Gia DeAscentis of Youngtown, Ohio, never set out to rescue kittens. In fact, most of her family is allergic to cats and she’d never owned one herself.
Four years ago, all of that changed when a friend called to ask Gia for help. She’d found a litter of teeny-tiny newborn kittens, and she didn’t know what to do with them.
The kittens were orphaned when their mother was hit by a car. They were just days old, their eyes still tightly closed, and they required round-the-clock care.
“Everywhere I called said that they would have to put the kittens to sleep because at such a young age they require too much in the way of resources and time to keep alive,” Gia told Newsweek. “Shelters often don’t have the capacity to help neonatal kittens.”
Gia knew she couldn’t give up on these helpless babies. She called a friend who is a vet, got some advice, and launched herself into the thankless task of rearing four kittens. She bottle-fed each one every hour and a half and wiped their bottoms with wet wipes to simulate what a mama cat would do. She also set up a heating pad to keep them warm and weighed them constantly to ensure they were gaining weight.
Under her care, all four kittens survived. She even kept one, a tabby named Olive who now acts as a “nanny cat” to the other newborns.
There have been plenty of other newborns to go around! Word got out in Gia’s small town, and soon everyone was calling her when a litter of motherless kittens was found. This happens all too often, unfortunately, and Gia cautions people to wait at least four hours for a mama to return if they find a seemingly-abandoned litter.
Soon, Gia decided to make her role as neonatal kitten guru official by starting a nonprofit: the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee.
In addition to rescuing kittens, Gia is teacher and part-time animal groomer. She spends about two hours a day cleaning just to maintain a safe environment for the immunocompromised kittens. She desperately needs more help, and she relies completely on donations to keep caring for these cats.
“It’s a tough job but it’s very rewarding,” she said. “We definitely need more people.”
As it turns out, Gia was the help other rescuers needed, too. Amy Rigby, who owns Rebel Rescue Ranch in Berlin Center, teamed up with the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee to support their efforts.
“We needed an actual specialized unit, which became Itty Bitty Kitty Committee,” Amy said. “We’re two single women trying to save animals and I thought, let’s combine forces and we can help more if we come together.”
Last year, they saved 63 kittens together! Gia herself has saved 115 total felines since she got that first call four years ago. She recently held a fundraiser to obtain a new incubator, and she plans to host clinics to teach others how to bottle-feed and care for newborn cats.
You just never know where life will lead you! Gia followed the call to help these sweet babies and has never looked back.
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