Alex has been working at the centre as an Animal Care Assistant for around a year now, after giving his time as a volunteer for a few months beforehand. He is a big cat lover and you're likely to find him in the cattery giving the kitties some much needed TLC and treats! Alex has a lot of knowledge about pet nutrition, so he's the best to speak to if you are looking for advice about your pet's diet and food-related health. He has grown to love the dogs more as time goes on, but is still a cat man at heart and dotes on his own kitten from the centre.
Alex with Heather the cat
What does your job involve on a daily basis?
"As an Animal Care Assistant, I spend my time with the animals. Mornings are spent cleaning out the animal accommodation (sweeping, mopping, cleaning litter trays, hosing out the kennels, replacing bedding) and making sure all of the animals get their morning meal. I also give medication where required, and help with the volunteers and work experience students who need a bit of guidance. When I get the time I like to give the animals some extra attention in the mornings, and I also make sure I keep on top of my paperwork! In the afternoons, the animals are fed again, spot cleaned and exercised as well as given routine treatments, such as flea and worm treatment. I assist with vaccinations and microchipping and I'm looking forward to my assessment with the vet soon so I can do those too. It's always a busy day, with lots of members of public to speak to and plenty of animals to care for!"
How did you get into the role?
"I started at the centre as a volunteer in June 2014 and learned the ropes with the existing Animal Care Assistants, as I found the job interesting and knew it was something I'd like to do if I got the chance. Luckily I did get the chance! A position became available in September 2014 so I applied and I've been here since. I've always loved working around animals, and I studied Wildlife Conservation at university - I spent 6 months working on the Pink Pigeon Project in Mauritius as part of my course and I really enjoyed it and knew I wanted a job working with animals."
Hooch the Japanese Akita
What is the best part of the job?
"This role comes with so much job satisfaction! I see animals turn their lives around - they arrive in a bad state and then go home looking healthy and happy, and it's amazing knowing I've been a part of that transformation. Seeing the change and how capable they are of learning to trust again and still wanting to get to know new people is fascinating and I really enjoy that aspect of my job. Plus I get to work with kittens, who wouldn't love that?"
What is the hardest part of the job?
"The shocking things you see here can be difficult to deal with. You really do see animals who have been through such a tough time and that's awful to witness, knowing you care so much for these animals but other people are quite heartless towards them. The way people speak about their pets, who clearly love them so much, and say how they're having trouble 'getting rid' of them is so sad. Some of the animals really mourn for their past owners, it's devastating seeing them so depressed and confused. Obviously there are many legitimate reasons that people have to part with their pets, and most people have clearly cared for their animals and are heartbroken at having to give them up so that's tough too."
Tell us about your most memorable moment at work
"An important moment for me was when I first started working with the dogs. I'd heard rumours about Staffies and noticed them in the press, rarely for the right reasons. Due to this I was a little bit wary of the breed and didn't know what to expect. However I was pleasantly surprised, and after half an hour playing in the yard with Gus I realised what loving, friendly and intelligent dogs they are! Gus will always stick with me for that reason, because he showed me not to judge a dog by their breed alone and that you can't take rumours as fact when it comes to their behaviour. The most memorable day for me though was when two long stay animals went home in the same afternoon: Hooch the Akita and Quentin the cat. Hooch had arrived with a terrible skin condition and looked absolutely miserable - his fur was dull, his skin was sagging and he howled like he was in pain. He was absolutely huge and had a massive personality (and attitude!) to match but we all loved him and were thrilled when he found his forever home after weeks of recovery time and a long search. Quentin struggled to find a home as he was black and white, and an older cat. We tried everything to get people to notice him and nothing seemed to work, until one day he was finally lucky enough to be adopted. Seeing both of those animals, who I had grown to love and who seemed like part of the furniture as I was so used to having them around, was amazing for me."
Alex's cat Artemis
Who was the most memorable animal at the centre?
"Even though it's only been a year since I started working here, there are so many animals that I've worked with at the centre who have stuck in my mind! Hooch of course, with his grumpy face and his eagerness to get to the yard so he could run around and stretch his legs. Another dog I really connected with was Jonty. I don't know why exactly, but he really got to me and I loved playing with him and training him - he was incredibly clever and such a handsome boy. Tabby the cat will always stick with me - not so much for the right reasons though! He attacked us all and had the worst case of cattitude I've ever come across; he wasn't feral or anything, he would just suddenly decide he didn't want to speak to you anymore (and he'd let you know by swiping you). Tabby was a grumpy boy but still funny! Finally, Mittens the kitten. She was inexplicably tiny. Mittens was one of a litter of kittens that were brought to the centre with their mum: a stray cat who had given birth in someone's garden. All of the other kittens were normal sized and had no problems, but Mittens was half the size and weight of her siblings! This didn't seem to upset though, as she was always first to the foodbowl and never let her size hold her back."
And finally, have you ever adopted an animal from the RSPCA?
"I adopted my cat Artemis from work. He arrived at the centre aged 8 weeks old, and at the time there had been an outbreak of flu in the cattery. I was worried that he wouldn't cope in there, in case he caught flu, which can be dangerous to kittens, so I took him home to foster until he was a bit stronger. Needless to say he never returned - he's been with me ever since. Arty was initially a bit shy but he settled in very quickly and everybody loves him!"
Thank you Alex!