I just spent the best weekend in Chicago at a conference devoted to all aspects of cat welfare, with 600 other cat advocates from places as far away as Hawaii and Alaska. (or advocats as the ASPCA called it) This sounds like maybe it could have been a little frightening, especially if we all focus on the crazy cat lady stereotype, who do exist, but are not usually the people who are working in rescue. We are crazy, just in a more overzealous, passionate kind of way.
The opening ceremony was emotional, as we all thought it would be. The speakers all had stories to share, with great imagery, such as the family cat being the go-between during the night, uniting a family in sleep with a touch to the nose with its nose. Another woman spoke of a Persian cat, Mrs. Beasly. Mrs. Beasly was the cat for her, the one that woke her up to animal rescue. She met Mrs. Beasly as a child, and Mrs. Beasly was a gorgeous spoiled Persian, who belonged to a friend. Mrs. Beasly had it good- for awhile. Through twists of fate, the her friend had to move to a farm with relatives, and could not bring Mrs. Beasly into the house with her. This fancy cat, who had only ever known love, warmth, and the indoors, was consigned to the barn, with the other barn cats, who had always been barn cats, and were that kind of semi feral cat tough. The speaker told of going to visit her friend, and watching the gradual decline of Mrs. Beasly; her once silky fur became matted and dull, she lost weight, and the life had gone out of her eyes. And then one day, Mrs. Beasly just was not there anymore, and the speaker never found out what happened to her. But she never forgot her, and with every cat she saves now, she honors the memory of that forgotten, mistreated Persian. She mentioned that back when that incident occured, people had different perspectives on animals, and the thought that this was not the way to treat a beloved housecat never entered into their thought processes. It was just a different time, one that we are moving past, a little bit at a time. We still have to work to change attitudes that cats do not belong outside, do need human care and love, that they are not totally independent, and do not really want to roam. But we are getting there, bit by bit.
The workshops I attended were fantastic! I took the creative, marketing track, all about how to promote your cats, dispel misconceptions, even how to "profile" the cats to match your adopters expectations. I was surrounded by such creative energy, that I was inspired, and now have a whole list of adoption promotions that should take me three years to finish!
I learned so much, and I know that the rest of my group, fellow P.A.W.S. of Michigan members and Wyandotte Animal Control Volunteers, had just as much fun, and also gained immensly from this forum. I made many contacts, and talked to many people about things that are working in their shelters and rescued. I feel fully armed with information that will get our cats adopted faster, and into the right homes for them, where they will be well treated and not returned, but instead have a loving home for the rest of their lives.