An ordinary moment can start an extraordinary movement. In 2011, a fellow rescuer asked Nancy Wahl to help increase the number of people in their community involved with Trap-Neuter-Release. The two decided to hold a class and suddenly with two ladies had several other rescuers wanting to be involved and to start a coalition.
The Community Cat Coalition is a 501 (c) 3 located in the Pacific Northwest and dedicated to helping community cats through education and support of local shelters and independent rescuers. It is an all volunteer organization with no paid staff and no shelter, with 100% of the donated funds going to community cats.
Nancy served as the president of the Community Cat Coalition for its first three years. Since resigning from that role, she has helped in several ways: teaching/assisting with teaching classes, mentoring, answering the CCC email, writing Facebook stories as a way to educate the public, and helping members with medical issues. In addition, she has instigated and participated in several group trappings. I first corresponded with Nancy after electing to foster a potentially feral kitten, whom I eventually placed into an adoptive home.
ALLISON: Share your background with cats.
NANCY: I’ve always had cats in my life. Our family always had one or two as pets, but unfortunately during my early childhood (60 years ago) they were not spayed or neutered. By the time I was in high school though, mom had made spaying a requirement, and I’ve never had a reproducing cat since then! I always helped any cat in need, but didn’t actively start doing rescue until I was 40 years old (I’m 65 now). I began doing TNR (trap, neuter, return) on my own, but gradually met and began networking with other independent rescuers.
ALLISON: What other animal welfare groups have you been involved with?
NANCY: In the past I was a volunteer for Purrfect Pals, but have not actively joined any other group. I’m an independent rescuer, but work closely with our member organizations (Pasado’s Safe Haven, MEOW Cat Rescue, South County Cats), as well as our wonderful spay/neuter organizations (Feral Cat Spay Neuter Project and NOAH). Our area is remarkable in that we have both these groups offering free spay/neuter for free roaming cats who are being ear tipped—and they get free rabies vaccinations.
ALLISON: I love your Facebook posts! When did you start writing them?
NANCY: I think the Facebook site has been up for seven years, and I’ve been writing since the start. I was not so wordy in the beginning, but since we use it as an educational resource I find it hard to minimize. I will say though there are others who find them too long. In January, I’m stepping back from this, and there may well be a format change.
ALLISON: How do you decide what to write?
NANCY: I’m a talker, so it’s not hard for me to just sit down and write. I ask the CCC members to share their stories and experiences and I turn them into posts. There is always something to be learned, in every experience. Many of my first years postings came from my own experiences as well.
ALLISON: What are a few memorable responses to your Facebook posts?
NANCY: I love that people relate to so many; we get a lot of comments saying things like “YES! You GET it!” Rescuers in general are often out of sight, out of mind. The big flashy sites get the attention and we’ve had some say we need to use more cute kitten pictures to get more attention, but those with whom we are working to connect are drawn to the real stories. Our stories are all real.
ALLISON: Why are are your Facebook posts so important?
NANCY: The other best response is when we share something that is totally brand new to many. Many people had not heard of fever coat or didn’t understand why tom cats have big cheeks. And recently we did a post about a 13 week old kitten who was in heat—while many knew this could happen, most were horrified. It had a post reach of over 100,000 and over 1,000 shares, which for our small group is a lot. And THAT is what we work for—to educate and spread knowledge. If that post convinces one person to get those types of kittens spayed asap, we’ve won.I think I’ve answered that above too.
Education is the most important thing we can do. I stopped focusing on spending my life running 30-90 miles away from home to trap one to cats cats, and turned to trying to teach others how to do it and having them teach others how to do, so that in time trap-neuter-release will be common knowledge. “Give a man a fish…”
ALLISON: What advice would you give to others in this role?
NANCY: In my role as a cat rescuer, a volunteer with organizations, as an educator? In every aspect of life, I’d give the same advice: lead by example. Be kind, be caring, work to understand each other, network to solve the problems, and collaborate and cooperate.
There’s often a lot of infighting in rescue work, I think because it’s a passion-filled arena and when emotions are involved tempers flare. If we’d all just put our judgmental issues aside and work on working together, we’d be able to do so much more.
Support each other but also be sure to take care of yourself. Too many people get swallowed up by rescue and burn out. If you find yourself becoming angry or irritable, you need a break.
My mom had the best quote for me one time, when I was feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities. She said “Nancy, put your finger in that glass of water. Now pull it out. See the hole it left?”
No one is indispensable and if we disappear life will go on. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, WE will be the ones to suffer. And then we can’t help those we want to help!