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Joy Shutt

"Being able to work with such varied and exotic species on placement was a new and exciting experience."

I am an… animal charity assistant

There are approximately eight million cats kept in the UK. Cats Protection, the UK's leading feline welfare charity, helps around 218,000 cats and kittens every year. BSc (Hons) Bioveterinary Science graduate Joy Shutt works at one of the charity’s adoption centres as a cat care assistant. For an animal-lover such as Joy, this is an infinitely rewarding role. “I enjoy seeing the full process from the cat being handed in right through to the new adopter collecting it, knowing our cats will get the love and care they deserve and that they have had the best kick-start to their new life as possible,” says the 25-year-old, from North Wales.

“My job includes cleaning the cat living areas, feeding, administering medicines, grooming, socialising, meeting the public, and carrying out home visits. We use both paperwork and the computer system to create and update cat records, update the website and social media, and assist the vet when in attendance. There are also various administration jobs including issuing neutering vouchers, answering the phone and emails, driving the work vehicles to vets/fosterers, and working to trap/neuter/return feral cats.

“Studying at Harper Adams has set me up well for this career from my presentation and performance at interview to being able to complete relevant tasks to a high standard and understand their importance,” she says. “I can draw on the teaching I received on most days, whether it be about general cat management and handling or more technical details about health and disease.”

Joy looks back fondly on her placement year, which she spent at the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay. “It allowed me to develop as not only a useful and dedicated employee but also as a person, growing in confidence and capabilities both physically and socially. “I had a wide range of tasks relating to food preparation, feeding, cleaning, husbandry and health management, working both with and without the keepers, and also communicating with public.”

The zoo housed a wide range of animals, from the Sumatran tiger and snow leopard to camels, brown bears and meerkats, which presented Joy with lots of opportunities to learn and to impress her employers. “The best things about placement were being able to work with such varied and exotic species, this was a new and exciting experience. Learning new management and husbandry techniques specific to these species was great. I earned more and more responsibilities as the year progressed, eventually being able to work independently with whole sectors of animals – this was a real compliment and definitely tested my time management, physical capabilities and confidence, which I thoroughly enjoyed.” 

She would recommend Harper Adams to any student interested in animals, she adds: “The teaching is engaging, thorough and relevant to the industry. The staff support available is very valuable and I found it is important to make the most of it whenever you can. There is a great atmosphere at the university, lots of laughs and lifelong friends. They really will be the best days of your life!”

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