It had been busy week at FieldHaven. We had just organized FieldHaven Feline Rescue
several months before and were hoping the busy kitten season would soon start to wind down.
I made a long overdue weekend date with my horse, Nathan, and was preparing to head off to
a horse show. Then there was a frantic voice mail from 3 girls who volunteer. Like the
energetic, enthusiastic pre-teens they are they all talked into the phone at the same
time and I had not a clue what they were trying to tell me. I caught some brief words
like "cats", "starving", "kittens", "drain pipe", "school" and "wild". I didn't worry
about the indecipherable message because I knew they'd be in touch soon and, sure enough,
not 10 minutes later six little legs were pedaling their bikes madly down the driveway.
There was a wild mom cat with 4 kittens at Creekside School in Lincoln living under ramps
and in drain pipes, gobbling leftovers from lunches left behind by the children. Samantha
Kelly, 11, and sisters, Jenny,12, and Sam Keck, 11, were jumping up and down with
excitement to go trap the whole family and bring them to FieldHaven.
Since I had the weekend planned and my sister Jann had other commitments we couldn't
immediately help them but they insisted they could do it on their own. If you've ever
trapped you know it's no easy feat to trap a wild mom cat AND her already wild and mobile
kittens. This is the type of thing we prefer to do before the kittens are old enough to
run around. I gave them a trap, 2 carriers and some stinky food and assumed I'd surely be
going on a trapping adventure when I returned from the weekend.
Seems I underestimated these kids. In one day they trapped the whole darn crew and brought
them to FieldHaven! And, they didn't exaggerate the wildness - we had one very wild orange
mom and 4 hissing/spitting orange kittens about 5 weeks old.
Though the girls were anxious to cuddle the kittens we had a meeting to discuss how much
time and socialization it would take to make them the friendly, cuddly kitties people would
love to adopt. Their excitement and determination was so evident, convincing me that they
wanted nothing more than to take them on as a project. Thus Project Orange was initiated.
The first order of business was to get mom spayed, so she went to the Animal Spay Neuter
Clinic in Auburn. Upon recovery she was placed at a ranch.
The Project Orange kittens were appropriately named Blossom, Poppy, Julius and OJ (Orange Juice).
Samantha, Jenny and Sam participated in the daily care of the kittens including flea baths, nail
clipping and plenty of cuddles and hugs. Not that they were very receptive to the cuddling part
at first. But, as the weeks progressed each kitten's personality started to emerge. Poppy was
a loving little girl, Julius Jr, a sensible, affectionate guy, OJ an imp with a playful, sweet
disposition and Blossom - the elusive princess who had to be convinced that she should accept
love from us inferior humans.
About the 3rd week at FieldHaven, in spite of our sanitation procedures the kittens came down
with an acute case of the dreaded URI (Upper Respiratory Infection). Our volunteer ranks worked
hard to pull the kittens through. Kerrie Johnson acted as nurse and monitored them in her home-based
kitty ICU while Dr. Campbell at Bayside Animal Hospital managed their treatment. Things were pretty
uncertain for a few days but they turned the corner and were soon back at FieldHaven to recover
before the next big event in the Project Orange plan; spaying and neutering.
OJ and Julius were neutered at the Animal Spay Neuter Clinic to complete that phase of the project.
For Poppy and Blossom's spays we had a unique opportunity through a generous offer from the Blue
Ravine Vet Hospital in Folsom. They would host a "spay day" where the Project Orange team could
come to the clinic to observe the procedures from start to finish. We all had a terrific educational
experience as we got a guided tour of spay surgery from anesthesia to recovery by the wonderful staff
at Blue Ravine. The kids were fascinated by the whole process and acted in a remarkably mature manner
- not a "ewww", "yuck" or "that's gross" was uttered. They were a captive, inquisitive audience.
After recovering from surgery the Project Orange team moved into the Marketing phase of our plan.
Since it was now the holiday season we incorporated our marketing plan for them into the Home for
the Holidays Adoption Campaign we were promoting for all our FieldHaven adoptables. Blossom, OJ,
Julius and Poppy all got decked out holiday scarves and romped through a holiday set for their photo
Through the holiday season Julius was adopted as a surprise for a good friend who had recently lost
her beloved cat, Poppy met her new mom under the tree on Christmas morning and OJ went home just in
time to ring in the New Year. Blossom, our little princess, was being awfully picky about who she
would accept to share her forever home with. We couldn't close the Project until Blossom found her
family. She kept us in suspense until early February when she decided to go home with Lyndsey and Ken
to meet her new brother, Frank.
Samantha, Jenny and Sam continue to be among our most faithful volunteers. When we organized
FieldHaven we determined that one of our goals would be to educate children on responsible pet
ownership, especially spaying and neutering. The Project Orange team is proof positive of the
importance of this goal. They are dedicated and relentless ambassadors of our mission as they
spread the message among their peer group.
Project Orange continues on as we use this experience to promote the necessity of spaying and
neutering. We are available to present a Project Orange presentation and demonstration to classrooms
and children's groups. Please call Joy at 916-434-6022 for information and scheduling.
Many thanks to FieldHaven′s volunteers, Lara Fairchild, DVM and
the staffs of Blue Ravine Animal Hospital, Animal Spay and Neuter, Critter Creek Veterinary
Hospital and Bayside Animal Hospital for their contributions to Project Orange and all our rescue
efforts at FieldHaven.