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Education Talks with Barney

22 January 2012
Education Talks with Barney

Barney is a Russian-blue cross Cats Protection rescue from the Epsom, Ewell and District branch. We re-homed him almost six years ago while he was still very nervous and scared of people. Since then his confidence has improved so much he is now a Pets As Therapy visiting cat and we give regular talks for both Cats Protection and Pets As Therapy.

Barney is only one of 100 cats nationwide who, together with their owners, visit schools, hospitals, hospices and care homes. The charity provides people with the opportunity to stroke and cuddle an animal when they may be unable to have a pet of their own.

Over the last two years Barney has visited nearly 100 people at two Bupa nursing and EMI homes and regularly visits a blind lady who lives on her own in a sheltered housing unit.

In my role as Education Officer for our local CP branch we aim to increase awareness of the work done by Cats Protection in general and the Epsom, Ewell and District branch in particular.

Barney and I regularly give talks to local adult groups, like the WI, GirlGuiding, Scouts etc. These talks give people an opportunity to hear about the work we do at the local CP branch, including any volunteering vacancies, and key issues around cat welfare.

One of the key messages we get across is neutering. CP research has found that one female cat can be responsible for 20,000 offspring during her life. This is a staggering number and we are keen to spread the message that neutering your cat is the sensible thing to do. Many listeners are surprised to learn that, not only do un-neutered cats increase the number of unwanted cats in the UK, but also create problems for owners of domestic cats which they may encounter in gardens etc.

As well as some cute photos for our slides, NCC has a wealth of additional materials for speakers; including leaflets, posters, badges, face masks etc. These make it possible to engage a younger audience and keep their attention.

Many people we speak to are unaware of CP and don’t know the location of their local branch. Our talks encourage them to go to Cats Protection rather than buy a cat from a pet shop or offer some time to the branch. Many young people volunteer as part of the Duke of Edinburgh challenge and Cats Protection offers an excellent opportunity to meet the criteria. Branches are in desperate need of more volunteers and our talks allow us to publicise these vacancies.

One of the main challenges I have encountered is access to local schools. Although NCC provides material to speakers to fit in with the National Curriculum, the school day is already full and most schools can’t afford the time to invite us in to speak.

We therefore find most talks take place in the evening to adult groups. The notable exceptions are Girlguiding and Scouts, who both have an Friends To Animals badge and are keen to have a speaker from Cats Protection.

Although Barney isn’t keen on travelling, once he arrives at a venue, he’s always very keen to explore and allow small groups of people to stroke him. His fur is particularly soft and tactile and he is very friendly.