- Grove City, Pennsylvania

Local News

July 10, 2014

Mobile cat clinic curbs overpopulation

PLAIN GROVE TOWNSHIP, LAWRENCE COUNTY — For the sixth year in a row, Grove City Area Pet Rescue has teamed up with Animal Friends of Pittsburgh to offer a low-cost spay/neuter clinic for cats through a mobile unit set up in Plain Grove Township.

"There's not a lot of low-cost options for cats. It's just overwhelming," Lori Reynolds, director of the Grove City nonprofit, said of the local cat population, which can get out of control, especially in spring and summer.

Reynolds and one of her group's volunteers, Kris Ceci-Cogswell, spent Thursday morning and afternoon at the Plain Grove Township municipal building, 1029 Plain Grove Road, keeping an eye on the cats and kittens who had surgery and were waiting for the OK from the Animal Friends staff to head home.

The two women also checked in cat owners who dropped off their pets, and once the animals are able to eat a small amount of wet food after the procedure, their owners are called to come pick them up.

The clinic is offered once a month - dates vary - at the municipal building from April through November, weather permitting. The cost is $60, which includes the spay/neuter along with rabies and FVRCP (distemper) vaccines.

Appointments must be made in advance by calling Brenda May, a regular volunteer with the rescue, at 724-662-4454. She is currently taking appointments for the next clinic on July 30.

Since area residents first learned about the clinic, many of them have decided to keep cats they had previously considered giving away because it's affordable, and they don't have to worry about their feline family reproducing, Reynolds said.

"A lot of them are strays they decided to keep," she said.

Kittens can be spayed or neutered if they weigh at least 3 pounds and are at least three months old, and the clinic provides other vaccines, testing for various diseases, flea treatments, microchips and other services for additional fees.

"Also, people don't realize you can spay a pregnant cat," she said.

The clinic spays or neuters about 20 to 30 cats each time they visit Plain Grove, and it is very important for the owners to make -- and keep -- their appointments, Reynolds said.

The clinic is run on a point system, and the unit is able to schedule up to 60 points' worth of appointments.

Male cats are 1 point and females are 3 points since the spaying procedure takes longer.

If someone makes an appointment and doesn't show up on the day of the clinic, it's too late to fill that slot because of how the point system is set up, she said, adding that May needs more volunteers to help with the scheduling.

To make sure everything else runs smoothly, cat owners must bring their cats in carriers -- one per carrier -- and if your pet has already been vaccinated, bring that paperwork. Cash is the only accepted form of payment, and if the clinic staff discovers another problem with your cat, they may recommend a follow-up with your veterinarian.

Dr. Kellie Frame was the veterinarian on hand Thursday, along with Katie Grieco and Anna Schuessler, both veterinary technicians with Animal Friends.

The unit is equipped with 12 built-in cages and has the same equipment and supplies for several procedures found in any veterinarian's office.

"We make it more affordable. It leads to a longer, healthier life," Grieco said of the benefits of altering your cat.

The trio prepped several cats for their surgeries while several others were slowly waking up from their procedures, quietly taking in their surroundings.

Back inside the township building, Ceci-Cogswell started to make phone calls to the cats' owners, and Ellen Miller of Liberty Township was the first to come pick up her pet, a beautiful calico named YaYa who perked up as soon as Miller walked in the door.

YaYa was dumped on Miller's property in January by a passer-by, most likely because she has a large barn. She's a barn cat, but Miller felt it was still important to get her spayed, especially since YaYa had four kittens in April; they will also be altered at the clinic.

"We couldn't not take care of her," she said. "You can't let them keep breeding. There's enough for everybody to love and more."

Thursday was her first experience with the clinic and Miller recommends it to other cat owners because it's the responsible thing to do, and the price is right.

"It's very reasonable. It needs done. It's important," said Miller, who also has a parrot and two other cats.

Carol Whaley, coordinator of the Animal Friends low-cost spay/neuter program, said the nonprofit has been offering the mobile unit clinic in western Pennsylvania since April 2009, and with the help of agencies like Grove City Area Pet Rescue, they have completed 12,832 spay/neuter surgeries through 2013.

They work with 11 rescue and adoption agencies in nine counties, including the Butler County Humane Society, Operation Spay/Neuter in Butler County, Lawrence County Animal Relief Fund in New Castle and Feline Friends of Ellwood City.

Partnering with such agencies is the most effective way to run the clinics, and the local animal groups help Animal Friends find a secure location to park the mobile unit, which must also have access to a climate-controlled indoor space with running water.

"Local organizations are the backbone of this program," Whaley said via email, adding that Animal Friends is not able to set up any new clinics at this time.

Those groups help Animal Friends' goal to reach low-income pet owners in areas where there are a lack of resources, and all pet owners, regardless of income, care deeply about their animals, she said.

Monetary donations allow Animal Friends to offer the procedures at a discounted rate, and the local animal groups also take on some of the costs of helping host the clinics, like site rental.

"We hope those who support this type of program will consider making a monetary donation to the organizations which bring this to their community," Whaley said.

But in the end, it's all about getting professional, affordable care to cats and their owners, especially since spaying and neutering has many benefits besides controlling the cat population.

The procedures help prevent some types of reproductive cancers, eliminate an infection of the uterus and can curb certain behaviors related to reproduction like spraying, yowling and running away, she said.

Some cat owners mistakenly believe the surgery will make their cat gain weight; that is caused by lack of exercise and overfeeding.

"The clinics are well received by the customers. Most folks are grateful that they finally are able to get their pet veterinary care," Whaley said.

To schedule an appointment for the clinic or to help volunteer, contact Brenda May at 724-662-4454.

For more information about Animal Friends, call 412-847-7000 or visit

Published June 28, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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