Monday, October 26, 2009

Bringing Calm to some Frightened Cats at Social Tees

We have gotten a lot of new kittens in Social Tees shelter lately. Some arrive already-socialized, but there was a group of three (two tabby and one black) and then one grey and white cat who arrived very terrified, with their eyes wide open and huddling at the back of the cage. They all seem to be at least semi-feral. The grey and white one was the most extreme case, I think. Even getting him out of his carrier was difficult, as he was so fearful of being handled. The first day I worked with him, I just did some little circles on his head with a painbrush with a fairly long handle, so I could keep some distance between him and me. He hissed and growled at first but settled down a bit as I worked. The next day, the other two kittens in his cage were adopted so today he was by himself in his cage, which made it easier for me to work on him. Sometimes if one or two cats are friendly and the other is huddled at the back of the cage, it is a challenge to work on the scared one without the friendly ones trying to jump out!

So today I decided to try to touch him directly with my hand. I spoke to him quietly, and started out with some very light, small raccoon touches on his head and around the back of his neck. He was hissing and a little growly at first, but as I continued, he slowly and very gradually began to settle down. The back of the neck can really be a key place, sometimes you can beel an animal let go there and then feel its breath and body begin to relax. After a while, I was able to start working in some raccoon touches around the outside of his mouth, some strokes on his ears and eventually some clouded leopard touches down his body. He still felt tense, so next I began to do some very light raccoon touches on his forehead right above and in between his eyes. He finally really began to grow calmer and his eyes went from the wide-open scared look to sleepy and nearly closed. I gave him a break and came back to him after working on the other kittens and the next time I approached him, he was not so scared and more easily settled back to where I had left him before. I had a similar experience with the little group of three kittens, who were initially very frozen-feeling as they clumped together in the back of the cage.
The black kitten growled at first and hissed. I alternated between him and the other two kittens, working on their heads, mouths, ears, and then some clouded leopard and abalone touches on their bodies. The mouth area, in my experience, has been a great area to do some raccoon touches on the kittens, quite often I feel a real shift after working there. I then gave those kittens a break and when I came back to them the second time, my friend and fellow volunteer Estee noticed that they were much more at ease when I approached them. I will be interested to see what happens when I see them next :)

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