Lindsey Buracker has to have all her instruments in a row. It helps her concentrate so she doesn’t have to look up — she can just grab what she needs and continue the operation.
On her operating table was a feral kitten, one of 70 such cats that was treated throughout the day. The precise procedure took about five minutes and, by the end of it, the kitten’s reproductive system was extracted.
A veterinary technician then came and took the sedated kitten and set her down in a line of other cats that had similar operations just minutes prior.
“It’s got to happen. We can eliminate a lot of disease and help these cats if we do these procedures. It has to be done,” Buracker said.
Volunteers treated the cats at the Richmond SPCA on Monday. The operations are smooth and organized, with the end goal of helping cut down the number of feral cats around Richmond.
“Trappers,” or residents who caught the cats, started dropping them off at the SPCA about 7:30 a.m. Most of the cats were trapped Sunday night.
Veterinary volunteers from two Richmond-area Banfield Pet Hospitals and the SPCA anesthetized the cats and performed the operations.
“Hey, let’s do 100 animals in one day. Why not? It’s fun,” Buracker said. The day was set up to sterilize 100 cats, but the trappers brought 70.
Music played throughout the day as volunteers were upbeat and energetic about their work, which included squeezing the urine out of the cats in preparation for surgery.
Three veterinarians from the Banfield Pet Hospitals, including Buracker, performed the surgeries. It’s a quick snip for the male cats, but the operation takes a little longer for the females.
Alexandra Teskin, one of the surgeons, said she enjoys doing the operations since they give her experience and “the more experience the better.”
Monday was the second “trap-neuter-return” day of the past year. The program has been around since 2004, and the SPCA sterilizes about 1,200 cats per year, said Tori Williams, the nonprofit’s senior hospital manager.
Other spay or neuter operations are done on days that are not organized like Monday’s, but the 70 cats treated was the most for a Banfield volunteer day.
“It’s a crucially important part of what we do in order to save lives in this community,” said Robin Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA.
The surgeries allow the cats to go back into their natural environment but without the chance for reproduction. The universal sign of a spayed or neutered cat, which the surgeons did Monday, is a cut of a small portion of the cat’s left ear.
The Richmond SPCA at 2519 Hermitage Road adopted a no-kill model originally implemented in San Francisco, and the “trap-neuter-return” system is an essential part of the no-kill movement, Starr said.
“These cats can live long, good and healthy lives. There’s no reason they have to be killed,” she said.
The care extends beyond the spay and neutering. Each cat was given a veterinary examination Monday and received a rabies vaccination.
Most trappers bring about four or five cats to be operated on. One trapper who helps other animal caregivers brought 20 cats, said Williams, the senior hospital manager.
In a holding room outside the operating area, the cats that had already been operated on slowly came to in their traps.
Too wild to be adopted as pets, they will be released back into their colonies after they recover from the surgery.