A vets was abuzz with excitement last week in anticipation for the arrival of a feline – but this was no ordinary cat.

Cromwell Vets was contacted a fortnight ago by Hamerton Zoo after keepers spotted blood on the rear leg on one of their seven cheetahs.

Thirteen-year-old Hera, who moved to Hamerton from the Czech Republic with her sister Rea and brother Ares when they were 18 months old, was bleeding from her rear leg after a metal plate had started to break through her skin.

She was taken to Cromwell Vets in Sawtry last Monday for an X-ray before surgery in Huntingdon the following day.

Nigel Belgrove, 38, director at Cromwell Vets, told The Hunts Post: "Hera went on loan to a zoo in Belgium two years ago and broke her leg. The Belgian vets fixed it by putting metal plates in her leg and she recovered well, but one of the plates had started to stick out of the leg.

"I was told by Helen Dennis, who works with us for our home visiting service, about it because of my orthopaedic interest and we got Hera an X-ray at Sawtry because that is the closest vet and would be less disruptive for her.

"If the metal plating gets infected, there can be a deep-seated infection so we had to remove the implant. She was sedated at her enclosure and taken back after the operation to help her recover, which will take four to six weeks."

He added: "There was quite a lot of excitement when we said that a cheetah was being brought in. I was lucky to get this chance to operate as it was just my orthopaedic background. Some years ago, another cheetah needed a splenoscopy and the names were drawn from a hat.

"I have to say that when I was told that Hera had arrived, you do hope that the nurse had got the calculations right and she stays sedated but Holly Allen did a great job. Hera is about 10 times larger than an average cat but what struck me was just how long she is - she was only just able to fit on the operating theatre. However, the principles are the same for a 4kg domestic moggy for a 40kg wild cat. It's slightly easier as everything is bigger."

Hera is recovering well back at Hamerton, and not bothered about her leg, a spokesman for the vet said.