The Bitter Root Humane Association announced last week that it was temporarily suspending acceptance of cats and kittens at the Hamilton shelter. For people that have cats and kittens they can no longer keep, there is another option.
Heidi’s Kittens, an informal rescue operating out of a home in Stevensville, has been accepting cats and kittens for the last year and a half. Heidi Schnarr, with some help from volunteers, cares for the surrendered animals, nurses them back to health if needed, gets them spayed or neutered, and finds them suitable homes. She said that she has been averaging about one adoption per day, and placed over 200 cats in their forever homes in 2022.
“I’m not a shelter,” says Schnarr. “This is a foster-based rescue.” She says her operation is associated with All Hearts Rescue of Polson. “All Hearts mostly does dogs, and I only do cats. Diane Parker [the owner of All Hearts] inspired me on this journey when I started pulling cats out of shelters.”
Schnarr is connected to shelters across the nation, and sometimes they ask for help when they’re full so that they don’t have to euthanize for space. She said euthanization is more common than people realize but the shelters are very quiet about it.
Over time, as her service has become more well-known, Schnarr has been able to take in a lot more local surrenders. For example, “in December we took in five cats from Stevensville and 13 from Pablo, 18 adult cats in all. I also got a kitten on Christmas Day from someone locally who was allergic,” said Schnarr.
She said she gets them all spayed or neutered. “St. Francis Pet Hospital in Darby gives us a lower rate for spay and neuters which is greatly appreciated,” she said. Anyone can donate to St. Francis, specifying that it should go towards Heidi’s Kittens. She also works a lot with Burnt Fork Vet Clinic in Stevensville.
“I do the vaccines and we can treat some of the respiratory infections with vet oversight,” said Schnarr. “Then we put them up for adoption.” She has a website, a Facebook page, and also puts adoptable animals at PetSmart in Missoula. “I have volunteers that clean and feed everyday at PetSmart. People can adopt the same day.”
Heidi works full time as a music teacher at Corvallis High School. She has always loved cats. But she said that for a long time she didn’t know that healthy cats and kittens were being euthanized across the nation. “When I first found out, I saw that there were volunteers who transported dogs from the south. I did that and got curious about the whole situation. Some shelters have policies that animals have to be spayed and neutered before they are adopted out. Obviously, kittens can’t be spayed or neutered, so they end up growing up in the shelter. I know the shelters are doing the best they can, but sometimes they just can’t deal with certain situations. That’s why I started this. Healthy kittens can find homes. Once I found out that I could make that happen, I got busy.”
Schnarr said she has about half a dozen regular volunteers, and about a dozen volunteers that help out sporadically: cleaning, taking animals to the vet, and fostering animals. Schnarr didn’t say how many cats she could handle, but said she’s down to six cats at her house right now.
Once a month, Heidi’s Kittens holds an adoption event at Country Store in Stevensville, on the third Saturday of the month (not in January). Schnarr said the store has been very supportive of her efforts.
The adoption donation is $100 for kittens and $75 for adult cats. Cats ready for adoption have been spayed or neutered and are up to date on vaccines. Adopters sign a simple agreement. Outdoor and barn cats are placed for free.
Anyone interested in adopting can find more information on the website: heidiskittens.com. If people are interested in fostering, Schnarr said it’s best if they have a place to separate the cat for about two weeks to avoid any transmission of disease.
Heidi’s Kittens also takes donations of cat food and cat litter. To make a donation, email email@example.com
When Schnarr heard that the Bitter Root Humane Shelter closed their doors to cats and kittens, she said she left her phone number with them. “I am interested in furthering a partnership with them,” said Schnarr. “I look forward to working cooperatively with all other rescues and local shelters. We’re not in competition. We all have the same goal.”