Celebrity vet Rory Cowlam has revealed the moment he felt most unsafe at work as an angry cat owner ‘squared up’ to him.
The 28-year-old, best known as CBBC’s Rory the Vet, had treated the ‘straggly’ cat for nearly £1,500 of dental work after he was brought in by a couple who thought he may be a stray.
Despite appealing online for an owner, no-one came forward to claim the cat, who needed treatment so that he could eat comfortably.
A week later, Rory found himself in the veterinary reception with an ‘aggressive’ man, threatening him and his staff.
The Blue Peter vet said: “He squared up to me and I genuinely thought he was going to hit me.
“He burst into the clinic and started threatening me and my receptionist.
“He was saying we were money grabbers, did unnecessary procedures and that we were experimenting on animals. It was utter rubbish.
“The cat wasn’t being fed properly and was really scraggly and unwell. It had been taken in by this lovely couple who brought it in to me and we did some dental work on it.
“It was probably £1500 worth of work but we gave them a massive discount to get this cat back on its feet.
“I explained his cat wasn’t being looked after properly and I did what was necessary to keep the cat happy, healthy and pain free.
“It all worked out in the end but he just was not a nice fella.
“You never know what’s going on with someone but there’s never an excuse to be aggressive or throw your weight around at people.”
And it’s not just Rory who’s been threatened, despite his dedication to saving animals’ lives.
The British Veterinary Association reported that 60 per cent of vets have reported feeling threatened or abused at work – something Rory fears may lead to a mental health crisis in the industry.
Rory, who released his book ‘The Secret Life of a Vet’ last year, added: “You’d be stretched to find a vet that hasn’t been threatened or told they’re the devil and they’re just in it for the money, or that they don’t really care about animals.
“None of us are in it for the money – vets don’t earn that much.
“You forgive it 99 per cent of the time because it is a stressful situation and their pet probably isn’t well and you’re there to try and help.
“The thing that worries me is that figure combined with the mental health crisis in the profession is a recipe for disaster.
“I’m worried that if we continue to see this increase in aggressive and threatening behaviour towards veterinary staff that we’ll see a real knock on effect.”
It’s been a really tough year for the veterinary industry, who have seen an influx of poorly bred pandemic puppies through the surgery doors.
And Rory’s clinic, in London, has seen several dogs surrendered over the last few months.
The animal lover said: “It’s been a really weird year and we’ve had a lot of puppies through the door and unfortunately with a lot more issues.
“We’ve seen increases in congenital issues like elbow and hip dysplasia that if they’d been bred well, it wouldn’t have happened.
“It’s been a tricky year and people have seen prices inflate three fold, and there are some insane crosses. I saw a Frenchie-poo the other day and it looked like a gremlin.
“We’re seeing crosses we never should have seen and they’re going for insane amounts of money.
“In the last few months we’ve seen half a dozen dogs surrendered, which is really concerning because we’d normally see that figure over a decade in our surgery. It’s usually once in a blue moon.
“It’s a very wasteful culture – a dog is a living thing that relies on you for nourishment and love.”
But it doesn’t end with restrictions lifting and everyone being double-jabbed. The RSPCA are currently gearing up for the ‘ biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation ’.
Rory just hopes that more and more pet owners seek support rather than abandoning pets purchased in the pandemic.
He said: “It’s a real shame we’re having to forecast a crisis but it’s the reality of it.
“So many people took on animals and just didn’t think long term about it. We tried at the time to make sure people were thinking that animals are for life, not just the pandemic.
“My only optimism is that offices are becoming more lenient and there are plenty of great vets and dog walkers out there to support people and are educating people on how to cope with going back to work.”
Rory, who owns an RSPCA rescue lurcher called Nala, is preparing to run the London Marathon for the charity in October. He’s raised over £700 so far, with hopes to drum up £5,000 for the animal charity.
He said: “I have wanted to run the London Marathon for as long as I can remember and been refused ballot entry eight times!
“This year, enough is enough and I am finally donning my running shoes, not only fulfilling a personal goal of mine but also to raise money for an amazing charity.