Part of Ireland's TNR Manual
How to Help Community Cats
Our Working Together workshop, like all our workshops, is packed with information - but there's more! Here's some links to further information on the topics raised. And do feel free to *share* any information and get people Talking TNR!
Working with animals is the easy part. Working with humans – hard work!
We discussed several tools to think about before communicating - and a fair few to use during any interaction.
Understand & Care For Yourself
Before you do anything else, you have to understand yourself and where you stand in any communication. You also have to be kind to yourself!
- Explore and understand your Animal Welfare / Animal Rights position before going on to recognise the position of the person or organisation you're communicating with.
- The Five Freedoms
Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviours can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labelled: Compassion Fatigue
- The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project has more information on this than you'll ever need.
- The Four Phases by Douglas Fakkema
- Vet Mind Matters UK
Body Language includes, for example, Facial Expression, Eyes, Postures, Gestures.
- Some great articles on Body Language from Psychology Today
- A comprehensive list from Changing Minds
- Another good summary from Mind Tools
Remember that body language varies between individuals due to a large number of things including personal experience, culture and upbringing and can't be universally applied. And don't forget your own background and state of mind will affect how you interpret body language. Context is everything.
Read Body Language
Reading others' body language allows us to guess how they're reacting to us - and respond accordingly.
- from WikiHow - Read Body Language
Articulate Body Language
Sometimes articulating the body language we're interpreting can help maintain honest interactions and generate open discussion, eg. if we think someone is unconvinced we can confront them (gently) and ask why - then work on the issue that's not working for them.
Use Body Language
We can use our own body language to help us in our communications. Remember to relax before, during and after communication and maintain a reasonable level of eye contact.
- An assertive communication style is usually the most useful, but others can have merits in different situations and some people respond better to different styles - see Five Communication Styles
- Mirroring - verbal and non-verbal mirroring can be effective
- Skills You Need does a pretty good summary of mirroring in dialogue.
Verbal Communication & Effective Interaction
- A business post that is equally relevant to any interaction where you want to win someone over - 10 Verbal Communication Skills Worth Mastering
- Effective communication from Skills You Need
- And they also have some info on Personal Appearance. Much as I hate to admit it, it does matter. This doesn't mean always dressing smart - but always dressing appropriately to make the most from the particular conversation or meeting.
- Loaded language can be useful
- I can't find any nice, simple online text on this. Contact Us if you find one we can use!!! Basically - Language shapes & reflects our thinking (Burr, 1995); Discourse & practice are intertwined (Schillo, 2003); Social construction of animals influences their treatment. The bottom line: use words that work for animals: 'companion animal', not 'pet'; 'community cats', not 'ferals'; 'guardian', not 'owner'; 'killing', not 'euthanasia' etc.
- Euthanasia: Also called mercy killing. The act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme Medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, esp. a painful, disease or condition. Killing a healthy animal is not ‘euthanasia’, it is ‘killing’. Note: this differentiation is more useful to no-kill and low-kill groups than kill groups.
A picture paints a thousand words.
- Use lots of images to tell your story and use effective imagery wherever possible. Simple pyramids, such as this, work much better than ones that show a 9 year extrapolation. People can get their heads round 36 kittens 14 months later, where a gazillion kittens 9 years later is as good as meaningless.
- Take photos of everything you do and post them on social media and your web pages.
Barriers to Communication
Couple of great articles:
- Barriers to Effective Communication from Skills You Need
- Recognise and avoid communication danger signs - written for families, equally relevant here
Don’t ASS U ME
Assuming makes an ASS of U and Me
Don't make assumptions about the individual, their mood, the context, meeting or anything else before you engage in communication - your assumptions will have an effect. Be as open minded as you can be.
Taking all the above into consideration, there are different issues to keep in mind when working with specific groups and individuals.
- Basically: Take a Deep Breath, Be Nice, Understand Their Point of View, Be Nice, Think Before You Speak, Be Nice, Speak clearly and confidently
- Above all - you guessed it - Be Nice
Animal Welfare Individuals & Groups
Be Nice to:
- Your Organisation
- Other TNR & Welfare Groups
- Dog Wardens
- Garda Síochána
You're not going to agree on everything - but good relationships with everyone in animal welfare means you can do more for the animals - which is what it's all about. And don't forget to network - Share, Publicise, Social Events. It's Better Together.
Lots of information on Helping Cats & People Coexist here.
Be Nice to your vet staff - and especially so to your potential vet staff. We can't do TNR without them.
TNR groups and individuals need to make sure their vet staff understand the veterinary issues specific to TNR & feral cats: Handling Feral Cats, Surgery, Eartipping and Health & Welfare. They also need to be clear with vet staff about their policies regarding treatement, euthansia and killing. And good relations with vets ensure reduced fees for welfare work, and opportunities to introduce subsidised neutering schemes.
- The best source of information on TNR and Vet Practices is Limerick Feral Cats' Manual for Veterinary Nurses
- Our Veterinary TNR information pages are in production - you will find information there, just not everything planned.
- Eartipping Factsheet
- Lots of info on working with vets here.
Be Nice. Srsly.
Information on Community Relations here.
Always Be Safe
Don't take risks with your own, or others', personal safety in interactions. Go with your instincts, trust your natural warning system and leave any situation immediately if you are at all worried that you are at risk.
- How to Recognise Imminent Danger - interesting article aimed at life in general, but very relevant here.
Prevention Better Than Cure
Just like neutering the first stray that turns up is better than neutering a colony that results from not neutering, sucking it up is miles easier in the long run than mending a fall out that happens because you lost your temper.
- Stick to the Point
- Act as if …
- Ask, Don’t Tell
The End Does Not Justify the Means
Lots of information on Working with Caregivers here.
We also work with The Media, Funders, Legislators. Be Nice.
- from Alley Cat Allies - How to Resolve Issues about Cats with Others
- from Skills You Need - Conflict Resolution
- from HelpGuide - Conflict Resolution Skills
- Facebook Promotion Tips for Animal Rescue Groups and Shelters - really excellent guide
- Social Media 101 for Shelters and Rescue Groups
And There's More!
- Further Reading - I'd expect anyone attending the training session to be interested in most of the list!
- CATalyst - an Irish TNR networking project
- International Cat Care - UK gurus
- Alley Cats Allies - USA gurus
- Talking TNR Organisers & Participants:
- See also our Useful Links pages