Before I joined the Scottish Wildcat Action team, my career has been a very varied one and I’ve worked with all sorts of animals in welfare and conservation, from ospreys and red squirrels, to donkeys and zebras, to wombats and penguins.
I was lucky enough to start my career as a veterinary nurse in a classic mixed rural practice where I learnt to handle every conceivable type of animal and came to understand the busy world of a vet practice from the inside out. This has been a huge advantage so far in my Project Officer role particularly as I am coordinating our TNVR work which relies on the help of local vets and their teams.
TNVR stands for Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release and is a proven method of feral cat population control. It also ideally suits our purposes of reducing hybridisation and disease transmission risks for wildcats in our priority areas. We are really grateful to Heritage Lottery Fund for providing the means to carry out this work.
I have been meeting with local vets and talking to them about the role they can play in protecting wildcats, and so far, every single practice has been really keen to help. Local vets and their staff are an incredible source of information and support for us in our work: without them we simply couldn’t achieve our goal of saving wildcats.
When I meet vets, we firstly talk about helping by using their client networks to promote the key message that every cat owner can help wildcats by making sure they neuter and vaccinate their pets. Then we discuss their local knowledge of feral cat hotspots that we might target with TNVR and feline disease that might be a risk to wildcats.
Then it’s on to the details of their treating of feral cats our staff and volunteers catch – the how, when and where these cats will be delivered, assessed, treated and then released back in their territories afterwards. This often involves the vet nurses and receptionists too who play a key role in supervising cats during TNVR.
Vets are also helping us collect samples from feral cats for disease research and DNA studies whilst under aesthetic, so they are also playing a key role in improving our understanding of wildcats in the long term too.
As you can see, the whole vet practice team is involved and their help is crucial to TNVR- after all, a feral cat is not an easy customer. Luckily I understand what it’s like to be on their side of the job and we all do it for the love of animals.
Next time on my blog, we will follow a feral cat through the whole TNVR process from beginning to end:
1) How we humanely trap a cat living in the wild
2) At the vets - what is done and why?
3) What samples are taken and what happens next?
4) Releasing the cat
Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. It is a partnership involving over 20 organisations, including, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government, as well as its partners. See www.scottishwildcataction.org/how-you-can-help to get involved.
1 - Emma Rawling, Project Officer, Scottish Wildcat Action
2 - Local veterinary practice
3 - Sedated cat at the local veterinary practice