Her first tomcat neuter day was March 8 and involved 25 cats. In an area where low-cost spay and neuter services are commonplace
at neighboring veterinary clinics, she charged clients just $30. "Needless to say, I don't make a lot of money off that,"
Lloyd is kept relaxed in a low-light, quiet room with a plush blanket in his carrier while receiving electroacupuncture at
the Cat Hospital of Chicago. (PHOTOS COURTESY OF CAT HOSPITAL OF CHICAGO)
And she's the first one to say the neuter day isn't about bells and whistles. "Some extras were available, such as vaccines,
and quite a few people took advantage of that," she says. Burk also secured a supply of free flea control products from manufacturers
and offered them as part of the service. She required cash or credit up front—no checks and no IOUs. "I wasn't stuck with
any cats left behind," she says.
Though neutering 25 cats in a day was no small feat for the sole practitioner and her team, Burk says it was a success. She
took advantage of the opportunity to begin new relationships—to let people know they had a place where they could get help
when they needed it. "The good PR from that is worth the deficiency in charges," she says. "We're hopeful that at least the
ones that opted for vaccinations we'll get back for boosters."
Kenny, known as a normally "opinionated" patient, according to Dr. Daphne Thompson, prefers to stay in his carrier for exams.
What she really enjoyed was the opportunity to educate. Burk has a degree in anthropology and she loves to use it, especially
when talking about cats. "Cats are the wildest of our domestic pets," she tells clients. "It is their instinct to hide illness
until they absolutely can't." Burk says she's had cat owners bring in their pet at death's door, guilt-ridden that they didn't
realize it needed care.
"Hopefully getting them through the doors—seeing the posters on the walls, having conversations with the staff—they'll learn
that cats really do need more attention than most of them are getting," Burk says.
Food distraction is often used successfully at the Cat Hospital of Chicago to complete nail trimmings, as shown here, without
stressing out cat or client.
And while she admits the neuter day isn't the state-of-the-art medicine prized by today's veterinary profession, she has to
be practical. "I think that the real world is a little different—you need to handle all these issues with common sense and
flexibility and what works in your community," Burk says. "Common sense and compassion are really, really important."
She says she does her best to provide the best care possible within her clients' means. "This is the real world, not academia,"
she says. "It's not the big city."
Daphne Thompson, DVM, an associate at the Cat Hospital of Chicago, is in the big city—but she says she faces many of the same
obstacles to feline care that practitioners do at a small-town canine-feline practice. "We're urban, but people just don't
want to take their pets out of the house," she says. "They don't perceive that cats need regular care."