Compassion fatigue tips for people who love animals

compassion fatigue
Compassion fatigue can be common in the animal protection field, writes volunteer Celeste Morales.
Photo by LENblR / Getty Images

By Celeste Morales – Volunteer Writer

Whether you’re an animal advocate or you work or volunteer in the animal protection field, you may have experienced what traumatologist Charles Figley refers to as ‘the cost of caring’—better known as compassion fatigue. For those of us who love animals, the question of how to overcome grief and despair while animals continue to suffer can feel like an impossible feat.

Compassion fatigue is unfortunately a common experience for those in caring professions such as healthcare and social work. The animal protection field is a particularly interesting case, as those within it are often simultaneously witnessing trauma while trying to get others to care—it’s twice the emotional labour. As Bethany W. Adams writes:

Most people don’t consider animals killed in factory farms or wildlife displaced during development worthy of grief, or consider that dogs rescued from meat farms or puppy mills might need special care to manage their trauma. Because the emotional impacts of working with animals aren’t in the public consciousness, animal professionals might question their feelings’ validity or struggle to share the realities of their work.

Bethany W. Adams

Compartmentalizing our emotions, experiences, and feelings, becomes a coping mechanism—and honestly, it’s an important one. But, it’s necessary to have healthy ways to seek comfort and a path forward during times of compassion fatigue.

The first step is the most basic—it’s essential to pause and recognize your feelings, acknowledge that they are valid, and try not to engage in self-gaslighting!

Then, it’s important to process your emotions, whether that be through writing or talking with someone you trust. Seek support—talking with a counsellor or others who might have experienced similar feelings (like a co-worker or peer) can be really helpful. If you work in the animal protection sector, you may even consider setting up ‘debriefs’ with a trusted co-worker each month—whether it’s a phone call, a meeting, or a coffee chat, it’s comforting to have a safe space dedicated to processing emotions together.

You might also want to consider having a ‘safety plan’ to lean on in times of intense emotion. This can look having a few steps written down to follow in these moments that will bring you comfort. For example, going for a walk outside, calling a friend, watching a comfort show, or practicing yoga.

Celeste Morales

It’s essential to remember that our compassion is also what drives us to keep advocating for what we believe in, and that there are so many compassionate humans out there committed to the same things you are. We are not alone, and we are actively making a difference—lean on this to stay hopeful when compassion fatigue rears itself.

It’s also important to seek out feelings of unity and togetherness to combat compassion fatigue. Continue to find ways to participate in causes you’re passionate about, and connect with other like-minded advocates through volunteering, social media, hobby clubs, etc.

Finally—remember that it’s okay to take a break, whatever that looks like for you. It’s really difficult to care for others when you yourself are not feeling cared for. It’s okay to stop scrolling, to turn on Do Not Disturb, to take time off, to practice self-care, and to ask for help.

Celeste Morales is a volunteer with The Fur-Bearers and holds a BA and MA in sociology; she has worked in the human and animal well-being space for several years.

Find Support

You can find mental health supports in Canada at the following links:

Government of Canada: Mental Health support page

Canadian Mental Health Association: Mental Health page

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Help and information

Help Make A Difference

Join The Fur-Bearers today and help us protect fur-bearing animals in the wild and confinement. To become a monthly donor (for as little as $10/month – the cost of two lattes) please click here and help us save lives today. Your donation is tax-deductible.


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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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