A ‘tail’ of three externs: Inside a model cat program
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience a model cat program? Three UF students recently did just that during externships at Cat Depot in Sarasota, Fla.
Cat Depot is a non-profit, free-roaming center recognized for its progressive design and commitment to helping homeless, abandoned, and injured cats and kittens. They operate TNR and adoption programs, as well as the Rose Durham Cat Care Clinic, which provides affordable veterinary care to assist sick and injured cats and their distressed owners.
“I heard about the Cat Depot externship program when it was announced through the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Certificate program at UF CVM and applied immediately,” said extern Maxie Bowen, Class of 2018 at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. “I was curious to learn how a facility like Cat Depot is able to provide such high quality care to a large number of cats, and also how they were able to integrate a community clinic in their facility.”
Enthusiasm for the program motivated Cynthia Kathir, UF College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2018 President, to apply for the externship as well. “I’m interested in shelter medicine, and while I have been lucky enough to experience a variety of shelter settings,” she said. “I had yet to see a feline-only shelter. I had heard great things about Cat Depot, so I wanted to see what they did differently in order to reduce stress and make the cats more comfortable in a shelter setting.”
Extern Lindsey Hidenrite, Class of 2018, had previously visited Cat Depot multiple times prior to the externship. “I was really impressed with their facility.,” she said. “I have a very strong interest in both shelter medicine and felines, so this was the perfect choice to fulfill my medicine externship for the certificate!”
“I loved every minute of this externship!” said Kathir. ” I spent most of my time on the shelter side, with a little time spent shadowing over at the Rose Durham Cat Care Clinic. I was given the chance to complete several surgeries, and was able to observe and assist with dentals and other minor surgical procedures. I also spent a lot of time helping out with sick animal exams, including in the isolation wards, and observed and assisted with the intake process. The doctors were very friendly and helpful, and made sure I understood each case thoroughly.
“The most valuable advice I received from someone at the beginning of my externship summer was: don’t be shy. If there is something you would like to try while on an externship, just ask. More often than not, they’ll let you perform procedures if you show initiative, interest, and at least some knowledge about it. If you don’t know much about it, just be honest, and say that you’d like to learn how to do it. Also, if you have a particular area of interest, be sure to tell the doctors. At all of my externships, the doctors went out of their way to ensure I was able to see any cases and surgeries related to what I was interested in.”
Hidenrite said the most valuable experiences she had as part of the externship were in surgery. “I was able to learn different techniques under several different veterinarians. I also learned a lot about dentistry as well, which you don’t see often in a shelter setting. While I had a strong background already in feline sheltering, it’s definitely a great opportunity for someone without as much knowledge of feline medicine to learn a ton about feline-specific ailments.”
Bowen enjoyed talking to foster families when they brought their kittens in for the pre-scheduled foster appointments. “It showed me how fundamentally important communication is for any rescue organization that prioritizes veterinary care,” she said. “In general, I saw a wide variety of cases and different clinical presentations which made my knowledge base greater.”
Students considering a similar internship should go for it, Hidenrite said. “Especially in shelter settings where innovation is sometimes the only way to reasonably treat an animal, you will learn a lot of different approaches to different ailments or procedures. You never know which one you’ll like the best!”
Bowen added, “I would suggest that they decide in advance if they are ready to go home with a pet — or another pet if that’s the case — because it was truly difficult not to bring a cat or two home with me!”
Applications for the next Cat Depot externship close Nov. 10, 2017. Learn more here.