UC Davis’ Orphan Kitten Project Helps Vet Students Learn While Saving Lives

Written by: Kelli Brinegar
For more than five years, Kelli Brinegar has been using her ability to write and her passion for research to tell the tale of what cats are thinking and why. She has provided care to more than 30 cats in her lifetime.Read more
| Published on July 15, 2022

Through multiple hands-on learning projects, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine aims to prepare students for future careers as animal medicine practitioners. And one of their initiatives not only gives vet med students hands-on experience but also saves the lives of tiny kittens who might have otherwise perished in the wild. The Orphan Kitten Project gives these little ones a chance to find their forever happiness.

As part of the UC Davis’ Access to Care Program, the OKP runs as a non-profit foster-based rescue managed by students. And while these students are gaining practice with real-world scenarios that will make them more experienced upon graduation, the OKP is about so much more. Simply put, these future veterinarians are saving lives.

The Orphan Kitten Project at UC Davis

Rescuing kittens since 1988, the Orphan Kitten Project takes in abandoned neonatal kittens under the age of four weeks old. Once rescued, kittens undergo a complete exam with project coordinators and students. The little ones are then placed in foster care with students or community volunteers. While in foster care, the babies are hand-raised and bottle-fed, making them well-rounded kitties who will fit in purrfectly in their new homes.

But before the little ones find their new homes at 10-12 weeks old, they’re vaccinated, FeLV tested, spayed or neutered, and dewormed. And rest assured, kittens are never used for invasive research or euthanized because they haven’t been adopted. Kittens simply stay with the OKP until their forever home is found.

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Hands-On Learning for Future Vets

Some of the neonatal kittens in the OKP’s care arrive in critical condition, and their care offers vet med students a chance to learn while saving a life. And as we already know, there are always kittens in need of help. In one week alone, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine reported the OKP team took in “seven kittens with a variety of ocular and musculoskeletal issues.”

These extreme cases allow students to treat special cases not usually experienced during clinical rotations. For example, one of the week’s seven kittens had suffered severe leg and hip fractures. And the little one’s treatment “provided training for orthopedic surgery residents and students through the Fracture Program, as well as students in the community surgery rotation.”

“Another kitten had an infected eye that required removal, which was performed in the Community Surgery Service, as well as treatment for a rolled-in lower eyelid.”

Like the Orphan Kitten Project, the Fracture Program and Community Surgery Service are part of UC Davis’ Access to Care Program. This initiative not only furthers clinical practice for students but also provides veterinary care to underserved communities and pet parents with barriers to care for their fur children.

And because these kittens acquire excellent care through OKP and other UC Davis programs, they’ve got a fighting chance in the world! But care for kittens is expensive. And as a non-profit program, the Orphan Kitten Project is always in need of help!

RELATED: 10 Most Common Reasons Cats Go To The Vet

To learn more or donate to the cause, follow the Orphan Kitten Project on Facebook and keep up with the kitten cuties saved by up-and-coming veterinary superstars.

Feature Image: Orphan Kitten Project at UC Davis/Facebook