Feed Them? Spay Them!

I think I can officially say I have do not possess the life of a normal 21 year old college student.  This weekend, I spent all my time trapping stray cats and assisting with spay and neuter surgeries of said cats, and I thought it was the greatest.   

A while back, Lance’s aunt started feeding some stray cats.  Of course, I told her we needed to get them all spayed and neutered asap.  With the amount of unwanted cats in the world, the best thing we can possibly do is sterilize as many as possible.  I made arrangements with my adviser to take some cats to her this weekend and went home to start trapping!

One of our ferals 'Marley' before surgery. Cute!

Lance’s aunt has been feeding five cats regularly, and out of the five, four were relatively friendly.  She sits out and plays with them, so they are hardly feral at this point.  Which was good because I didn’t have any humane traps, just normal cat crates.  My original plan was to  try and lure them into the carrier with some tasty wet cat food and lock them in after they walked in.  However, the cats were way to smart for that.  So, I spent much of Saturday night chasing cats around the enclosed patio, scruffing cats, and shoving cats into carriers.  We caught three out of the five that way.  Which worked out great, until the last one bit me.  The next day we woke up and drove the three cats out to my adviser’s house.  She has a mobile clinic made out of a trailer in her backyard where she does a lot of feral cat spay and neuters, as well as her vet work for her shelter, Frankie’s Friends.  I was quickly reassured that my chances of the cat having rabies are very slim, and that there was really no need to worry about it yet; as long as the cat is alive in 10 days, I’m fine.  The cat comes and eats every night at Lance’s aunts house, so in ten days we’ll have to

Our little boy cat, Jadyn

 call her and make sure she’s seen the cat coming to dinner.  Should he disappear, I’ll have to go to the hospital and start on the series of rabies shots, which with my health insurance shouldn’t cost more than $300, a lot better than $8,000.  Essentially, they all told me, if you work or volunteer around feral cats, rabies is an occupational hazard.  Pretty much everyone there dropping off cats, helping with surgeries, and volunteering had said they had been bitten or scratched by a stray cat at some point or another.  It’s just something that happens.  It made me feel a lot better to know I wasn’t out of the ordinary, even though I’m not completely out of the woods yet.Saturday night was pretty much the scariest night of my life.  I leafed through site after site of articles telling me how I was going to die a horrible, painful death, or have to get a million needles stuck in me that cost over $8000.  The cat that nipped me got away, so I didn’t even have anything to watch for the recommended 10 days to see if it dies of rabies.  I sat up from three in the morning onward crying and worrying, and I even woke poor Lance up and asked him to come sit with me, where he reassured me time after time that I wouldn’t be dying.

Dr. Morrow preforming a surgery in her amazing mobile clinic

After I knew I wasn’t going to fall over and die, I enjoyed the day a lot more.  I got a lot of hands on experience in all the different parts of surgery.  I learned how to knock feral cats out, learned how to prep for surgery, learned how to give vaccinations, and got a lot of experience working with ferals.  Our three kitties were by far the most well behaved and calm cats in the whole clinic.

"I look like Darth Vader, and I am ready for my spay"

All of the kitties who came in got spayed and neutered, ear-tipped so caretakers can tell who is already done and who is not, a rabies shot, a shot of long lasting penicillin, Frontline, a basic check up and any immediate medical attention taken care of, and the females all got a shot of pain killer so they weren’t too sore after their spay.  Out of our three, we had two girls and a boy.  Everyone thought that our little boy was a girl and we thought that our one girl, who we dubbed ‘Loca’ because she was a little crazy, was a boy.  

Lance with little Jadyn. Love him!

Lance completely blew me away with how well he did in surgery.  He always cringes when I tell him about surgeries and said he really didn’t want to be a part of it, but he was holding legs back for neuters and helping move cats around like no other.  He also totally fell in love with one of our little kitties and begged to try and take him home with us.  I found it oddly attractive, lol.

The whole weekend made me realize how much I love being a pre-vet major.  I love the animals, I love the work, and I love the people who are involved in it.  The rescue world is so devoted to making a difference.  They’re people I can really relate to, and who really understand how I think.  And it’s so awesome that I can justify spending my time doing these types of things.  I’ve always wanted to get involved with volunteering with animals and rescue organizations, and before I decided I wanted to be a vet, everyone told me it wasn’t a good use of my time.  However, now I can go to as many bird talks as I want, volunteer at as many shelters as I want, and it all counts towards my future.  Perfect!

