"Every Monday JVC provides TNR (trap neuter return) spays and neuters to our community cats. For the past three weeks every female has been pregnant. These cats are either without a home and/or feral. If not spayed the chances of the kittens being preyed upon or suffering from communicable disease is immense. It is not a life for a domestic animal. Please help us provide more assistance to the most needy in our community by spaying & neutering and supporting local charities that provide TNR services. Last year Jarrettsville Veterinary Center found homes for almost 100 unwanted pets. Let's try to cut that in half every year forward. Thanks to all who help."
This was one of the first replies I got back;
|A sleepy sedated cat is taken out for the exam and spay/neuter surgery|
|waking up after surgery|
For almost every community in our country a cat who is undeniably a domestic pet, they however have no rights, no status, and no obligatory list of provisions. Even though every cat is required to be vaccinated for rabies there is no oversight nor consequence when they aren't. If we took protecting ourselves from this zoonotic disease we should do a better job of protecting our domestic pets.
What do you do when every year, regardless of how hard you try to educate your neighbors about how prolific a cat can reproduce, more cats show up? The never ending revolving door of kittens so sick, so debilitated and so pitiful you are compelled to help, because you can, because you know that if you don't the prognosis goes from poor to grave, again, and again, and, again. There is exhaustion in taking them into the clinic, but, there is death, regret, and pain beyond compare when you don't. So, you do it,, again and again.
- They make more money on owned cats. Typically TNR cats receive only a rabies vaccine, their sterilization surgery and ear tip. At my practice a TNR spay is about $80, a neuter about $40. The average client with a kitten will spend upwards of $400 at my clinic. The vets time is more lucratively served on clients.
- They don't want the hassle of feral cats. Big clunky cages strewn about the clinic, smelly cages (really BAD smelling cages), and the loss surgery time for others who can pay full price.
- There is never an end to these cats. The feral cat well never runs dry. I can say that for as much as the finances don't discourage me the never ending flood of unwanted cats feels like swimming in an ocean without a horizon.
- These cats are feral. They are afraid. I am sure there are some vets who would use this as a reason to avoid handling them. With practice and the right drug protocol I have never had a case or a cat I couldn't handle.
- Disease. I cannot get around the argument that a feral cat isn't a possible source for disease transmission. I can however argue that this is the nature of our business. There is an equal likelihood in my neck of the woods that the "owned" house cat has been, or can be, exposed to the same disease. I cannot chose to not help them.
- The excuse that "there are places for these cats elsewhere" is a cheap excuse to turn your back on the members of our community we are supposed to be helping. An 'owned cat' should be treated as respectfully and professionally as an "unowned cat."
|A very hungry orphan|
These TNR cats are the off spring of cats who were;
- allowed to go outside and got lost.
- never spayed or neutered.
- put outside because they were house soiling
- put outside because they were not loved
- dumped by someone who couldn't/wouldn't care for them
- They are the consequence of a species we lack respect for.
Cats are magnificent creatures who are far more intelligent than we give them credit for.
|Neutering one of our 2016 kittens|
Here's the ethical dilemmas with TNR's. I don't know whether the cat I am sedating through a little wire square is healthy? Or if it is a male or a female? If she is a female I don't know if she is pregnant? If she is pregnant, how pregnant is she? What about if they are REALLY REALLY pregnant? Who wants to live with being an abortion vet? It certainly is NOT what I went to vet school for.. We use an injectable sedative that needs to be placed in the muscle. This sedative allows them to be handled. It also slows the heart rate, temperature, and blood flow. For unborn kittens this, and the general anesthesia needed to maintain adequate anesthesia, will often make trying to revive them impossible. Also, kittens who are removed from their mom before they are ready to be born have a low survival rate.
If the mom is feral (as all of these are) the kittens need to be hand raised. This requires feeding them every two hours. Making sure they stay warm, fed and cared for. It is a full time job that requires experience, fortitude and self preservation when they die at 2 am after a day (or days) of endless worry. To be dedicated and compassionate enough to provide this degree of intensive care and then have them die is.. well,, breaking. It can break you. If you aren't very careful, and somehow manage to volunteer for the next litter you learn to allocate yourself in more manageable amounts. I have tried on more than one occasion to save the late term kittens. I won't do it again. They die within hours or days, and they are so labor intensive it is heartbreaking on too many levels.
|This is the uterus of a feral pregnant cat.|
These babies are about a month old,, far too young to be viable
Do I think about a backlash after I post a pregnant cat spay photo? Of course. I live in in the USA, abortion is under fire, and the collateral damage is possible.
If I wanted to live in the land of happy puppies and fluffy kittens I wouldn't be a vet. I would be a kindergarten teacher. I would blissfully obliviously portray the life I am paid to emulate. The real-life of a vet is unwanted pets. If you aren't happy about it do something. Join me for a TNR, adopt a shelter pet, or donate to one of the many rescues who take care of other humans neglect.
|One of our JVC kittens is tested for FeLV/FIV|
|The surgery table. |
One cat is prepped for a spay, the other is being microchipped.
|The local Humane Society,, where they have more than enough cats to go around already|
Is leaving kittens outside to fend for themselves safe? NO! Absolutely not. They are little tiny meowing morsels. They cannot escape, defend themselves or feed themselves. So I am left having to decide what I can do to help these cats whom I feel equally devoted to. They have survived within the life we cast them away too. The babies we are asked to help get care beyond what the shelters can do. It has been a labor of building a network of people who know we will provide everything they need regardless of the bill and the owner being unknown and unwilling to step up. If you believe you can make a difference you must try.
|The kittens I found in a tire on the side of a deserted road. |
They had been dumped there,,
If you are a vet you can have a hard time not hating people
If I turn my back on them, and dismiss them as "someone else's problem, BOTH my conscious and my community cats pay.
If I turn my back on the reality of posting what is really happening in our back yards, I am as complicit as the pet parent who gave up on their cat. The vet down the street who is only worthy of paying customers, and society who refuses to embraces cats with the same degree of genuine love that the dog has earned.
If I turn my back on who I went to vet school to become I have no legacy to leave behind that I am proud of.
|Two of the TNR cats we adopted out in 2016 proudly display their ear tips.|
Does every pregnant cat break my heart, YES! Almost as much as every sick, debilitated, broken spirited, beaten up, hungry, scared cat does.. There is no end to the ethical dilemmas I face every day, I'm just not going to bury or ignore them.
Here is more about our dedication to cats;
TNR's are not charged an examination. For clients interested in our feline services here are our prices;
Rabies vaccine is $16, spay is $100, neuter $60. FeLV/FIV $45 Microchips are $25
Our routine kitten vaccination protocol;
- We usually see kittens at 8-12 weeks. First visit includes FVRCP + Leuk vaccine, part 1 of 2 done 3 weeks apart. Fecal exam for intestinal parasites, $30, deworming about $15, microchip $25, Feline leukemia & FIV test $45, first dose of flea preventative $10. Cost of first cat visit is about $175.
- Last kitten visit at 16 weeks, finish FVRCP + Leuk vaccine, 1 yr rabies vaccine, pre-op spay/neuter bloodwork ($50), about $150.
- Feline Neuter $60
- Feline Spay $100
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