As Americans, we love our furry, four-footed friends. Pets, like kids, eat us out of house and home, snuggle on their own terms and can cost a small fortune. But for unhoused Olympians, caring for animals is a challenge. Something as small as a cat, which provides endless love and companionship, takes money and reliable access to veterinary services. Today, thanks to Oly Camp Kitties, help is available around the clock.

Oly Camp Kitties Provides Spay and Neuter Services for the Unhoused Community

You’ve probably heard the statistics, but they bear repeating. In just a few short years, one unaltered female cat and her offspring will multiply into thousands and many shelters are overrun with unexpected litters of kittens every spring.

Oly Camp Kitties started unofficially in the fall of 2021 but became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in October 2022. Co-founder Whitney Bowerman explains that she’s done homeless outreach for the past decade and been a crazy cat lady a lot longer than that. She helped co-founder DeNae, who lives in an encampment nearby, with a cat emergency and quickly realized the scope of the need.

orange tabby kitten sitting on a red resurface with a bowl of water and food in the background
Oly Camp Kitties provides spay, neuter, and adoption services to unhoused residents of our city. Photo courtesy: Oly Camp Kitties

“In a nutshell, Oly Camp Kitties was started because we observed that people experiencing homelessness often struggle to access existing spay and neuter resources for their cats,” says Bowerman. “This can be due to lack of transportation, funds or struggles with tasks such as keeping appointments.

Oly Camp Kitties acts as a cat concierge, transporting kitties to and from spay and neuter clinics, and covering 100% of the cost of services. Our goal is to meet the client where they are and remove any barriers to getting their kitty all fixed up.”

Animal Welfare Partners in Olympia and Surrounding Area Make the Job Easier

There’s a reason we use the expression “herding cats.” They’re strong-willed and prone to vanishing when you need them. “It truly takes a village to do animal welfare work,” shares Bowerman. “We work with a couple of spay/neuter clinics outside of Olympia – Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project and Pasado’s Safe Haven – and could not do what we do without them. We’re also tremendously grateful for the advice of local vets Dr. Lisa Parshley at Olympia Veterinary Specialists and Dr. Kim Martin, both of whom provided us with expertise about how to set up our program.”

a row of cat crates in on a cement floor in a building, with towels folded on top of them
Acting as a cat concierge, Oly Camp Kitties picks up cats, transports to local spay and neuter clinics, then returns them to their owners after surgery. Photo courtesy: Oly Camp Kitties

Lacey’s Kitty Klinic squeezes them in when they have issues with foster kitties and keeps rates affordable and accessible. Bowerman also gives a shout-out to the support and encouragement of Concern for Animals and Joint Animal Services and networking benefits from working with Feisty Felines, Red Rose Animal Rescue, and Passionate Pussycats Feline Rescue. “We depend so much on this village of feline supporters to do what we do,” says Bowerman.

Volunteer as a Cat Concierge and Chauffer

Last year Oly Camp Kitties spayed or neutered 115 cats and plans to double that number in 2023. Some cats are rehomed through adoption and those numbers are growing too. From 15 in 2022, they’re on pace to quadruple that this year. Fostered cats are fixed, vaccinated and adopted into forever homes. Families looking for a new cat can schedule a meet-and-greet by emailing Whitney@OlyCampKitties.com or messaging through Facebook and Instagram.

To help, Oly Camp Kitties appreciates donations. They have wish lists for Chewy and Amazon as well as receiving donations directly or via Fred Meyer Community Rewards, Venmo, Cash App and the Combined Fund Drive.

Oly Camp Kitties booth with a long table with t-shirts and other things on it under a pop-up tent
Consider donating to their mission, purchasing items from their Amazon and Chewie wish lists, or becoming a volunteer or cat chauffeur today. Photo courtesy: Oly Camp Kitties

But they truly love volunteers. “One of our biggest needs is for drivers to spay/neuter clinics,” says Bowerman. “This involves picking up kitties in the morning at Oly Camp Kitties HQ in downtown Olympia, driving them to clinics in Lynwood, Renton, Tacoma, or Graham, and then bringing them back to HQ at the end of the day.”

However you can participate, getting the word out is vital. Oly Camp Kitties is donation driven with 100% of funding coming from individuals. “We make the effort to be a by-and-for organization,” says Bowerman. “We are a group of housed and unhoused individuals, not simply a group of housed people coming into encampments telling unhoused folks how to do things. One of our co-founders is unhoused, one is housed, and we have both unhoused and housed people involved in our organization. For 2023, we hope to double the number of kitty clients served, grow sustainably as an organization, make sure everyone is having fun and keep all our ducks in a row.” Or in this case, kitties.

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