Meet a volunteer who is passionate about saving the lives of newborn, baby kittens in New York City
When three baby kittens, Allyson, Carolyn, and Dallas, arrived at the kitten nursery at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York City, they were in very good hands because volunteer Milica Kostic was there to keep a watchful eye on them.
By the end of her shift, Milica had learned a lot about the three kittens just by observing their behavior, which in turn helped the staff give them all the care they needed after coming over from Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC).
Milica could tell that Dallas and Allyson trusted her easily, but Carolyn was still a little shy. “She might need a little more time,’ says Milica. “Probably a day or two.”
The nursery center staff relies on Milica’s keen observation and dedication, especially now during kitten season, when city shelter has so many newborn kittens that space and resources are insufficient — at least until the kittens are large enough to be spayed or neutered and placed in homes.
In fact, Milica is so passionate about caring for New York City’s youngest homeless animals that she’s looking forward to a career in animal welfare.
“She truly is a rock star,” says Laura Barnes, the center’s community engagement manager. “Every time I reach out to her she does everything in her power to come in and assist. She is one of our most trusted volunteers in the nursery.”
You can learn more about Milica in the following interview:
What motivates you to help Best Friends and why did you decide to volunteer at the Best Friends New York Pet Adoption Center?
I first learned about Best Friends Animal Society from the nationwide no-kill initiatives and how they are making no-kill happen. Best Friends has policies I support, such as taking a positive approach to the issues at hand and offering bountiful resources on animal welfare and care that are available for anyone.
The resource, I must say, that is closest to my heart would be having 24-hour operational kitten nurseries at Best Friends locations across the country for neonatal kittens who are the most high-risk animals in shelters.
As soon as I found out that a kitten nursery would open at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York City, I could not wait to be part of volunteer team that provides round-the-clock care for these tiny but mighty kittens. It’s where I spend most of my days volunteering.
What inspires you most in your volunteer work?
The most inspiring thing about volunteer work is seeing how much the animals benefit from it. Any time, energy and effort that you give them can make their day little bit easier, and hopefully better and brighter. There is great comfort in knowing that so many people are working together and share the common goal to Save Them All.
What would you tell others who are thinking of becoming a volunteer with Best Friends?
I would wholeheartedly recommend it. There is a great welcoming and knowledgeable staff there for anything you need. You learn so much about animals and their care. If you are willing, you can engage in training to learn about animal behavior and needs. And of course, there are various positions and teams you can join, so it’s easy to find your perfect fit.
Since becoming a Best Friends volunteer, what have you learned and do you see anything differently now?
The positive and informative approach that Best Friends takes toward finding solutions to end killing in shelters has taught me a lot personally and professionally. Having the stance that people are a part of the solution (not the problem) is what initially drew me into volunteering with Best Friends, and now I have shifted my perspective from negating and dismissing the “things that should not be,” to engaging and working hard with a positive attitude.
In terms of your volunteer work for Best Friends, what are you most proud of?
Learning how properly to take care of neonatal kittens and being trusted with them is what I am most proud of. There is so much to know about their well-being and care, and I am grateful to have learned how to help them with amazing support from the exceptional staff in kitten nursery. I am forever thankful to them for bearing with my thousand questions and “afraid-to-hold-a-kitten” beginnings.
Why do you volunteer?
I simply do it because I love animals and time around them brings me calmness and happiness. If you cannot donate money, you can donate your time or open your home to foster. You cannot regret it!
Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.
There are so many precious moments when you spend your time with animals, especially little fur balls like kittens. But helping kittens named Gonzo (or Gonzo the Mighty as I called him) and Miss Piggy, his sister, make a great recovery and get adopted together is still one of my favorites.
Gonzo was the very first kitten I fed when I started volunteering in the kitten nursery and he was so weak and sickly that sometimes it seemed it was an everyday fight for him. He was runt of the litter and he and his sister stayed behind the others. But the amazing nursery staff, his foster family and the loving energy we all put toward their recovery helped them thrive. When they got adopted, it was tears of joy for them.
Tell us about your cats.
Ah, my little babies! I am proud guardian (or mom) of two kitties, Spirit and Heart, and the auntie of another two, Zorya and Dushan. They are my little crew that makes every day brighter and more interesting.
Heart and Dushan are former residents of the kitten nursery. Today, they are happy and healthy, and are an endless source of energy, love, joy and laughter — even when they play “tag” or “who runs the fastest” at 3 a.m. They are the rulers of the house.
Besides volunteering for Best Friends, how else do give back to your community?
I do my best to inform myself and to advocate for animal rights, and raise awareness about their treatment and position in this world. Today, we have effortless access to so much information. The least we could do is to become aware and conscientious about the animal world and animal cruelty.
I have realized that many people are simply not informed or have been wrongly told about things like where their puppy came from and how animals end up in shelters. It’s happening all over the world, but wherever you live, you can engage in helping animals.
Photos by Robert Stoetzel