Dear Dennis,

You were trouble from the start. So much cattitude in such a small package. And then that package grew, and grew.

Cats reach sexual maturity between 4 and 10 months of age, and you were a precocious fellow. By the time you were five months old, the odour of your urine had started to change. I was a veterinary student at the time, and I knew that we needed to get you neutered sooner rather than later. Waiting too long can lead to problems with marking or aggressive behaviour.

We had moved far away from the wonderful veterinary team who looked after Max as a young fellow, but my husband happened to play hockey at the university with lots of qualified veterinarians. One of our friends invited me to work with him to neuter you.

Despite protests to the contrary, neutering is a straightforward surgical procedure, technically speaking. And at the time, I was a third year veterinary student taking part in anesthesia and surgery labs. I had all the knowledge, but I still needed to develop my skills.

It was a leap for me, but I took up our friend on his generous offer. At the time everything was new for me. Injections, preparing the skin for surgery, sterile technique, not to mention the surgery itself. But with some patience on the part of our friend, some first-time jitters for me and a short sleep for you, we got the job done.

When veterinarians are training, there is great concern about the animals that act as our teachers. Students and staff are working hard to minimize any pain or discomfort to live animals by using artificial models before they touch a living animal. There has to be a balance, because who wants their own pet to be the ‘first’ for a new vet?

I’m glad to see how much these training methods have evolved since I was in veterinary school. Hopefully this progress will continue to improve the training new veterinarians receive.

I was lucky to have a friend with the patience and generosity to sit beside me and teach me step-by-step how to neuter you, Dennis. I was fortunate to have a healthy kitten and the training to perform the surgery safely and without pain. That day, I learned valuable skills that have served me well ever since.

And your urine stopped stinking.