Once a month for five years my Sunday consists of working at a volunteer Spay and Neuter clinic for cats. We depend on an amazing group, including vets, techs, and skilled rescue people, to handle from 20 to 50 cats a month. Unlike many clinics organized by different civic or non-profit groups, we don’t care how much money somebody has, or the age or background of the cat or kitten. There is no means tests because all the cats are in need, depending instead on donations from those who bring them. We do everything from pampered babies raised on a bottle to battle-scarred ferals trapped from colonies. Every cat or kitten gets the same loving attention and care, from a full body exam, to surgery on a heated table, to fluids to assist in quick recovery, to whatever vaccinations they need, to an antibiotic injection to prevent their becoming ill afterwards, to pain meds, to whatever else they might need such as treatment for an abcess or bad tooth. Then after the surgery they recover on soft heat packs, covered with a towel, petted and watched until they can be safely put into their carriers ready to go home.
We have been told that we put too much care and time into each cat, that we could slam through lots more if we just eliminated some of what we do to save time. Those people don’t understand that we believe each animal deserves the best we can offer and is important in its own right. We’ve been told we should do kittens smaller than three pounds because others will do them at two or even one, that the raised chances of them dying on the table is worth it to get more done. They don’t understand when we insist that there is no acceptable percentage for deaths at our clinic.
The hardest part of working each month is not dealing with the cats and kittens, even when we have some that are dangerous and very difficult to handle. The most difficult part is dealing with thoughtless people. The ones who insist they are helping by trapping, but never bother to clean their traps or carriers and expect us to return the poor, frightened cats to the same filthy conditions. Instead, we have to take time to clean and sanitize because the animals deserve it. Every clinic we lose a lot of our towels when they go home folded inside carriers, rather than put a poor cat on cold, bare plastic after they just had surgery. At least one animal each clinic was fed and watered before coming because the person didn’t listen to instructions, putting the animal at risk of aspirating its own vomit after surgery. And each spring and summer clinic we have our hearts broken when a pregnant cat is spayed and we see the unborn kittens die before they can be born simply because there are no places for their mom to go and raise them safely and not enough homes for them when they are old enough. Each clinic is full of beautiful, loving animals brought in by rescue groups hoping to find them a home.
My prayer is the same every month — that somehow people will become responsible for their animals so that the need for rescue will disappear. Perhaps someday. In the meantime, I’ll just be ready to work again next month.