This morning I volunteered at a not-for-profit spay/neuter clinic. A friend of mine has been volunteering there for a while and asked if I'd be interested in joining her in the cat post-surgery recovery room.
The clinic operates one day per month in the location where we went. The surgery is performed by volunteer vets and veterinary students. At each session, they spay and neuter as many dogs and cats as time and resources allow.
The recovery room had four long utility tables with towel-wrapped cats arranged around the perimeter. I was a little surprised to see that all of the cats' eyes were open even though they were unconscious. I commented to one of the volunteers that the cats must feel kind of uncomfortable when they wake up after all that time with their eyes open. "I blink for them," she said, and demonstrated by lightly pinching one of her cats' eyes closed.
It wasn't long before I had two crashed-out cats in my charge. My job was to trim their claws, clean out their ears, check for tapeworms, sponge off any blood with hydrogen peroxide, turn them over every 15 minutes, and keep them wrapped up and warm. The warmth came from tube socks stuffed with rice that had been heated in the microwave.
The cats were as limp as wet dishrags and it was delightfully easy to handle the claw clipping and ear cleaning. One volunteer kept a timer and would announce every quarter hour, "Time to turn your cats."
At first I turned them over towel and all, but eventually realized it was easier to just unwrap the towel, turn the cat over and re-wrap.
Most of the cats belonged to people, but a significant number were either feral or up for adoption. Those cats were the most likely to have fleas, ear mites and worms. Asleep, they were all equally pettable and easy to work with, but the volunteers were always advised of which ones were feral and likely to get aggressive when the anesthetic wore off.
As the morning wore on, my cats woke up one by one and were put in their carriers and replaced with new boneless kitties for me to clean up, swaddle and pet until they awoke. The two volunteers to my right were kids and they'd periodically ask me to clip their cats' claws for them. One of their cats was soaked with pee and I had to wash my hands about five times to get the smell to go away.
After about four hours, some other friends of ours arrived and we took the opportunity to pass the care of our final cats to them and go home.
I do a lot of different kinds of volunteer work, but I found this experience to be particularly satisfying. I think it's going to become a regular part of my monthly schedule.