From cleaning cages as a teenage volunteer to performing low cost spay and neuter surgeries as head veterinarian 13 years later, Christine “Chrissy” Braun, D.V.M., rose through the ranks at the nonprofit organization CatNap from the Heart with one goal: save as many animals’ lives as possible.
Braun grew up in LaGrange Park, Illinois, near CatNap and began volunteering when she was 15. CatNap, which functions as a limited-access shelter for cats, kittens, and small mammals in the area, takes in around 1,600 animals a year, including from local shelters that need extra space. As a young volunteer, Braun provided basic care for all these stray animals and fell in love with the rewarding work.
“I saw all the lives I could save over a short period of time, especially those animals who have no voice and no owner to speak for them,” says Braun. “I couldn’t help but be passionate about that. I latched on immediately.”
By the time she set off for college, Braun had a vision for her future: become a veterinarian specializing in shelter medicine and continue her work at CatNap. She even returned to CatNap during her breaks in undergraduate and veterinary school, and spent her residency in multiple shelters and spay and neuter clinics statewide.
When Braun graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in May 2017, there was no question where she would apply. CatNap’s staff welcomed her with open arms and she was the organization’s veterinarian by July 2017.
Braun’s hiring coincided with the opening of CatNap’s brand new low-cost clinic. She was able to roll up her sleeves and immediately get to work helping the cats and community she loves. The clinic serves animals from CatNap’s shelter, 15 other shelters and rescues, and local Trap-Neuter-Return groups and caregivers. As the only veterinarian, Braun diligently performs over 50 surgeries each week for owned animals and community cats. During her first year as CatNap’s veterinarian, she’s helped several hundred cats through spay and neuter for TNR.
CatNap has been spreading the word about TNR for years, with help from Alley Cat Allies’ materials and resources. The new clinic allows staff to step up efforts to get the work done. They loan out traps, host trapping demonstrations for community members, and even go out to trap themselves if a caregiver is physically unable to do so. CatNap also takes in cats from local caregivers and shelters, including Chicago Animal Care and Control, to get them spayed or neutered, eartipped, and returned to their outdoor homes.
“We work closely with our shelter partners and hope that, over the next few years, we’ll see a great decrease in intake rates,” says Braun of CatNap’s new, stronger TNR program. “We’re already seeing more community involvement and finding more caregivers who’ll get the cats sterilized so they can live happy, healthy lives outside.”
Braun is proud and thrilled to be living her dream every day.
“I loved volunteering at CatNap, but I really wanted to do more for the community and our feral and stray cat populations. Now I’m in a place where I can do that,” says Braun. “I get to see animals thrive in their forever homes, or outdoors for our feral cats. I met my goals.”