Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I mentioned I would blog a bit on the National Feral Cat Summit. Conferences are often the only way I stay in touch with the countless small concentric circles of animal welfare and rescue. It's easy to get stuck in your own little box, concentrating on your own local efforts. To think: "my way is the right way...or the best way. I know. I'm experienced. Time has worked it out for me."

Going to a conference where everyone---everyone---is as involved, or more, in the same mission, forces you to shake your fur out a little and realize that there are some incredible humans out there, and that cat people aren't harassed, tired, isolated, slightly wild-eyed folks who despair that anyone cares.

They are intelligent, generous, interactive, and sharing. They don't necessarily "love cats more than people." They just don't commonly have the professional circle nearby their homes where they can express their appreciation for people with like beliefs. Get them in a crowd of other people where they can talk about their beliefs and concerns without worry of being viewed as slightly odd, and you've got a comfortable, wonderful group of professionals.

And they are professionals. You have people who are lobbying, education, presenting, designing, mediating, networking, etc. as part of their work with cats. You can see people's professional skills (after all, we DO have jobs, educations, families, religious beliefs, lives) shine through.

Even at animal welfare conferences, feral cat folk walk a bit warily. You can't be quite sure when the person next to you will be an advocate of TNR, neutral, violently opposed, or not even know what it is. You are always in teaching mode. To go to a conference where that wariness can be dropped and you can be fairly certain it's safe to turn to your neighbor and smile in understanding...well, that's a vacation all in itself.

Because so many people are operating independently, most have learned some special skill that may not have even occurred to the rest of us. "You do it that way? I never thought of that!" Even things you've seen on line are more fascinating in person.

For example, Laura Burn's Incredible Drop Trap is a gorgeous thing that can't be fully appreciated until you see it in front of you. The photo at Neighborhood Cats doesn't illustrate Laura's current model, which not only is sanded, with curved corners, and a beautiful warm gloss....it FOLDS. It's a good thing she had already sold all she had, or I would have walked out the door with one. Almost all cat handlers have had to pull out the screwdriver and handsaw (or power drill and table saw) to create something they couldn't buy in stores. Usually our results are serviceable but never quite as good as we wished. To see the work all done for you...and done so beautifully...well!

And IndyFeral had shelters for $40---get two and they are $30 bucks. Next time I drive through Indiana, I'm calling ahead and bringing my truck.

Neighborhood Cats and Alley Cat Allies both had booths. ACA had a brochure on Campus Cats that I picked up, since soon I'm going to have to face the fact that something needs to be arranged at our two local campuses.

Years ago, when I talked cat trapping with other people, it was all Havaharts, bait suggestions, etc. Now you are as likely to be talking about interacting with city officials, mediating with neighbors, managing disease, and other broader issues.

Because feral cat management is a very broad issue.

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