Once a month for the last 13 years my Sunday consists of working at a volunteer Spay and Neuter clinic for cats. Unlike many clinics run by different civic or non-profit groups, we don't care how much money the owner has, or about the age or background of the kitty. There are no means tests because all the cats are in need, from pampered babies raised on a bottle to battle-scarred ferals trapped from local colonies. Every cat or kitten gets the same loving attention and care: a full body exam, surgery on a heated table, fluids to assist in quick recovery, needed vaccinations, an antibiotic injection to help prevent post-surgery infection, pain meds, even treatment for abcesses or bad teeth. After surgery they recover on soft heat packs, covered with a towel, and are carefully observed until they're returned to their owners.
We've been told that we do too much for each cat, that we could could time by eliminating some services. Those people don't understand that we believe each animal deserves the best we can offer and is important in its own right. We aren't playing a numbers game at our clinic, we're focused on saving individual lives.
Dealing with cats and kittens is the easiest part of our clinic, even ferals that are dangerous and difficult to handle. The hardest part is dealing with thoughtless people, such as those who trap free-roaming animals but never clean their traps or carriers, expecting the poor, frightened cats to be returned to the same filthy conditions. People who squeeze big cats into tiny carriers too small to turn around in, or carriers with nothing soft for the animal to lay on. People who, in spite of very specific instructions, feed and water their animals before bringing them in, putting them at risk of aspirating its own vomit after surgery. We do our best, making sure carriers and traps are clean and sanitary, and lined with a soft towel bed. Some animals end up with new cardboard carriers, just so they can lay down and stretch out in comfort.
Spring and summer clinics are heartbreaking, since so many pregnant cats are spayed and their unborn kittens put down. It hurts to see babies not allowed to be born simply because there are not enough homes for them. Each clinic is full of beautiful, loving animals brought in by rescue groups hoping to find them homes.
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.
• If you're interested in learning more about kitten rescue, check out Bottlekatz, A Complete Care Guide for Orphan Kittens
• For great stories about animals I've rescued, check out Faces of Rescue, Cats, Kittens and Great Danes