Nashville pet clinic has waitlist of 900 cats — and counting — for spay or neuter surgeries

Carmel Kookogey
Nashville Tennessean

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Rescue cats needing to be spayed or neutered amid the coronavirus pandemic are having to get in line – in some cases, behind more than 900 cats, as at the Pet Community Center in Nashville. 

Natalie Corwin, president and CEO of Pet Community Center (PCC), said she hasn't seen numbers like this since she co-founded the organization in 2011.

"This is definitely the most backed up we've ever seen it," said Corwin, who confirmed a waiting list of close to 1,000 cats at PCC. "Between 2011 when we founded it and 2014 when our clinic opened, we used other clinics to do the surgeries. Pretty quickly, we realized Nashville had a huge need for spay or neuter services."

Back then, Corwin said, it was pretty normal for PCC to have a waiting list of about 1,000 cats. Since opening its own clinics, however, PCC usually completes rescue surgeries in two weeks and never has a waiting list. 

The Pet Community Center in Nashville has a waiting list of nearly 1,000 rescue cats to be spayed or neutered.

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After shutting down in March, PCC reopened in a reduced capacity just after Memorial Day. Many of the 900 cats are the result of a backlog from the nine weeks the clinic was closed, Corwin said. Though the clinic is performing surgeries again, the combined backlog and limited staff that can safely operate in the clinic's 2,000-square-foot building means it will take a while to catch up on the list of pets waiting to be fixed.

"We haven’t been able to function at our fullest capacity, and so that’s just causing even more delays, unfortunately," she said.

Surgeries for at-home pets have been affected too, according to Corwin – but not nearly as much as for rescue cats. Currently, pet owners can schedule an appointment for as early as the following month. For rescue cats, it could be much longer before they're on the table.

Also contributing to the problem are medical supplies. Corwin said at the beginning of the pandemic, pet clinics were concerned about having enough masks. More recently, they've been warned about potential rubber glove shortages.

"Obviously, we're keeping a close eye on that, and we want to be stocked up, but not too stocked up because we want to be conscious of the impact on the human medical world as well," she said.

A twofold problem

The PCC isn't the only place with an overflow of rescue cats. Kelly Patton, a volunteer with the Nashville Cat Rescue (NCR) since 2013, said the NCR waiting list for cats to find new homes have gotten lengthy, too.

"There’s definitely a vet backlog, and it’s twofold," Patton said.

Patton explained that during quarantine, while nearly every clinic where NCR sends cats for surgical procedures was closed, people would come to NCR instead to try to find spay or neutering services. Over time, this created a backlog of animals needing to find foster homes, too.

"We had a lot of new foster homes come to us as a result of this as well," Patton said. "And for the first couple months, our veterinary partners were doing great, but it started to add up and backlog in about May or June. Some clinics have cut back hours significantly or switched to half capacity. It's really reduced the volume we're able to handle."

Bigger than Nashville

According to Corwin, these rescue cat backlogs are a problem nationally, too. 

"Looking at the national trends, before we reopened I served on a national panel that gave recommendations for reopening, and talking to my colleagues across the country, this is definitely a problem for them too."

Nashville's PCC hopes to return to full operational capacity before the end of the year, Corwin said, and is planning how to safely increase its clinical capacity. Until that time, she recommends keeping male and female rescue animals separate if possible. 

Follow Carmel Kookogey on Twitter @ckookogey.