I’m a big cat keeper at The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden in Kent. I’m responsible for the care and management of the animals, which include tigers, leopards, jaguars, lions, cheetahs and pumas. It’s a really varied job, which includes feeding the cats, maintaining their enclosures, and getting involved with guest experiences. It’s amazing to be able to build relationships with such incredible species, and my favourite part of what I do is training the cats for simple medical procedures.
I started my Level 3 in Animal Management at Nescot in 2005. After that I went to Hadlow College, where I did a Foundation Degree in Animal Conservation and Biodiversity, and then on to the University of Roehampton for a top-up degree in Zoology.
Nescot was a lot of fun, but we all worked really hard. I learnt a lot of theory in a massive range of topics, and the experience I got working on the farm was really useful. My favourite unit was probably Collection Management, but I still remember the things I learnt on Breeding and Genetics modules too. We went out to visit zoos a few times, which helped me to think about my career options.
I always knew I wanted to work with big cats. In my career so far I’ve worked at a private zoo in Dubai and then Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire, as well as volunteering at Chessington Zoo from Year 11. My advice to students is to work really hard at college, because that knowledge and experience on the farm will get you a long way. Don’t expect things to fall into your lap, but if you know what you want to do then just go for it. There’s no substitute for practical experience, so do as much work experience and as many internships as you can. One of the best things about working with animals is that you never stop learning.