One of the funny things I have noticed since entering vet school is the range of questions I get regarding my experience in school or facts about animals. It has become standard to field the common ones such as How long is vet school? Are you ‘big animal’ or ‘small animal’?, and My dog has been constantly itching so what’s the problem? (My responses tend to be along the lines of the following: Too long…but four years to be exact. I’m ‘human’ and looking to start my career working primarily with dogs and cats. And not sure, but tell me more!)
While admittedly this can get repetitive, I really do enjoy hearing questions that come from left field: How many bones are there in a giraffe’s neck versus a hummingbird’s neck? Why do cats purr? I find it so cool that giraffes, like practically all mammals except sloths and manatees, have 7 cervical vertebrae yet hummingbirds have fourteen or fifteen. Barring our comparative anatomy course, vet school tends not to focus much on these matters. In respiratory physiology, we learn how alternating activation of a cat’s diaphragmatic and intrinsic laryngeal muscles causes purring, but why does this happen in most felids?! I hate to disappoint the ailurophiles reading, but we do not have a definitive answer to this question. There is speculation that purring may be a sign to communicate pleasure and affection or even be useful in bone healing! Though quite intriguing from an evolutionary standpoint, the purr of a cat, to my chagrin, is looked upon by the veterinary world less as a cool thing that cats do and more as a nuisance when trying to auscultate patients.
Alas, I am thankful to be learning but will always have questions like these swirling in the back of my mind. Some may be answered and others not, but the important thing is that I never lose the thirst to learn more.