Evidence-based Behaviour Change

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Categories: Animal Welfare

RSPCA: Cat Neutering

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How can we address the issue of cat overpopulation by encouraging responsible ownership?

The RSPCA, along with other cat welfare charities, has been running educational programmes and operational initiatives to encourage owners to neuter their cats for many years. Free neutering vouchers are provided via the RSPCA’s inspectorate and branches to those in need, of which redemption is currently at around 50 per cent.

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Collaborative Change… with cats!

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As the principles and processes behind Collaborative Change® have become more seasoned, we’re being invited to apply the approach to an increasingly diverse range of issues. As passionate social changemakers, this takes us on some exhilarating journeys, keeping our perspectives fresh and energies well-stocked.

So, shortly after touching down on dry land after a stint in the North Sea, we embarked on a collaboration with animal welfare charity, the RSPCA, to address the issue feline overpopulation in the UK! On the face of it, you couldn’t get much more of a radical departure, but in reality it’s our foundational values, principles and concepts driving the work.

The original challenge was framed as research to inform a national communications strategy that would promote cat neutering amongst the UK owner population. Again, we’re lucky enough to be working with an extremely open-minded client who has allowed us to zoom out and get some focus on the bigger, system-wide picture, before zooming in again to dive more deeply into the behavioural specifics of a particular area.

In order to balance the tension between the granularity of a community-level approach and the broad, flexible principles of a national strategy, we developed what we call a double funnel methodology. Essentially this means a triangulated research approach that establishes statistical baselines and broad themes at a national level, before gradually becoming more and more localised through iterative qualitative and potentially co-creation phases. Based on this we expect to be able to output an overarching national strategy that is implemented locally based on a test-and-tweak approach to broad principles.

Based on the systems thinking at the early stages, we’ve galvanised a multi-agency working group of RSPCA representatives, other larger animal welfare charities and smaller localised independents. After running an initial workshop that helped us further refine the framework for the project, we established a wiki that will enable ongoing collaboration and interaction between the wider group.

Interestingly, as well as working on segmenting the owner population, we are also working to segment the cat population to more accurately model the population to arrive at an informed decision on where greatest impact can be made. So for instance, the age of a cat when neutered, its gender, pedigree vs moggy etc are all variables determine the impact of neutering on the feline population.

Treatment of animals is widely regarded as a barometer for the morality of the human community that keeps them. Extending this principle further, the insights into human motivation and behaviour inter-species relationships make manifest are proving enlightening to say the least. This is a fascinating project that will become even more intriguing as we move through the more qualitative phases.

> Read an update on the project

 


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