He began his career operating on lions and cheetahs but Tim Newton, 52, of New Malden, now runs a small vet practice with his wife, Clair, in Raynes Park.

Mr Newton, who was born in Cape Town, South Africa, qualified as a vet in 1984, before moving to the UK in 1988 and joining the Park Veterinary Practice in 1996, which he now runs.

He said: “I am very lucky. I never wake up and feel like I do not want to go to work.

“I love looking after puppies and kittens, getting to know the animals as they grow. But my work is also about the people. We have lots of lovely clients. I love dealing with people. We develop close relationships.”

Mr Newton, who is the father of two young children, began practising in Namibia, where he worked with sheep and cattle, and also the occasional big cat.

Recalling the challenges he faced in his early career, he said: “I remember I had to x-ray a leopard that belonged to a friend of mine.

“It came bounding across the room. It was tame, but it was a very powerful animal and it was very startling. It scared all our staff away.”

Today Mr Newton works with smaller animals, and admits his job has difficult moments.

He said: “Having to give any owner bad news is grim.

“Recently a four-year-old Dachshund was brought in. The owners – people I am very fond of – thought the problem was innocuous, but it is far worse than it seemed.”

Mr Newton’s hobbies include reading, music and travelling, but he especially enjoys spending time with his family and his two cats, Pepsi and Peanut, who he raised from three weeks old.

But his family extends to his practice, where he makes a huge difference to the lives of pets and pet owners every week.

He said: “Two weeks ago, a grief-stricken owner came in after their cat had been hit by a car. Now that same cat is chasing squirrels.”

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