2007-03-21 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Four score and seven cats a week ago! On March 11, 87 feral cats were altered and vaccinated at no cost to their caretakers…thanks to the teamwork of seven veterinarians plus many vet techs and volunteers, all who donated their skill and time to make the first "Last Hope Free Spay/Neuter Day for Feral Cats" a huge success. TNR (Trap-Neuter Release) is the only sound and humane approach to controlling the feline surplus. Free clinics, such as this, help make TNR a community reality.
This grand "spayathon" was the brainchild of Dr. L. Gay Senk of the LI Cat Project (www.licp.org), Linda Stuurman president of Last Hope, and Diane Pionegro Basic Pet Care's vet tech manager. Dr. Peter Lutgen graciously lent his Basic Pet Care hospital in Lindenhurst while he was in Scotland. In the height of the surgical frenzy, his hectic hospital seemed like a veterinary "Risky Business" (with tomcats but no Tom Cruise). Miraculouslythings went back to normal and all cats were picked up when the day was done.
Some of the doctors operated the whole day while others took shifts. Special thanks also go to Dr. Foster, Dr. Juliano, Dr. Lyons, Dr. Larmore, Dr. Santora, and Dr. Zollo (whose team operated inside her mobile hospital in the parking lot). Licensed vet techs came from various local hospitals, Little Shelter and Canine Companions for Independence. We also had the assistance of students in the Suffolk Community College vet tech program, Last Hope members and cat care givers including singer, Mrs. Gary U.S. Bonds.
During "Operation Catsnip", coordination and organization were essential. Many of the cat feeders had to synchronize the trapping of their feline waifs. Easier said than done. Cats are adept at "vamoosing" when they sense something is up. Registration at the clinic was the only chaotic time since everyone arrived at 9 AM. Each cat and carrier had to be IDed several ways to assure returning the right cats to the right colony/caregiver. Later cards on the carriers and traps had to match the leg tags on anesthetized kitties. Heart stickers meant "no ear tip"; green circles verified that shots were given.
Dr. Senk has a wonderful system. Most vaccines were drawn the day before. Males are done first because castrations go faster. Each procedure had stations- a "knock down" room; 2 areas for altering males; 2 rooms for spaying females, 2 spots to administer fluids which help the cat to pass the anesthesia and regain an electrolyte balance. An exam room was reserved for painless ear tipping (the universal sign that a cat is already sterilized), vaccines, a shot of penicillin, and ivermectin for earmites and roundworms. More spays and neuters were done in the Zollo trailer hospital.
We had a wash room for scrubbing and soaking surgical instruments in "surgical milk". Vets color code their hemostats and scissor sets with tape markers. I learned the fine art of wrapping surgical kits for the autoclave. Also easier said than done. So slow, I'd starve if I had to do this for a living.
All day volunteers took feline temps and walked around snuggling groggy cats in blankets because proper body temperature
after surgery is crucial. Chilled cats were monitored and nestled with microwaved bean bags. On the way to the recovery area, the cats got Advantage for flea control. It was sad to consider that this post-op comfort might be the only time some frightened ferals would ever be held or stroked by loving hands.
A "Fancy Feast" awaited the staff downstairs. You need good food, the staples, like veggie chili or chocolate mousse, to keep going. We had enough helpers that folks could take a break and refuel on Papa Pionegro's luscious lasagna. I kept making excuses so I could go down for more.
This free feral cat spay event is merely a start to curtailing the LI cat overpopulation. Nancy Peterson, HSUS Feral Cat Program manager and president of Cat Writers, reminded me each feral cat can potentially produce 100 to 400 kittens in 7 years. These offspring have a high mortality up to 75 percent.
Therefore our clinic prevented thousands of unwanted kittens from being born- where most would have suffered or died before their first birthday. The next spayathon is in the planning stage. When I kept saying we should do this every week, I spied exhausted workers giving me the evil eye. I sensed they were plotting to take me to the "knock down" room.
For Adoption: "Spooky" the poster dog at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon is trying a new tactic this week. He's posing as a cat in hopes that he'll appeal to "cat people" since his tale of woe hasn't touched a dog lover yet. This sweet, Shepherd/Greyhound in Cage 3 is about 8 years "young" though it seems that he has been on his own for much of his life. He had a quasi- home at Kydd's Marine in Lindenhurst until an arsonist burned it down in January. Folks near the boatyard turned him into the shelter because he is officially homeless now.
"Spooky" is a delight out of the cage. He is housebroken, loving to people, walks like a show dog on a leash. He tolerates other dogs and cats. He is pacing and not kenneling well. He needs to be in a home, a real one for the rest of his days. Might you have room in your heart and home for "Spooky"?
+Other dogs: an enormous Newfoundland- a Landseer- in Cage 45; "Rusty" the Husky in Cage 1; "Noah"- the comical Chow mix in Cage 15; "Brewster"- a young Retriever mix in Cage 41; a female German Shepherd in Cage 95.
+Shelter cats: "Sundance"- a neut. orange fellow in C-9; "Emily"- a sweet tabby kitten in C-4; "Tuba"- a gorgeous spayed longhaired tortie in C-10.