An innovative Florida program that has been spaying, neutering, and vaccinating community cats since 1998 is about to share its successful model with the nation.
Founded by Dr. Julie Levy, director of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, the trap-neuter-return (TNR) program known as Operation Catnip has been running free high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinics for community cats in Gainesville for more than 16 years. Since its founding, the organization has cared for more than 45,000 cats. In 2014 alone, they helped 2,693 cats and prevented the births of a projected 6,142 kittens who might have been born to the now-sterilized cats in the first year following surgery.
Now, thanks to an educational grant from PetSmart Charities, they’re making their training program and materials available to veterinarians, veterinary students, and veterinary technicians from all over the U.S. “Our vision is to train an army of veterinarians to spay and neuter America’s community cats,” said Dr. Julie Levy, the founder of Operation Catnip and director of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. “This approach, along with vaccination, will allow us to reduce cat population, control infectious diseases, and improve the lives of the cats.”
Operation Catnip clinics are operated along the lines of a MASH unit. The cats are trapped by community members, then brought to the clinic, where they’re cared for in stations staffed by volunteer veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary students. Each cat is examined, spayed or neutered, vaccinated against infectious diseases, treated for fleas and other parasites, given an identifying ear tip, allowed to recover, then returned to the location where she or he was trapped.
For more information, or to sign up for one of the upcoming training sessions, visit OperationCatnip.org.