Some real characters have passed through the Blue Cross cattery at Petroc in Barnstaple on their way to new homes – but it is just the tip of the iceberg for what the college offers.

Petroc animal care students Chantelle Hulse, Sarah Garner and Lewis Evans. Picture: Tony GussinPetroc animal care students Chantelle Hulse, Sarah Garner and Lewis Evans. Picture: Tony Gussin

There is a veritable menagerie of creatures on site under the watchful eye of the college’s animal care students, from snakes and toads to goats, guinea pigs, tortoises and rodents.

Anyone who wants to become a veterinary nurse or work with animals across a huge range of fields from zoos to conservation needs to get the animal care level 1, 2 and 3 courses under their belts first.

The college also runs professional dog grooming courses.

Many people are probably unaware there are specialist animal courses right here in North Devon without having to travel further afield, and probably even fewer realise there is a Blue Cross cattery rehoming centre on site.

Geckos at the Petroc animal centre. Picture: Tony GussinGeckos at the Petroc animal centre. Picture: Tony Gussin

Animal centre manager Lucy Williams told the Gazette they rehomed around six cats each month and approximately 50 a year.

They include such characters as Lily, a rather wobbly because of a neurological condition that gives her balance and eye sight problems, but is otherwise healthy and happy and already off to a new home.

Lucy said: “There’s only a handful of colleges in the country that have been given this opportunity by the Blue Cross.

“The cats are not normally here longer than three weeks and we get a fantastic response, we always have a waiting list as well.

A snoozing nest of flying squirrels at the Petroc animal centre. Picture: Tony GussinA snoozing nest of flying squirrels at the Petroc animal centre. Picture: Tony Gussin

“On campus there’s an exotics room, a tropical room, an aviary, a goat enclosure, a rabbit and guinea pig room and a rodent room.

“The animals are here solely for the students and welfare is strictly monitored, something we are keen to instil in students.”

Student ages range from 16 upwards and their daily lessons include looking after all the animals on site while they are learning from them. Many are also rescue animals.

Lewis Evans from Barnstaple is aged 16 and wants to study zoology when he leaves college and goes on to university.

Guinea pigs enjoying their spacious enclosures at the Petroc animal centre. Picture: Tony GussinGuinea pigs enjoying their spacious enclosures at the Petroc animal centre. Picture: Tony Gussin

He said: “I have always loved animals from a very young age and originally wanted to do marine biology but as time has gone one realised I would rather work with land animals.

“The course here is really good, it’s everything I expected it would be. There are so many different varieties of jobs you can get in the animal industry.”

Applications are now open for animal care courses. You can find out more at www.petroc.ac.uk/courses-search

To find out about rehoming a cat go to the Blue Cross Petroc Facebook page or www.bluecross.org.uk .

The tortoise room at the Petroc animal centre. They can roam outside when it's warmer too Picture: Tony GussinThe tortoise room at the Petroc animal centre. They can roam outside when it's warmer too Picture: Tony Gussin

All of the tortoises at the Petroc animal centre are rescues. Picture: Tony GussinAll of the tortoises at the Petroc animal centre are rescues. Picture: Tony Gussin