Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to spay a cat fast

Yesterday I spent the day on a spay/neuter trailer. The shelter which owns the trailer sends it out to low-income areas to spay and neuter a large number of cats and dogs at low cost. Yesterday was a slow day; we spayed and neutered sixteen cats. Well, the vet spayed seven and neutered three; I spayed one and neutered three. Meanwhile, she explained high volume spay/neuter techniques to me.

The key to high volume spay/neuter is, obviously, speed. She can spay a cat in seven minutes. It takes me about thirty; a general practitioner who has more experience than I do, but isn’t as obsessed with speed, might take ten or twelve. This is what I learned:

  • Keep your surgical field (the animal!) clear. Take the time to replace your instruments on your instrument tray when you are not using them, so that you have less visual clutter.
  • Always know where each surgical instrument belongs. Don’t leave them in a pile or even a random row on your tray. Have an order for them — any order, so long as you are familiar with it and can reach for a particular instrument and know right where it will be.
  •  Don’t waste movements. If you’re reaching to the right to grab a new instrument, don’t twist all the way over to face the tray; just reach your right hand over.
  • Don’t get tangled up in your instruments. Be willing to take a second to switch hands if you have yourself in an awkward position.
  • As you’re working on one step, have your next step in your mind. What instrument will you be reaching for next?
  • Relax. Stand up straight. Breathe, breathe, breathe.


  1. Not all that different than planning production changes as a sys admin really. Same skills, slightly less convenient tools than a keyboard.

    Wonder if there are bits you can script?

  2. It has occurred to me that they are good life lessons in general. And yeah, I think there are bits you can take out and make modular, which is sort of like scripting, right?