Friday, March 28, 2008

Followup on man with who wants cats removed

It seems that a lot of people have read the post on the man threatening to call pest control on STOMP by this point, and unfortunately it has degenerated at this point into a lot of name calling and unbecoming comments.

Eskywan has been in contact with the complainant, and it seems that the complainant has told Eskywan that he does not want the cats killed. According to him, he had asked initially for the cats to be moved out of the carpark. I have to add that I did not correspond with him and this was mentioned by Eskywan but it seems that he is willing to have someone mediate. Thanks to Eskywan for offering to do it.

Now I don't know what happened to the feeder who may have a good reason why the cats cannot be moved from this block. However none of this was shown on the video - perhaps the feeder has mentioned all this earlier. I also have no idea whom the feeder is.

In general however, I do think there is often a big disconnect when complainants and feeders speak about issues like this. For example, when complainants come up and ask why you have to feed the cats, they are often working on the basis of a lot of misconceptions. They may think that by feeding the cats, you are bringing more cats into the estate. They may think that this will lead to littering because there will be food all over. Many of them have no idea that the cats are sterilised. Many people I have spoken with have never heard of the vacuum effect (and that includes feeders).

Now this is where a good caregiver can come in and help make the situation better. How? By explaining and tackling the complaints head on. For example, if someone asks you why you are feeding the cats - explain. Now the complainant may be cross, angry or even aggressive, but if you keep your cool, and explain, most of the time, it does work because they will then understand what you are doing.

What often happens instead (and here I'm not referring specifically to this case), is that feeders get defensive, which is understandable. However it does nothing to help the situation. Statements like I've fed the cats X number of years, or I've sterilised all the cats here often mean nothing to the complainants. Certainly bringing God or deities into it is no help either - everyone has different conceptions of what God is to them, not to mention that there are a number of people who are atheists.

So here's the most important thing - listen to what the complaint is actually about. If the complainant is telling you that the issue is that the cats are scratching the cars, or that there is defecation outside their door, then your telling them that the cats are sterilised is of absolutely no use. How does it help the complainant with their problem at all? The complainant doesn't care if the cats are sterilised or not (is a sterilised cat less likely to defecate outside your door?). They don't care that you have fed them for X number of years, or how many hours you spend out there, or how much money you spend every month feeding and sterilising the cats. What they do care about is that they have an issue, and they're asking you for help to solve it.

As a caregiver, you now have a very important role - you can make the situation much better and safer for the cats, or you can make it much, much worse. If you try and offer constructive solutions to the problems, you'll find that most complainants are actually quite happy to hear them. You'll be surprised - sometimes the fact that you are willing to offer, even if there is no quick fix solution can do much to get the complainant to work with you.

On the other hand, if you tell them irrelevant details (and a general rule of thumb - anything that has to do with you is probably irrelevant), they may not see a way out of their problem. This causes them to view YOU as the issue now as well - because they may mistakenly believe that it is your fault that there are cats in the estate in the first place.

Think of it this way. In an examination, someone may ask you for example, to explain how plants help to prevent soil erosion. You can give a great essay on photosynthesis, and why plants are important to human life. You're still going to get an F because you didn't answer the question. This is just like an exam - but here the grade is whether the cats get to live or not.

Focus on threes Cs : Cats, Complaint and Calm. By this I mean, remember that it is about the cats. You may not like the complainant, you may think he or she has a bad attitude or is annoying. That doesn't matter because it is the cats' lives are at stake. If you handle it well, then you get rid of a complaint and may even gain a potential ally. Handle it badly and the cats get rounded up and killed.

Secondly, focus on the Complaint - why is it happening? How can you work with the complainant to make sure that it doesn't happen again? Are the cats the real reason behind the complaint? If so (and in most cases they aren't), then how do you stop it from happening again? If not, can you explain to the complainant why they are not the reason for the annoyance?

Thirdly, stay calm. If you are calm, you're better able to control the situation. If the complainant is rude or intimidating, then it only goes to show you in a better light. If you lose your cool, then you may end up saying things that put you in a bad light. Insulting the complainant is certainly not going to make the complainant more willing to work with you.

Last of all, remember, the complainant is not a mind reader. Most people know very little about cats. There are and always will be a minority of complainants who do not want the cats there no matter what. The rest however are generally people who don't understand why there are cats there in the first place. Most complainants I have spoken with, do not want the cats killed. A few have told me at the beginning that they did want them removed and killed, but usually they have clarified that they were extremely frustrated and spoke in anger but now understood the situation better. Anger is something I am sure we can all appreciate - the anger of complainants, the anger of caregivers who fear the cats are going to be killed. Let's just try and channel that anger into something more constructive for everyone - cats, caregivers and complainants alike.


calsifer said...

Great exposition, Dawn!

Anonymous said...

Very well explained.

Dawn said...

Thanks Calsifer and Anonymous :)