Jotello F. Soga was the fourth son of Reverend Tiyo Soga, a Xhosa, and his Scots wife Janet Burnside. One of his brothers was the medical practitioner W.A. Soga*. Like his three elder brothers Jotello was educated in Scotland under the protection of the United Presbyterian Church (Church of Scotland). In 1882 he entered the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College at Edinburgh, qualifying in April 1886 as a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS) and earning a gold medal for his studies in botany. He was the first South African born person to qualify as a veterinary surgeon. While in Scotland he married a Scots-woman.
After practising veterinary medicine for some years he joined the civil service of the Cape Colony in November 1889 as an assistant veterinary surgeon under the colonial veterinary surgeon, Duncan Hutcheon*. He was first stationed at Fort Beaufort, with responsibility for the surrounding districts. Here he played an important role in the vaccination campaign against contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (lung sickness). His industry, skill and pleasant personality enabled him to win the confidence and esteem of both white and black farmers and to become an excellent promotor of practical veterinary work. He was particularly interested in plant poisonings and in July 1890 proved experimentally that krimpsiekte (nenta) in goats is caused by the plant Cotyledon ventricosa. The results of this investigation were published in the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope in 1891. He sent plant specimens to P. MacOwan*, while Andrew Smith* acknowledged his assistance with the physiology and uses of little known plants in the third edition of his A contribution to South African materia medica (1895). In 1894, after spending some time with Dr A. Edington* at the Colonial Bacteriological Institute in Grahamstown, he was posted to King William's Town, and in 1897 to the Transkei. In 1896, when the first rinderpest epidemic swept across the country, he played an active role in combating the disease in the Cape Colony and Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana). From then on his health gradually deteriorated, forcing him to retire from his post on pension towards the end of 1899. Hutcheon praised his work and described him as "a most efficient officer". After his retirement Soga practiced as a veterinarian again and following the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) became a farm manager, first in the Stutterheim district and then on the farm Amalinda, near East London. In 1905 he was a foundation member of the Cape of Good Hope Veterinary Medical Society. He died on Amalinda at the age of 41 from an overdose of laudanum. His wife then returned to Scotland with their children.