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Davis, California

Monday, April 22, 2024

Orphan Kitten Project facilitates fostering, adopting kittens

UC Davis Vet School organization shares special mission

The Orphan Kitten Project, fondly referred to as OKP by its members, is a non-profit, student-run organization overseen by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The rescue organization is dedicated to providing young kittens — less than eight weeks old — with a foster home until they are old enough to be put in shelters and adopted out. Founded 30 years ago, this cause is also an opportunity to educate veterinary students on how to care for young kittens. 

Unlike the SPCA or other animal rescue organizations, OKP’s specific mission aims to rescue kittens who may have been abandoned or who were living in dilapidated conditions. These kittens, who are usually too young to survive without their mothers, are gently handled and cared for by the veterinary students. 

“Orphan Kitten Project is a non-profit rescue that specializes in neonatal kittens,” said Arielle Layman, a third-year veterinary student and president of the OKP. “[We place] them in foster homes where they receive round-the-clock care and lots of love [….] OKP provides special medical care and attention for bottle babies and young kittens that do not thrive in shelter environments.”

Veterinary students involved with the organization have the opportunity to learn to care for especially young kittens in need of extra medical help, Layman said. Some of these kittens suffer from deficiencies or maladies and may be in need of medical attention. OKP has the resources needed to nurse these kittens to a healthy state.

Layman recounted a rescue story in which OKP was able to save a kitten born with a birth defect, noting that if it weren’t for the organization, some kittens may not get proper care.

“A few weeks ago, a shelter contacted OKP about a kitten named Bean with a condition called eyelid agenesis,” Layman said. “Bean’s eyelids never developed properly, causing his fur to rub against his eyes painfully. Thanks to OKP, the ophthalmology department at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and some generous donors, Bean received surgery to repair his eyelids and now he’s ready to find his forever home!”

Once kittens are found to be stable and healthy, kittens may be put into shelters or foster homes or put up for adoption. For the fostering process, OKP trains and provides the foster home with the experience and resources, including the housing and medical costs needed to care for these small felines. And foster parents can choose their own kittens and can care for a kitten for any range of time — from a weekend to the traditional six to eight week period. Layman said.

“Each foster is paired with a coordinator who is a UC Davis veterinary student,” Layman said. “The coordinator provides medical care, advice and moral support. Coordinators visit their fosters and kittens as frequently as needed, so fosters must live in Davis.”

A kitten is ready for adoption when it is two months old. Adoption fees are $100 for one kitten and $180 for two kittens. The adoption fees go to vaccinating, spaying or neutering and microchipping the kitten prior to its adoption. 

Although the organization is relatively small, the number of veterinary students joining the organization — and the number of kittens received — has gradually grown each year. 

OKP has also been recognized as a reputable organization for fostering and adopting kittens, receiving high ratings on their active Facebook page. One testimonial, posted on Sept. 30, read “We have adopted two kittens from OKP. The kittens are so well cared for and socialized. Both times the process was seamless and the foster home was able to give us a great deal of insight into our kitties personality.”

As for the success rate of OKP, 95% of their rescued kittens have been successfully adopted and, last year, they found homes for 300 kittens, according to Layman. Currently, they are working to spread awareness to the local Davis community. 

OKP wants individuals to know that they do not need to foster or adopt a kitten to save one. The group accepts monetary donations as well as supply donations — their wishlist can be found on their website.

Written by: Linh Nguyen — features@theaggie.org


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