Rescue cats inspire mental health author to create tool for navigating change

The surprise arrival of the rescue cats L’il Fox and Ming Ming spurred psychologist Dianne Salvador to develop a simple tool to help people cope with change.

Important points:

  • Rescue cats inspire psychologist Dianne Salvador to combine psychology and cat behavior in one book
  • The book Cat Shapes is intended as a tool to direct change
  • Ms. Salvador has been helping doctors with mental health problems for more than a decade

Not previously a cat lover, Ms. Salvador helped doctors make changes and wrote books for the industry.

But the arrival of cats brought new insights into agility and transformation that inspired them to create a hands-on book for the wider community that combines photographs of cat behavior with psychological theory – cat shapes.

“Your talent for transformation [which is something we yearn for] has fired my imagination, “said Ms. Salvador.

“I was wondering if there were things we could learn from [the cats] about transformation. “

As the cats settled down in their new homes and went about their business, Ms. Salvador noticed their adaptability – one of the key elements in sustainable endeavor.

“Agility is a state of constant evolution, innovation and reinvention. It’s the ability to respond to changing demands, ”said Ms. Salvador.

Change and transition can often feel overwhelming, so Ms. Salvador deliberately made the book simple and accessible.

“[Readers] I don’t want a heavy tome of information that will further confuse you, “she said.

“They just want something simple, to find an easy way forward.”

After 20 years as a medical resident, Dianne Salvador has created a tool for the wider community to manage change.

ABC North Queensland: Nathalie Fernbach


Do like a cat to find a way forward

By observing her new feline protégés, Ms. Salvador identified 28 forms – or ways of approaching a situation – of cats.

Some of these forms were curiosity, courage, temporary breakdown, social engagement, intention, presence, and patience.

By choosing a shape as the “next step” when we are stuck, observing the outcome, and then choosing another option for the next step, we could begin creating a path through challenges.

Ms. Salvador said a powerful approach to an unfamiliar situation is to just show up.

“We are all afraid of the situations we might enter,” said Salvador.

“There is a tendency to avoid situations where fear is greater than our propensity to enter into that situation.

“I want to tell people – come over and see what happens.”

A tortoiseshell cat stands on a street, and its shadow appears larger next to it. Ms. Salvador said that when our fears grow large, a powerful first step is to just show up.

Delivered: Dianne Salvador


Another shape adapts to those around us.

This can be useful to adjust to an unfamiliar situation, but Ms. Salvador has admonished us to choose our company carefully.

“So that we don’t get drawn into things that could be destructive when we and our company have a number of constructive options that will guide us on a healthier path,” she said.

Shaping change positively

As change accelerates, we can make transitions easier and more productive with tools that help us manage change.

Ms. Salvador said that change could even lead to wonderful results.

“Working conditions are changing, health conditions are changing, and these changes can create new barriers,” she said.

“They can offer some really amazing possibilities too.”

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