My family are very supportive of my career goals and I don’t mean to offend anyone by writing about their questions; they’ve put up with all sorts of biology trivia and gory detail at the dinner table over the years. I really love it when anyone asks me an animal-related question. However, I am absolutely not qualified to give medical advice and I won’t be until at least 2022. As a result, I have to try and divert their misplaced faith in my animal-healing abilities…
Last weekend I went home for my birthday. My mum hugged me, wished me a happy birthday and told me there was “a problem”. “I found a baby rabbit in the hall,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to be hurt but would you take a look at it?”
We went into the garden and looked under the bush where she’d left the rabbit. A carrot, uneaten, remained but no rabbit. Thank god because trying to nurse a wild creature that had probably already been traumatised by a cat didn’t sound like a great birthday to me; as a rule, I prefer it when nothing dies at a party. We agreed that the bunny must have got better and left of its own devices (and quietly ignored the possibility that the cat had come back for it).
The next day I was chatting to my sister and one of her cats jumped up onto the couch. We petted the cat and my sister said “Daisy’s had a lump on her tail and I’m worried about it, would you feel it?” I dutifully poked around at the tail – we think Daisy lost part of her tail as a kitten so it’s already a bit bumpy – but couldn’t find anything. We agreed the lump must have gone away but I did say if she wanted proper reassurance, she’d need a real vet, not a big sister.
Before I left Derbyshire again I went to see my grandma. She told me how pleased she was to see me and opened the kitchen door. “Jim,” she said, “This is why I’ve kept you in. Look who’s here to see you!” Jim was the largest of Daisy’s kittens two years earlier and went to live with my grandma under whose care he has grown into a small tiger. Standing on his hind legs he can reach the counter tops and help himself to drinks. I went into the kitchen and Jim jumped willingly onto the consulting table – I mean the dining table. My gran said: “So, young lady who wants to be a vet: there’s a lump on my cat’s back, would you take a look at it?”
I stroked Jim and sure enough, there was a lump on his back. “It doesn’t feel like it’s attached to anything underneath,” I hazarded, “But that’s literally just something I’ve heard real vets say. I don’t know what it means. I’d take him to see one if I were you.” My grandma turned away and bustled off. “He’ll have to wait ‘til next week!” she called back, slightly defensively. “We’re going to see my sister!” (We, of course, because she takes Jim everywhere with her; Jim has been on more holidays than some children.) I wasn’t sure what was expected of me at this point, so I just agreed. Jim probably wouldn’t die of his lump in the next week. If she wants to be sure on that point she should probably take him to a real vet, but by that point I’d really lost the will to argue.