Sunday, June 12, 2005
Fix Our FeralsIn December of 2003 I volunteered at a Fix Our Ferals clinic held at our Spay/Neuter Center on Hegenberger. There are hundreds of unspayed and unneutered cats that are too wild to become safe pets, but that are busily creating baby cats who will then also grow up to be wild, unadoptable adults. Fix Our Ferals' solution? Let them continue their untamed lives, but spayed or neutered.
Fix Our Ferals is a volunteer organization that asks people to humanely trap feral felines that frequent their area and bring them in to get spayed or neutered, vaccinated, given flea treatment and medication for any ailments they might have, and re-released from whence they came. The clinics happen roughly once a month. People call in, make appointments, borrow traps and catch their kitties a day or so before. The lobby was filled with cat carriers and traps of varying sizes, all with mewling cats inside.
Once the fixing starts, it's an assembly line, different volunteers working at different stations. The cats get anesthetized, labeled (gender, color, etc), and numbered with a toe tag at Station One. Volunteers doing Transport take them over to Station Two where their bladders are expressed and they're laid out in a row of unconscious kitties. Goo is squeezed into their eyes to keep them from drying out, and their tongues are pulled to stick out their mouth so they can't accidentally be swallowed. Then the cats go to Prep where they're shaved around the spay or neuter site, laid out spread-eagle on a plexiglass tray (legs tied to the corners) and slid into a rolling cart that looked similar to the cafeteria carts they used to have at my high school.
Then they're wheeled to surgery where cat by cat, they're spayed or neutered. Then to Vaccines/Ears where their ears are notched so if they're caught for a clinic again, people will know they're already snipped and re-release them (this doesn't always work. We came across two already neutered males). They're also given vaccines and then passed on to Recovery (this was where I worked) by another Transport only volunteer. We gave them all a dose of Advantage (a topical pesticide that kills fleas and lasts about a month), and any cats that were very small or dehydrated were given subcutanious fluids by a veterinary technician. We also gave kittens (four months or younger, I think) Karo syrup. You take a syringe of gooey syrup and squeeze some into the space between cheek and teeth. Then you rub their throat until they swallow. It's odd to watch, because while most of the cat is still not moving, and staring glassy-eyed at the world, there goes that little mouth and throat *gulp gulp gulp*. Then they're put back into the carriers they came in (which have been cleaned during all this time by another group of volunteers) and put back out into the lobby to wait for their people to pick them up by a final team of Transport volunteers.
The scariest part is that anesthetic is dangerous on any animal in any situation, and there's always a chance using it will kill one of the cats. So, at every station you make sure they're breathing and check gums and tongue for pinkness. If they don't breath after 30 seconds, you tap the corners of their eyes, their nose, rub their chest. If they still don't breathe, you yell "Crash!" and take the cat into the surgery room where it's put on Oxygen and hopefully revived. If anything dubious happens at any point, a piece of blue tape is put on the ear of the cat in question so the volunteers at all the other areas know to keep a special eye on it.
We had one crash. A little orange tabby kitten. They got it breathing all right, and so far as I know it's doing a-okay. There were two other kittens who were hit pretty hard by the anesthetic and needed a "reversal". This is a drug you give to pull them out of their sleepiness faster. After about 40 minutes, their breathing got better and they started to twitch; all good signs. The Clinic went from 10 am until about 3 pm, and all totaled 169 cats were fixed.
It was quite cool. Also, they gave us pizza.