Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Building Trust

Hi everyone, sometimes I am presented with some challenging animals at Social Tees Shelter, and fortunately it is a no-kill shelter so I do have time to work with them for a number of sessions.
The black cat below has been in the shelter for about six weeks and is still quite shy, but it is becoming socialized little by little. Initially it would only lurk in the back of the cage up on the shelf. The cat's most recent cage mate who is a very dominant cat has taken over the back shelf quite often, so circumstances have encouraged this cat to hang out more in the front of the cage (luckily it is brave enough not to hide in the litter box behind, which many cats do at first). When I first begin to approach the cat with my hand, it still often looks scared but will not bite. I begin on its head. Simply stroking the ears, which are usually very tense, can help the cat to relax quite quickly, and it is easy to see this happening. I stroke the ears and do little raccoon touches on its forehead, all around its head and the back of its neck. I find that a lot of the shelter cats are very tense in the back of the neck, and working here can also help the rest of the body begin to relax. By this time, the cat will start stretching its body out and looking more comfortable. I still work in touches on its body intermittently, doing a few touches down the body and then going back to the head where it is more comfortable being touched. You can see below this lovely animal still has its eyes pretty wide but it is generally much more comfortable than it was when it arrived at the shelter.

Our lovely big grey boy Stuart has required very gradual, patient work as well. He still is a bit of a "split personality" cat, who can stretch out next to me comfortably on a table one moment and then swat me the next, so I have to be very watchful to keep both of us safe (him safe from escaping when I have him out of the cage and me safe from his claws). I have had to take him out of the cage recently again to give him eye and nose meds (he had a cold, got better, then got worse again). Fortunately, the second time, he has responded very quickly to the medication, but it has also been good for him to get used to being handled - taken in and out of the cage, placed on a table etc. Having him on the table is a great chance to do some TTouch on him. He really responds to TTouch on his ears and head, and these touches trigger more relaxation in his body, but again I have to be careful when doing circles or strokes on his body, as he can easily be over-stimulated and swat. Here he is pictured below - a very soulful boy. I'm glad he is getting better and look forward to working with him more.

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