Learning to give vaccines!

It also reminded me of what a wonderful boyfriend I have.  How lucky am I to be blessed with a guy who loves animals as much as I do?  Since being down at school, Lance and I have pretty much been inseparable.  While other couples fight constantly or need a lot of alone time, our alone times are relatively small and we act essentially like an old married couple.  I love being around him, because no matter how much we talk about it, he’s always game to talk about animals, and he’s the most loving and supportive person I know.  He knows me better than I know myself, and he never fails to make me laugh, even at 4 in the morning when I’m freaking out about possibly having rabies. I know, I’m being all sappy, lol.  Having him down here has just been a piece of Heaven.

All in all, we had an amazingly busy, yet productive and exciting, and dare I say, fun weekend.  

Our little crazy cat, Loca, after her spay

And about the rabies, well, I’ll let you know how that’s all turning out.  We’ve got 8 days to watch Mr. Kitty and see where we take it from there.


Trap, Neuter, Release

As a pre-vet major, I really like to things lose their manhood’s. 

I’m sure you’re well aware, there’s just far too many unwanted animals in the world.  And although I am usually an avian type of person, I am first and foremost an animal person.  One of the biggest problems animal activists face is trying to diminish the amount of unwanted animals in the world without destroying the animals that are living.  I mean, try walking through a shelter and picking out the animals that have to die, just because there are too many of them.  Do you pick three brown ones, because there are two other brown ones in there already?  Or do you pick the older ones, just because they’re 4 and not 2?  Do you pick the ones that have been there the longest just because they don’t seem to go, or do you pick the ones that seem new and afraid, because they might never warm up?  So, the best solution to this issue without having to play eenie meanie miney moe is to stop breeding!  Spay and neuter!!!

One issue that has been on the rise in recent years is the feral cat colonies.  Heres what happens: some genius can’t get rid of the kittens he let his cat have, so he tosses them into the streets.  The kittens wander around until they find a nice porch to live under and someone feels bad for them and starts putting out food.  Now the kittens have a stable food source and grow into cats.   The person who feeds them doesn’t want to take responsibility for them.  After all, they never wanted a cat.  They were just being a good person and feeding a stray animal.  Now the cats begin to have kittens.  And the kittens grow into cats and have kittens.  The longer the cycle goes on, the wilder the animals become.  Feral cats are not pets anymore!  They’re wild animals!

These colonies can very quickly become overrun, and then the people don’t want them there anymore.  Feral cats peeing in their kids sandboxes, cats getting into their trash, ect ect.  They want them gone.  So, they either leave them go, or start shooting them.  Some system we have here.

Animal activists have created another system that amazing works more efficiently than the original genius’.  It’s called Trap, Neuter, Release.  Essentially, a team of volunteers traps the feral cats, knocks them out, spays or neuters them, and releases them back to their original colony location.  This way, they cannot produce anymore kittens, stay out of more fights, stop the spread of some diseases, and can live out their life as a wild animal that is no longer contributing to the growing population.  While the cats are under anesthesia, they also test for deadly diseases, vaccinate for rabies, apply flea and tick protection, worm the cats, remove any mats and brush them, check them for any immediate medical problems like rotten teeth or open wounds, and tip the cats left ear so they know if they catch them again that they were already spayed or neutered.  All the cats are given a dose of long-lasting antibiotic to prevent infections, .

I had the privilege of working with Dr. Morrow at a TNR event this past weekend.  They spayed and neutered over 70 cats in one day between two vets, which is huge.  They also removed teeth, provided wound care, and administered many doses of the rabies vaccine.  Of course, you can’t always save them all.  Feral cat colonies are known to be highly inbred and can easily become overrun with highly contagious diseases.  Two cats tested positive for fatal diseases like Feline leukemia and FLV and were euthanized to avoid further infecting their colony and to alleviate their inevitable long, drawn out death.  Another cat was so skinny due to severe mouth ulcers because he couldn’t eat and was euthanized as well.  They did it all while that cats were under anesthesia so they wouldn’t have to feel anything. 

It was such an inspiring day.  It was so great to be a part of something that had such a good cause and to see that all the cats would get to live out their lives without causing more of a problem.  If anyone is interested in helping with the feral cat population, I would highly recommend looking for your local animal welfare organizations and trying to get involved in a TNR event.  And remember, please spay and neuter!!!