever home, that’s the greatest feeling, Chapples said. She added that because their kittens are raised by humans, they are the most affectionate pets their customers have.
“The volunteers and I are the kittens’ moms and dads,” she said. “From a very young age, they are very connected to people, and we constantly hear from our customers that our kittens are the sweetest, most loving pets.”
While Tiny Paws’ mission will always be to rescue, Chapples’ dream is for the rescue to not be needed in the community someday. The more people who are responsible for their animals, specifically with spaying and neutering, the better, she said. Still, Tiny Paws will be in Oklahoma for as long as they need to be: connecting sweet rescued kittens to their forever families.
“I would encourage anyone in the area to come and fall in love with Tiny Paws,” Chapples said. “I’m overjoyed with the love we have for our animals and the people who make our rescue as special and unique as it is in our area.”