Getting to Know the Team – Dr Caity Venniker (BA, BSc, BVSc)
One of the aims of KatKin is to educate cat owners about all aspects of caring for their feline companions. This is done in part through our Chatter portal which provides articles and blogs on an ongoing basis. Heading up the feature writing team is Dr Caity Venniker. We chatted to her today so you could find out a little more about her.
You studied at Onderstepoort in South Africa. Apparently South Africa knows how to produce good wine and good vets – would you agree?
Well the wine is great! And it seems to go superbly with the vets. OP is the only vet school in Africa, and it has a good reputation worldwide. Obviously, it has extremely limited places, and as a result the vet community is quite small and tightly knit. I think it’s safe to say every South African vet has good memories of the clubhouse and feels proud of where they came from.
You’ve worked in South Africa, Qatar and at a few practices in the UK. Did you find these experiences quite different from a veterinary perspective?
Yes. I’ve been lucky to work at some wonderful practices. Qatar was very interesting because of the broad range of different cultures and religions within the clientele. There is more resistance to the concept of euthanasia than what you commonly find in Western society. Many animals are bought from the souk, or market, which in the extreme heat was a breeding ground for disease.
South Africa’s climate also shifts its disease profile, with tick-borne illnesses being quite common. African Horse Sickness and Rabies are also a concern. I find South African vets really hands on. They’re a bit more gung-ho about the health and safety protocols than in the UK!
What stands out about the UK is that in general pet owners are not only very dedicated but also well educated about caring for their pets. The focus on animals is evident even in the public transport systems, many of which accommodate pets. A high percentage of owners also have pet medical aid which helps a lot in a crisis. And the welfare force really is formidable!
How did you get involved with KatKin?
I’ve known Brett and Nikki, the founders of KatKin, for my whole life, so I was very excited to get involved in this venture. They are both perfectionists so I knew from the outset that they would be totally committed to the product.
Tell us something we don’t know about KatKin?
Well, if Brett, Nikki and Justin are “the brains” behind the brand, then Molly must be “the beauty”! Molly is Brett’s cat - a pretty little Siamese with a big voice. She is very vocal and demanding and absolutely adored - enough to be the inspiration for it all. The cat-alyst if you like!
Do you have a cat of your own?
Yes, if we assume that anyone actually owns a cat! My husband found our cat, Gorbi, as a feral in terrible condition. His eyes were so badly inflamed that he couldn’t see, and he had wounds and burns all over him and had obviously been through major trauma. It took time and a couple of surgeries to get him healthy and happy. Gorbi only has half a tail and one and a half ears so he is definitely not as beautiful as Molly! But he is a real character and loves cuddles; watching TV and being sung the Postman Pat song (the one about the black and white cat!).
What do you do in your spare time?
Besides Gorbi, we also have two dogs who are always keen to go running; and four horses that I spend a lot of time with - both riding and as all horse owners will know, generally fussing over! I try to avoid the label, “horsey woman” (!) but they are a big part of my life. I also paint, not well but with gusto.
What is hard about being a vet?
It’s tough sometimes! Animals don’t live as long as us so there are too many goodbyes. The flipside of that heartache is being able to witness the incredible bonds between people and their furry family members.
Being a vet also means having to spend the odd day smelling of urine, an occupational hazard! And all the usual glamorous stuff. Maggots make me want to go home! And anal glands. If you don’t know what those are, consider yourself lucky.
And what is the best part about being a vet?
It’s a wonderful job! It’s very stimulating and there is always more to learn. You are surrounded by people who love animals and those are usually the best kind of people.
There are always new animal personalities coming through the door - some are shy while others want to be your new best friend; some hold a grudge from that first vaccination and firmly believe you to be the source of all evil! Some animals are really stoic while others are hypochondriacs; some are cooperative while others come in fighting – you do have to admire those ones for their courage! The daily interaction with such a spectrum of individual characters and moods is special.
But I think the greatest blessing is being able to alleviate suffering. That can be through diagnosis and treatment; or ensuring the absolute best management of pain; it can be spending a bit of time with a sick animal in hospital; cuddling the pet that has been abandoned; or sometimes it’s having to make a difficult decision. So that is a great responsibility but also an enormous privilege.
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Dr Caity Venniker and Gorbi