The Great Vaccinate-Athon of 2006

Blog author: 
Anne Zabolio

On Monday, December 4, a WONDERFUL local veterinarian (hereinafter known as "L") and a WONDERFUL local cat rescue person (hereinafter known as "J"), neither of whom have given me permission to use their names, donated their time and talents to come to Thundering Paws and, with the help of our WONDERFUL volunteer, Scott Haywood and I, vaccinated cats.

The action was fast and furious with fur flying. Forty-nine lucky (!) cats got vaccinated against rabies and many viruses including distemper, were examined, and recommendations were made for their continued or improved health. (Most of the other cats had already had updated vaccinations earlier in the year.)

Photo: Big kitty Towanda.

The highlight of the day--for me--was vaccinating Towanda and Felicidad. Both came here as ferals, Towanda as a kitten and Felicidad as a new mother. Felicidad's kittens all were raised to be tame kitties, the boys being adopted out and Camille, her daughter, living at Thundering Paws. Interestingly enough, Towanda, who came as an eight week old kitten, is still feral, whereas Felicidad, who came as a young adult, allows most people to pet her if we move carefully toward her.

Photo: Felicidad having a nap.

Felicidad's calm demeanor and willingness to be petted did not show up on Monday, however. Scott, a Cat Whisperer, was able to coax her into a carrier, but when she was brought out and put on the examining table, she reverted to being a feral cat. J, an excellent Cat Wrangler, was able to get her back into the carrier, to be vaccinated later.

Cats are cats, you know. Picture a room full of lap cats, purring on every surface, eyes almost closed, oozing serenity. Let one human walk in the door with the vague intent of capturing one specific cat to examine, and all these pastoral felines turn into what I refer to as Wild Kitties From Hell, bouncing off walls, diving under furniture, fighting for traction on the tile floors. At times, we have witnessed what can only be described as a Cat Explosion: one kitty does something that threatens her neighbor and it causes a chain reaction of spazzing, fleeing, climbing, and freaking out. The human witnesses can only stand perfectly still and pray that we are not inadvertently mistaken for trees.

With this in mind, we set the stage for a successful cat capturing ("cat-uring"), by putting as many skittish kitties as possible into "cat-tivity" beforehand. On Saturday morning, volunteers set up cages, which I quickly filled Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, volunteers set up more, dragging out the most pathetic looking enclosures you have ever seen! All functional contraptions were used. The Martha Stewarts of cat-dom were appalled to be stuffed into such unsightly hovels, but, oh well, whatcha gonna do?

Then, Sunday night, I had left many empty carriers and cages sprinkled all over the sanctuary with the doors open. How many cats can resist going into an open carrier with a clean towel in it? Towanda couldn't.

Monday morning, I walked around slamming doors and, when I realized I had caught Towanda, I was amazed. As was she. She called me many rude and hurtful names, but I was adamant and did not open the door as she demanded I do.

L and J came over and we all captured and vaccinated 47 cats. Tried Felicidad. Failed. Set her aside to stew in her carrier. J asked if I had a net. We have several and I procured one from the storeroom. With the carrier on the floor, J put the net up to the door and slowly opened it. Felicidad rolled out like a rabid hedgehog, right into the net. After she was thoroughly tangled up, J put a thick blanket over her and held her on the floor with only her rump visible within the net. L vaccinated her in a flash and, before I knew it was over, the blanket and net were lying on the floor and the cat was fleeing into the room. I was truly impressed, and it is not something I EVER want to learn to do!

Interestingly, on Wednesday afternoon, I happened by Towanda sitting atop a table with some other kitties who enjoy human attention. After petting them, I gingerly reached over and petted Towanda's flank three times. After the third time, she gave a perfunctory hiss and sauntered away--quite different from the hysterical hissing and appalled fleeing she displayed before Monday. I said to her, "Watch out, Towanda. You're getting Domesticated (shudder!)" It's happened here before to seemingly more feral cats than Towanda.

After L and J left, amid profuse thanks, Scott and I cleaned up. Other volunteers, Pattie Overstreet and Marilyn Pizzo, cleaned up more on Wednesday. We will still be cleaning up on the weekend. What a mess! But darn well worth it to have these kitties safely vaccinated. I asked the wonderful veterinarian what I could do to thank her. She said, "Oh don't you worry. Some day I will come upon the most Special Kitty, and have nowhere for her to live and I'll think of you." I told her that would be fine.

I learned so much on Monday. The knowledge imparted to me by these two women was phenomenal. I think I know something about cat care and then I run into people like these two and realize that I know only a thimbleful.

Like L, our other veterinarians don't want to be acknowledged publicly. They all do mountains of rescue work and don't want to be asked to do any more. Think about this the next time you take your animal to the vet. You may complain about the high prices for veterinary care. But remember that most veterinarians--probably 99% of them--could easily have been human doctors rolling in dough but instead chose a profession where they had to learn the health care, trauma care, medications and idiosyncrasies of multiple species instead of one. They perform for patients who cannot speak and who may or may not have an advocate, who may or may not be willing or able to spend the money required for the patient's best care. These veterinarians often waive or reduce fees for rescue organizations, as well as for large-eyed children whose pet has some disease or injury, the cure for which the child's parent cannot pay. Gladly pay your vet! Know that he or she is contributing to our charges' wellbeing, too.

Thank you, L and J! You know who you are. And thank you, Scott, too. Thank you Tony, Lydia, Mike, Wendy, Michelle, Jake, Dave, Kali, Allie, Clay, Pattie, Marilyn--everyone who helped or will help put up or take down cages and coax kitties into them for this event. There is NO WAY we could do this without you! I often say that serendipity rules Thundering Paws. Certainly in our scores of excellent, hardworking, willing, capable, loving volunteers this is shown over and over.


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