Sunday, March 18, 2012
Less is More with Val
Val is a beautiful grey tabby who I've been working with at BARC Shelter in Brooklyn. She has been returned a couple of times. She can be very affectionate, but in the middle of being affectionate she can suddenly flip and scratch a person very hard.
I have dealt with quite a few cats that have tendencies in this direction, and it is most helpful to work with them just a very little bit at a time, with frequent breaks. Usually after quietly and diligently working in this way, the cat can little by little have contact for longer periods of time, but it is always important to stay in the moment with them and watch their body language and to stop and give them a break the minute you even start to see a movement which shows they are getting overstimulated (tail twitching, head pulling back, eyes getting big, etc).
To be on the very safe side, I have been primarily working with Val through the bars of her cage. I wait for her to come to me, then do a few slow zigzag TTouches, chimp TTouches or llama TTouches as she rubs against the bars of the cage, or some raccoon TTouches on her head when her head is close to the bars. The chimp and llama TTouches use the back surfaces of the fingers, so those are less stimulating types of TTouches.
I have also been offering her Reiki from just outside her cage, and this is extremely calming to her . Often I will start out by doing this, as this can help to get her in a calmer mode, but other times I start out with some TTouches. I follow my intuition as to what feels right at that time. It is so important not to get stuck in any one approach with an animal, but to really be in the moment with them and get a sense of what feels right for them.
I keep the contact very short with Val for now. I just do a few TTouches, wait a minute for her to come back to me, then try a little more, then maybe stop and just send her Reiki for a little bit, maybe speaking to her very gently. I have found she is especially responsive to little raccoon TTouches on her forehead area. This is an area that I have often found to be extremely calming for cats who are ramped up or nervous. And little by little she has started to recognize these TTouches on her head, and will lay down and settle into them more and more, so I have been able to work with her in this way for longer and longer periods (reaching my fingers through the bars of the cage to do this).
Most recently, I have been opening her cage very slightly, doing a few TTouches with her there, then closing the cage again, always keeping this period short, just a few seconds at a time for now.
I have been making Bach Flower remedies for her, and the remedies seem to be helping. At the moment, to be on the safe side, only a limited number of other experienced people are working with her, including long-time BARC volunteer Betty, who recently took a TTouch workshop with Edie Jane (which I assisted). Betty has been having good sessions with Val using a long-handled paintbrush to make contact with her.
Another thing which I think is of vast importance is positive visualization. If an animal has exhibited aggressive behavior, sometimes it is hard for people to get out of their head the negative pictures that they have about the animal. So it is really important to start putting in your head images of the animal behaving in a positive way - of the animal being calm, of the animal responding positively to touch, maybe pushing their head into your hand, etc.
So here's to you Val, sending you much love and light, and look forward to seeing you soon.