Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cat in trees

Cat in trees, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I helped out with a mediation last week and mediated alongside a young lady who was a pleasure to work with. I was only carrying my compact so this isn't a good shot - sorry. The most interesting part of this mediation for me? The fact that while Singapore and the US are miles apart, people aren't all that different.

Fortunately the case seems to have been resolved for now (pending a meeting tomorrow), but I think one of the issues boiled down to trust, or the lack of it. As a result, the feeder didn't always tell everything to the people whose property the cats were on, and they in turn felt that they were being kept out of the loop. The end result? Misunderstanding and more distrust.

When you care for the cats, chances are that you may well run into someone whom you may not particularly like or trust, but whom you have to work with. This may include your town council, the management of the office or building where you feed, or even neighbours or property owners where the cats live or wander onto.

Whatever your feelings are about this person, or however justified those feelings may be, you basically have no choice - you NEED to work with the person or people involved.

Bear in mind that on the other hand, they often do NOT need to work with you. They can refuse to allow the cats to remain there, or to work with you. Some may demand the cats be trapped and removed. Worse, some may trap and send them to AVA or animal control , or call the town council without your even knowing about it.

So what do you do?

First of all, try and sit down and talk to the person and agree on certain guidelines. One of the issues that I think arises is that both sides may only have a vague idea of how this will play out and this gives rise to different expectations. Then when those expectations are not met, anger and/or disappointment sets in, and the situation deteriorates.

Second, hard as it may be, try and start anew. I remember a Town Council where the caregivers really did have justification for feeling that the town council had gone behind their backs and gone back on their word. Some of the caregivers always feared the TC would turn around and stab them in the back again. Some others were wary, but really tried in good faith to work with the officers involved. I would say that the second group was generally more successful. Mistrust usually just snowballs into more mistrust. There's a difference between being careful and being antagonistic - and usually people can tell.

Third, this doesn't mean you should not be careful. Decide how much information you are comfortable sharing, and how much you think the other party needs to know. If you think a person might go back on their word, then make sure you document everything. Get someone to go with you if you need to meet with them so you have a witness. If you speak with them on the phone, follow up with an email or a letter stating the contents of the conversation, and how they can get in touch with you. This will all stand you in good stead later on if there should be a dispute as to what happened.

Also make sure you keep good statistics with regards to your colony. Be sure you know how many cats you started out with, how many you sterilised, and how many you have now. Keep a tracking sheet - they are ALWAYS a good idea.

Finally, always be polite.

There will of course be some people who are just impossible to work with - but at least you will have tried your best. You may then have to consider possibly relocating the cats for example.


calsifer said...

This is so timely. Thanks! =)

yskat said...

Dawn, given your experience in mediation, you can probably broker a deal between the ASEAN governments and the JI :)

Dawn said...

Calsifer :)

yskat - I mediated with someone else on this occasion and she did a great job!

feralbecky said...

Thank you Dawn. It's clear that you know both cats AND people. Because cats live among people, there is no escaping interaction and communication with them! Hats off for job well done.

Dawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dawn said...

Thanks feralbecky - that means a lot especially coming from you!