TNRM – more than just sterilisation

What TNRM? What commitment does it require? How much effort TNRM in your neighbourhood requires depends on the situation and what or how much is needed to stabilise the cat population.

But really, your contribution should be at a level you can manage (as you’ll see from the blog post by Dawn that I appended). In our group, there’s one very dynamic grrl who helps mediate and offers to help transport cats for sterilisation or vet visits. She doesn’t do the full TNRM herself as she felt she couldn’t commit to regular feeding routines etc, but it doesn’t lessen her contributions or cheapen her efforts, does it?

TNRM got a mental airing in my head as someone contacted us and said she wanted to send some kittens she saw at a certain place to us as she doesn’t have the cash to sterilise them. I responded to tell her that we don’t have the resources to help her – our own TNRM and rescue efforts are already stretching our resources to the limit – and also asked why did she want the kittens sent to us.

Instead, as I did this wonderful lady who wanted to start TNRM in her condo, I asked her to contact CWS to see if there are caregivers there already doing TNRM or at least work with CWS to get the kittens and their mother sterilised.

I also told the person who contacted us about the kittens that she should not be so hasty about removing the kittens. For one, their mother’s there. For another, she need to know what she wants to do, and understand what the implications are. For example, if she wants to rehome them, she needs to consider if their temperaments are suitable first. Of course, there’s the question of boarding/fostering, screening adopters, etc. I told her whatever her decision, it will invariably involve some money.

To cut a long story short, we corresponded a bit more, and I realised she doesn’t have a good understanding of what TNRM is. So I sent her the link to a TNRM explanation post on Dawn’s blog. She then responded to say she realised she cannot commit to TNRM. I in turn responded to tell her that contacting CWS doesn’t mean she’s obliged to do TNRM, or at least not the full suite of TNRM. She can get involved and help in other ways – eg TNRM matters: mediation etc, CWS business: roadshows etc.

As for the cats, even if she just sterilise the mother and her kittens, the benefits to them is many-fold: health, life, some security against complaints, and it will help other cats there who are sterilised too. In the end, she said she’ll contact CWS, and that she’ll help cats in the way she’s done before, by donating to some catteries she know.

Here’s the whole of Dawn’s post explaining TNRM for ref. We are, ourselves, very mindful about overreaching our limits and burnout.

Monday, September 11, 2006

TNRM – more than just sterilisation

When I first volunteered with CWS, I met a caregiver. She was quite unfriendly and distant, and I wondered why. In the years since, I’ve gotten to know her quite well and her attitude has changed completely. She’s very friendly and helpful. I wondered about the change in demeanour but it soon occured to me why that was.

The thing is the caregiver had seen too many people come and go. Many people offered, with the best of intentions, to try and help out. Soon though, other things in life popped up, and they faded from the scene. Others just burnt out completely and gave up helping.

The reason I bring this up is that I’ve noticed a new trend – that some people are asking others to sterilise more and faster.

There are several reasons why this could backfire – firstly, and this is the most important thing I tell anyone who comes for our workshop, everyone has limits. It’s much better to do a small area and do it really, really well, rather than to do a few areas and do a bad job in every single area. And if you do a few areas, chances are you ARE going to a bad job. One caregiver I know who is amazing, started sterilising so many areas, that she ended up having to give them up one by one, because the feeders there didn’t want to do look after the cats after. She couldn’t handle the complaints the town council kept throwing her and the feeders there didn’t want to help.

And this brings me to reason number two : if you see people feeding in the area, the best thing you can do is to make THEM responsible. If not, you are just going to end up doing everything for them. You can keep sterilising, and a number of brave souls have done so, but this doesn’t encourage the feeders in the area to sterilise OR manage the cats. After all, you’re there to do it – so why bother sterilising? Soon it won’t just be the sterilising, it’ll be the supplying of food, collecting the cats when they are caught, taking the cats to the vet if they’re sick, etc.

Which leads to reason number three : Sterilisation is just the first step but Management is the glue that is going to hold your programme together. That’s why it’s called TNRM. Sterilisation is very important, but if you don’t handle complaints, let the town council know that you’re there and basically be responsible managing the cats, you won’t HAVE any cats left – they’re going to be removed when the next complaint comes in. And the next complaint IS going to come in, because sterilisation, while it lessens complaints, doesn’t make them go away. This is because most complaints have to do with the people behaving irresponsibly (leaving food around, letting their pets out)- not the cats.

Everyone has a different role to play. Some people are excellent trappers, some people are fantastic mediators (like the caregiver in AMK I mentioned today). Some people can do a very good job feeding responsibly – work as a team and feed off each others’ strengths. Some people who are great trappers are some of the worst mediators or vice versa. Do what you’re good at within the team. If you are working alone, then limit your area, and try and do a bit of each aspect of TNRM. Make sure you sterilise the colony you feed, and then let whomever is in charge know you are there so you can handle complaints. Don’t try and over-extend unless you are very sure you can cope. Even one block is better than nothing – and one block done well, is better than five blocks done badly.

The last reason is burnout – I have seen many people completely burnout. They tried to do everything and in the end, they just could not cope. Try sterilising and running around every night for three months – still do-able. Now try doing that for the next three years, or the next thirty. These are far better people then I’ll ever be who burnt out and I can see how doing too much exhausted them. One of them, an ex-comm member, doesn’t want to even hear the word ‘cat’ mentioned to her anymore. She was so tired from dealing with the feeders that she gave up helping altogether – and she was one of those running around every night for literally years. It wasn’t so much the cats – it was dealing with the feeders who wanted her to do everything that ultimately tired her out.

So do what you can – and do it within your own limits. Take some time out for yourself. This isn’t a 100 metre dash – this is a marathon you’re likely to be running for the next few years of your life at least. Watch a movie, have dinner with friends. Those few hours you take out, could make you a more productive individual working for the cats.

posted by Dawn @ 3:14 PM


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