Fish was an orphan kitten, and her foster family included one of the wonderful veterinarians that oversees the student-led Orphan Kitten Project at UC Davis. Chip was fostered by the same family a year later! Every three months, I count up my sales and donate 2.5% each to the Orphan Kitten Project at UC Davis and the Cal Poly Cat Program.
I reached out to the four co-Presidents of Orphan Kitten Project and asked some questions to give you more insight into this incredible group of students operating a non-profit that saves orphan kittens by providing medical care and coordinating foster care until adoption.
Can you tell me about how Orphan Kitten Project began?
OKP was born in 1988, so we have been around for a long time! OKP stemmed from the Feline Medicine Club created by veterinary students here at UC Davis. The mission was to provide supplemental education about feline medicine through discussions and wetlabs. OKP was eventually established in an effort to expand student learning opportunities by doing real world medicine. OKP began to provide medical care for abandoned neonatal kittens and to reduce the local feral cat population by spaying/neutering kittens before adopting them into forever homes. Many years later, OKP continues to provide quality care to feline neonates with the help of community members and veterinary professionals at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
“The 2020 season was by far the record setting year in the history of OKP, with a whopping 525 kittens!”
How many kittens are rescued and cared for in an average year? Did COVID-19 change things for OKP?
In any given year, about 200 kittens come through OKP during the kitten season from mid-February to the beginning of Fall. The 2020 season was by far the record setting year in the history of OKP, with a whopping 525 kittens! Many shelters were not operating at the beginning of kitten season. Cats had nowhere to go to get spayed or neutered and the kitten population basically exploded. Because our kittens are placed in individual community members’ homes and we have the ability to provide medical care with the help of UC Davis veterinary students, OKP was able to remain in full operation.
The level of student involvement in OKP makes it a unique program - how does this impact foster care families?
New fosters feel comfortable accepting kittens for the first time, whether it’s bottle babies or weanlings, because each of them is paired with a knowledgeable veterinary student who provides routine medical care and support from day of intake to adoption. OKP Presidents, who are also vet students, are highly trained in kitten neonatal care. They are available by phone 24/7 to provide a second layer of support in case of medical emergencies.
What are some cute, fun kitten names that stand out in your memory?
Mango, Miso, Minestrone, Marshmallow, Mozzarella, and many more food names… How about kittens named after tea: London Fog, Earl Grey, Chai, Matcha. We get litter after litter, so there were Captain Crunch, Cheerio, Lucky Charms, Trix.
What are your most pressing needs, and how can the community support them?
In simple words, OKP’s greatest needs are the things that these tiny creatures plow through in the first few weeks of their lives, which include kitten formula, baby bottles and nipples, and litter. We will gladly accept item donations through our Amazon Wishlist. Other creative ways to support us include AmazonSmile, the CoinUp App, and of course our social media fundraisers. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook!
If folks are interested in adopting cats from the program, how should they apply?
Look us up on PetFinder to start the application process!
“Being involved with OKP is one of the most valuable experiences we will have as veterinary professionals.”
As the four co-Presidents running OKP right now, what is your favorite part about OKP?
Beginning as community fosters, to veterinary student coordinators, to being the four Presidents currently running OKP, our favorite part about this organization is that we are constantly learning new things. Together with the community, we learn how to become the best surrogate parents that we can be for these orphaned kittens. We learn how to provide the best medical care based on previous experiences and ongoing research. We learn about hypothyroidism in cats, a condition that is not well characterized for cats in the veterinary field but may be more common than expected and may be a cause for fading kitten syndrome. We also learn how to immerse ourselves in the greater community and engage in meaningful relationships with others accomplishing similar missions. Being involved with OKP is one of the most valuable experiences we will have as veterinary professionals.