Its all women and cats.
A few men are scattered about, lured by their girlfriends and wives into volunteering and they are working hard. But mostly, its women.
The early morning is a cacophony of women's chatter and the yowls of unhappy cats. "I brought ten this time--but there are still ten more to get." "I caught twelve--be good to him, this guy's my favorite." "Thank you so much, I can afford to feed 'em, but I can't afford to fix em."
Platters of food are brought to the volunteer area. Homebaked lasagna, cookies, doughnuts (its a sugar bonanza), even chocolate dipped strawberries... "And don't forget to try Dolores' oatmeal cake--you won't believe how good it is." This event unites women in hands on productivity. They have gathered today to spay and neuter feral cats, over 150 cats are expected. Cats that were trapped by concerned people from all over middle Tennessee and brought to this free clinic.
Dolores (of oatmeal cake fame) is a seasoned volunteer. "Three years ago at a family funeral, my 80 year old aunt was sharing her distress with the family. A darling little cat had appeared on her porch the previous spring. She began feeding it and a few days later, out popped three kittens, all girls. Then those kittens had kittens and by the time I heard about it, she had 27 cats on her place. That's how I got into Trap-Neuter-Return. Helping out my aunt."
An efficient assembly line fills the hall at the Lebanon Fairgrounds. Across the way, farmers and hobbiests are having a pygmy goat show. The combined smells of goats and cats who have lost control of their bowels waivers between earthy and nauseating.
The cages are placed at one end of the hall, covered with fabric to help calm the cats and give them the sense of being tucked in a small cave rather than trapped in a cage.
One by one the cats are injected with an anesthetic through the cage (remember these cats are feral and most can't be handled.)
They lay in the cages as the anesthetic takes hold.
Then the cat is removed from the cage and injected with vaccines. This little guy was resisting the anesthetic. He can't move on to the next station until his paw completely relaxes.
Female cats are strapped to little boards and shaved for their spay surgery.
Males are taken to the neuter station. The neuters are fast and astoundingly simple. Everyone has a slightly different style but essentially, the testicle sacks are swabbed with disinfectant, sliced open and the testicles pop out. A knot is tied and vas-deference is pushed ack into the sack. 2x and they are done.
The females are operated on under sterile conditions. Most of the vets are able to do 3 to 4 spays an hour.
After surgery, the cats are hooked up to IV fluids as part of their recovery.
Then the cats are laid out for observation. As they wake up, they are returned to their cages, where they continue to be observed until it is time for them to be picked up and taken back to their homes. The snip and tip provides each caregiver with detailed instructions for aftercare.
Occasionally there are complications. That happened with little Oliver. (One of the cats from Walking Horse farm that I caught.) He bled alot and needed some extra veterinary attention. It was heartwrenching to see so much blood escaping from his little body. But the prompt care he received stopped the bleeding. As he awoke, he was relatively alert though confused. My other three cats did very well.
I caught four cats last night. Never managed to retrieve Pumpkin.
The veterinarians that have volunteered their time are all women today. "We do get male vets--but usually three out of every four that volunteer are women. What can I say women are just great--and they care!" Smiles Sara Felmlee gently patting the back of a busy surgeon. Sara's husband is one of the amazing men that volunteers consistantly. He says, "As a couple, this is our passion. Sara gives about 50 hours a week to this cause, we also give money. The great thing is that we know it is working. In the past nine years, we have spayed and neutered over 50,000 cats. Have you seen that pyramid? The one that shows how one cat can lead to thousands? Based on that, we figure that 50,000 cats is making a huge impact on the population. We look forward to the day that there is a scarcity of these animals and people learn to truly value them."
It is hard to imagine that there are still places in this country where euthanasia is preferred to spay/neuter. Two women at the Snip and Tip were sharing about how they were kicked out of Lincoln County Humane (near the Alabama border with Tennessee) because of their loud mouths. "I want us to do a program like this, but they wouldn't budge. They'd criticize us for catching cats and bringing them up here to be fixed. 'Cuz they just want to euthanize the poor things. So they fired us as volunteers and we went and started our own group."
At the end of the day, 152 cats were spayed and neutered at this Snip and Tip.
Preview of Coming Attractions
Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.