Shawna holding her pet.

Introducing… Shawna Morrow!

With a new school year starting, we are excited to introduce you to our new team members who have joined us this fall! We will be interviewing our new team members to help you become acquainted with them as professionals, students and people.

Hi everyone! I would like to formally introduce myself to you all. My name is Shawna Morrow, and I am a new master’s by thesis student in the department of Clinical Studies at the University of Guelph, within the OVC Pet Nutrition team.  

How would you describe yourself? 

I would describe myself as a compassionate and dedicated person. The combination of these two traits has allowed me to achieve all my goals that I set out to in a caring and passionate way. I have always had a particular passion for animals and do everything I can to ensure they are given the best care. Through rescuing wildlife and stray cats in my neighborhood to volunteering and working at wildlife rehabilitation centers and veterinary clinics over the years, I have always put the wellbeing of animals at the top of my priority list. Another trait that I value is optimism. I do my best to live every day with a positive attitude, and to inflict that positivity onto others. My favorite pastimes include spending time outdoors, painting, and playing with my cats.  

What interests or motivates you most? 

What motivates me the most is the health and wellbeing of animals. This started as early as my childhood, where I would constantly take in abandoned or injured wildlife and help my mom with their rehabilitation. One of the main reasons I succeeded in my studies was knowing that it would allow me to further a career in a field where I can have the most positive impact on the lives of animals. Animals, especially pets, are not able to care for themselves like they truly deserve, and I hope to provide the support they need to live their best lives. If I can come home at the end of the day knowing I helped improve upon the life of at least one person’s pet, then I will consider it a good day. This motivation to help the animal community has helped me get to where I am today in my professional life, pursuing a master’s degree in pet nutrition.  

What led me to the University of Guelph and a Graduate Program? 

The University of Guelph is very known for its extensive research opportunities on animal populations, and I knew it would be the best place to pursue a master’s degree in pet research. I chose to do a graduate program as I am hoping that this advancement in my education will also help me advance in my career, either in the pet nutrition field, or veterinary medicine. The Ontario Veterinary College is also another reason I was interested in the University of Guelph, as I knew I wanted to be involved with it somehow. My master’s is currently being completed in conjunction with OVC, and I am always keeping the option open to apply to veterinary school after I have completed it.  

What sparked your passion for pet nutrition? 

Growing up, my family and I lived in the country and rescued many stray cats over the years. My mom always struggled with the nutritional aspect of raising these cats, due to the financial costs of a healthy and well-balanced diet. I hope to one day figure out a way to formulate a complete and well-balanced diet that is affordable for the masses, as all animals deserve to eat healthy. Working at veterinary clinics over the past few years has also helped me realize just how important nutrition is for a pet’s wellbeing, recovery, and to help manage any clinical manifestations. I have also always been very interested in human nutrition and understanding nutrients that are important for my health. After taking a few human nutrition courses in my undergrad, the desire to learn the importance of nutrition in animals quickly escalated.  

Tell us about your pets, past or present. 

I currently have four cats in my home. I have a particular fondness for one of these cats, and her name is Honey. We adopted her from the humane society about one year ago, and she has quickly become our home’s resident jester. She loves to play fetch, get chased, and climb trees. My older cats took a little while to warm up to her due to her hyper nature, and whether they like to admit it or not now, she was the best addition to our little family.  

Shawna holding her cat Honey.

My oldest cat, Midnight, is about 15 and we found her one night crying in my window in the rain. I begged my mom to bring her inside, and the rest is history. She has been in our house for about 12 years, and she is the leader of the pack. She spends her days sunbathing outside and sleeping beside me at night.  

Midnight, a black cat with a white belly, laying on a bed on her back.

One of our past cats named Peanut was my best friend. We rescued him and his sister as kittens about 10 years ago, as they showed up at our door and never left. He was the male alpha of the house but could also be the cuddliest cat around. He loved to go on adventures outside, sunbathe and drool all over you when he was happy.  

Peanut sitting in a basket with a white towel inside on top of a table.

I also have a leopard gecko named Hershey, and he has been around for about 10 years. He likes to think that he can climb but has never been very good at it. He also likes to spend time outside in the sunshine and has a love of mealworms.  

Shawna and her leopard gecko Hershey.

What is your research about? 

My research focuses on owner’s attitudes towards physical rehabilitation and nutrition counselling in a population of canine patients. I will be surveying clients within the Ontario Veterinary College to understand their attitudes and beliefs toward nutritional and rehabilitation counselling, and whether they believe they would value from further knowledge and accessibility in these areas. I am very excited to be working on this project and to have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the veterinary world!