Since opening its Renton doors in 2020, the South County Spay & Neuter Clinic in Renton has spayed and neutered over 4,400 cats (and some dogs).
“It’s so hard for well-meaning cat owners to find affordable access to spay and neuter their cats, so this clinic fills that need,” said Sally Halela, founder and director of South County Cats. “We’re stopping the cycle of cats going into shelters. Shelters are overloaded.”
Funded by South County Cats, which has been doing Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) since 1998, and operated by Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project, the clinic provides a vital service that helps keep feline populations down.
Despite having been open since August 2020, the clinic has had a slow start. “There was still just cement on the floors and we grew from there,” Halela said. “2022 was a banner year.”
At South County Spay & Neuter Clinic, the veterinary staff and volunteers make up the fabric of the clinic, with everyone having a vital role in keeping up with the clinic’s “high quality, high volume” policy.
Surgery days at the clinic are Fridays and Saturdays, where the cats are checked in between 7:30 and 8 a.m., when felines are separated into “ear-tips” — feral or community cats — and “no-ear-tips,” which are cats with owners and homes or will soon have both.
Ear-tips get visual exams, since it can be dangerous to handle an anxious feral or free-roaming cat, and no-ear-tips get more comprehensive exams before induction, or anesthesia by the clinic manager and licensed veterinary technician (LVT).
Once the cats are safely under anesthesia, they are moved to the prep tables where they are shaved, cleaned, microchipped and given vaccines, along with being spayed or neutered.
Male cats are neutered on one large table while female cats are moved to a smaller room to be spayed since their surgery is more invasive and requires more time. After surgery, each cat receives a small green tattoo near the incision to show that they have already been spayed or neutered.
Once surgery is finished, the cats are moved to their carriers in the recovery area where volunteers wake them up and monitor them to make sure the cats are all right.
The cats are then picked up by their owners or handlers at the end of the day, around 3:30 p.m.
“We make sure clients get all the information on the cat and how to take take care of them,” said Amy Ferguson, executive director of Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project. According to Ferguson and Halela, the clinic averages about 40 to 45 cats a day but there are some weeks where they can get as many as 55 cats.
Along with surgery days run by South Sound Cats and Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project, the clinic also utilized once a month by Pasado’s Safe Haven and Seattle Veterinary Outreach, which services cats and small dogs.
While Ferguson and Halela say that they could run the clinic 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, it wouldn’t be enough due to the sheer numbers of cats.
“With COVID, it was a backslide,” Halela said. “There are not a lot of non-profits out there, there’s a huge shortage of veterinary staff and LVTs and many vets aren’t accepting new clients.”
As for what people can do when they have the urge to raise a litter of fresh kittens, Ferguson and Halela have a better idea: “If you want to experience having kittens, foster for a shelter.”
Spay, neuter and rabies vaccine are free for ear-tip cats (feral and free-roaming cats). No-ear-tipped cats have a co-pay of $25 for male cats, $35 for female cats.