Thursday, May 26, 2011

TTouch Workshop with the Homeless Cat Network

Above, left to right: Cookie, Marilynn (top center), Sue (bottom center), me

About a year ago, on a trip to the SF Bay Area, thanks to a conversation I had with Holly at the TTouch office, I connected with Cookie of the Homeless Cat Network. I went with my mother and sister out there to visit the shelter, which is so well laid-out and so well taken care of by the dedicated people who volunteer their time there, taking care of the cats in a variety of ways, as well as helping to socialize them. A number of the volunteers had learned some TTouch, and some of them practice Reiki, which is so helpful in making the cats more at ease, and more adoptable, as well.

The next time I was out there, I gave Cookie a private TTouch lesson, showing her some of the newer TTouches that she had never learned. Some time after that, Cookie and I spoke about me doing a mini-Ttouch workshop there, which would serve as a refresher course for some, and an introduction for others. I had the pleasure of doing this workshop this month, on a lovely spring day which, festively enough, was also the day of the SF Bay to Breakers race, so I also had the fun of seeing people in various costumes as I traveled to and from the workshop.

Marilynn, a long-time volunteer at the shelter, was kind enough to pick me up and drop me off at the BART station - thanks Marilynn!

I arrived at the shelter with my bag of tools, as well as some photos, before and after, of some of the shelter cats who I have worked with. The cats are housed in large condos (see below), and have the opportunity (unless they have a health issue or other factor which requires isolation), in rotating shifts, to roam in the middle section of the shelter as well. It is wonderful for the cats to have this amount of space.

I was greeted with so much warmth and hospitality by Cookie, Marilynn and the rest of the group. The group was comprised of volunteers at the shelter, plus a vet who works with the shelter, who had already taken a workshop in TTouch and has been practicing TTouch on many of her patients. It was wonderful to hear of a vet using this work in her practice.

Below: Marshmellow, who has really benefited from TTouch at the shelter

Part of the time I demonstrated on a couple of the willing cats there – Jade (below) and Hansel – and some of the time I demonstrated on a stuffed animal, which can be easier to use once I got more in-depth about how to do each TTouch.

Jade is a super-friendly black and white cat there, who seemed to particularly settle with some of the TTouches around the mouth and forehead, while Hansel responded more to the TTouches on the body. I emphasized how fluid we need to be in our thinking when we work on these animals, as each one is so individual as to what it will respond to.

Below: Me with Jade doing Abalone TTouch, a circular, calming touch using the whole surface of the hand

Two very calming TTouches for a shy animal are the abalone TTouch (above) and the llama TTouch (below). Abalone TTouch is a circular TTouch using the whole surface of the front of the hand, and llama TTouch uses the backs of the fingers. Back surfaces of the hand are less threatening than front surfaces, and the abalone TTouch is soothing as it uses a larger surface, which disperses the intensity of the touch.

Raccoon TTouches (below) are also extremely useful, especially for smaller areas of the animal, such as the forehead, the paws, the mouth, etc.

The class was very focused and engaged, and everyone had such interesting questions which helped ME to think of some new uses for the TTouches, etc. Below you see Marilynn (with the blue T-shirt) asking a question about the belly lift. She wanted to know if this would be helpful in getting a cat more comfortable being touched on the belly in a gentle way so when you go to pick the cat up, it won't be such a new or scary sensation. Great observation!

I went around to each person to see how they were doing the basic clouded leopard TTouch, to make sure the pressure wasn't too hard, that the skin was being pushed around in a circle (instead of the fingers sliding over the skin), etc.

After a break and some tasty treats (thanks to all who brought them!) we continued our discussion about TTouches, as well as some of the tools which are especially useful for shelter cats, to get them accustomed to being touched in a non-threatening way. For cats, we use tools with a variety of textures and lengths, such as dowels with an ace bandage at the end, paintbrushes, back scratchers, hair brushes, toothbrushes, makeup brushes, barbeque brushes, feathers, etc. Cats are very particular and very different from each other in their preferences of textures that they prefer, as well as where and how it is best to first make contact, so it can take some experimentation to find out what works best.
Below is a photo of Lois with her stuffed kitty, and on the table to the left you see a few of the many tools I brought for people to see and try out.

After this, we tried out some of the TTouches on the cats.

Below is Gretel, who I hear has come a long way, but she is still a shy girl with new people. I am sure that with more of the volunteers now able to do TTouch with her, it will help her continue to come out of her shell.

Here I am with Spot, a very sweet cat, who enjoyed some ear strokes, which can help a cat get very comfortable as there are many acupressure points in the ear.

Below is Stella doing TTouch with Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes came to the shelter recently, and I have heard since the workshop that TTouch has really been helping her to feel at ease.

I think everyone was pretty worn out by the end of the day, as you see by the pic of Johnny and Mr. Meow napping below :)

It was such a wonderful, enthusiastic group. We got some very lively discussions going, and everyone did a great job!

I went out to dinner after the workshop with the four women in the picture below (Cookie, Marilynn, Sue and Lynn), thanks for treating me! and we continued our discussion about TTouch, cats, and other related topics.

Thanks so much to all of you for making this a fantastic experience. And especially thanks to Cookie, who made this happen, and made it happen in such a first-class and friendly way. I look forward to working with Homeless Cat Network again soon!

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