Hi Cat! Tell us something about yourself.
Hello! My name is Cat and I am a small animal vet based in the UK. This means I look after pets, from guinea pigs (my favourites!) to dogs and everything in-between. I don’t generally see reptiles though, they are a very specialised area of vet med.
I graduated from the University of Bristol in 2003 and have been doing this job ever since and I love it!
Why did you decide to become a vet?
I have wanted to be a vet since I was about 10 years old! I have always loved animals and enjoyed being with them and caring for them. My mother, and many other family members, are doctors, so a medical profession always seemed within reach for me but I didn’t fancy looking after people, I much preferred pets!
Where did you study? Say something about your vet school.
I studied at the University of Bristol in the south-west of the UK and I loved my uni years! The veterinary medicine course is challenging and you have to work hard and be dedicated to it but I went through it with an amazing bunch of people who I am still close to even now.
Basically, attending lectures and practical sessions for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is a real bonding experience, as is heading to the pub after a long day of learning!
Bristol is an excellent school. The first three years are ‘pre-clinical’, which means they are spent covering the theory and science behind veterinary medicine, we learned biochemistry, pharmacology, anatomy and many other subjects – there is a lot to know! We also had one day a week of practical lessons of animal handling at the farm facilities.
The former are taught in the centre of Bristol and the latter at an out-of-town facility in a village called Langford. It has a farm, a large animal practice and a veterinary referral hospital that sees both small animal and equine cases.
The final two years of the 5 year course are based at Langford and are concentrated on learning about disease and how to fix it! We cover all species from pets to farm animals, so there is a huge amount of information to assimilate!
I can definitely recommend Bristol Vet School but we are fortunate in the UK that all our veterinary colleges are extremely good with excellent facilities and highly qualified clinicians to teach us.
Tell us more about your work as a veterinarian
I work in a small, independently owned clinic and spend the majority of my time ‘sole charge’, which means I am the only vet in the practice. However, I do have an amazing team of nurses and assistants to help me. This job is all about teamwork!
There are other vets that work within the business but we have a couple of branches, so they tend to be in those. I do have the occasional day where I have a vet alongside me and I really enjoy being able to bounce ideas off a colleague. The more the merrier in my opinion!
Day to day my work is really varied, which is at the heart of what makes being a vet so interesting!
During my consults, I see animals for their annual health checkups and vaccines, puppies and kittens for their first visits and all sorts of poorly animals. Our most common ailments are sore skin (especially ears), diarrhoea (usually in dogs who have eaten something they shouldn’t!) and teeth issues but we see all sorts and pets really do like to keep you on your toes!
Another absolutely vital service we provide is euthanasia, being able to ensure pets have a painless and peaceful passing at the end of their lives is something I value highly. I often get told it must be the worst part of my job but I actually am very pleased to be able to do this for my patients and their families.
I also operate every day and, again, there is a great deal of different surgeries my patients need! Our most common is neutering, it is absolutely vital for both sexes of cats and rabbits, and is also hugely beneficial for dogs but we decide whether and when to do those on a case-by-case basis.
We also do loads of dental work – please look after your pet’s teeth better people! – remove lumps, suture wounds and sometimes have to open up tummies to look for tumours or extract things from guts that silly dogs have eaten!
We also regularly use our x-ray machine, ultrasound machine and blood machines to figure out what is wrong with animals and then how to fix them!
Currently, you are an animal advocate and on CBBS’s The Real Pets Factor. Tell us more about that.
Being on TV was never a career goal for me but I am really grateful to have had the chance! I have been blogging and using social media as a vet for a long time and the profile I built meant the TV company approached me to see if I wanted to be involved.
There was an audition process to go through that took a while, they looked at a lot of people! But eventually, they chose five of us and my name was on the list!
My passion in vet med is communication and helping pet owners to understand our world and what we do. So being able to highlight that on a TV show aimed at children has been an amazing privilege.
The show is on Children’s BBC and follows me and four other vets as we diagnose and treat animals. The cameras come into the consult rooms with the clients and then into the operation theatre, or x-ray room, or wherever we go.
We show the journey pets go on when they come to the vets and it is a wonderful window into our working lives. They also interview the owners before and after their pets have been in, and it is great to get that perspective as well.
We have done eight series so far, the final one will be aired in the UK at Easter time. At the moment there are no plans for more because of the challenges of filming during Covid but we are hoping we might get the go-ahead to create again later this year!
What is your favorite topic about Guinea Pigs?
Oh yes, I LOVE guinea pigs! They are just so cute and such brilliant, interactive pets, especially for children but grown-ups can enjoy them as well!
Despite their popularity, I don’t see that many in practice. I think this is because they are generally pretty hardy creatures and reasonably easy to care for.
We also don’t need to give them any regular care like vaccines or deworming. However, they can develop dental issues and sometimes it is appropriate to neuter them, so I do get my guinea pig cuddles in occasionally!
At the moment I don’t own any myself but we have plans to build a run this spring and fill it with piggies – I cannot wait!