Sunday, June 30, 2013

If At First You Don't Succeed... Tiger Lily Teaches Me What She Needs to Feel Safe

Tiger Lily is a gorgeous grey tabby with a very distinctive face.  She is one of the cats from the Picasso Veterinary Fund who I have been working with through Tavi and Friends and the Mayor's Alliance.

She arrived at the holding space extremely stressed, growling and swatting at anyone who tried to approach her.  She proved to be a challenge for me, as well, as I tried tool after tool to try to calm her.  Above is a picture of her fairly soon after she arrived, looking very wary indeed.

I tried a feather, various types of paintbrushes, a back scratcher, etc, and mostly she seemed irritated if I tried to touch her with the tools, even if I went slowly and quietly.  After a while, I tried a variation on a technique which I used successfully with my own cat Emmylou when she arrived as a feral cat at BARC.  I stroked slightly in front of her whiskers with a paintbrush, very slowly, talking to her in a very quiet voice.  I could do this just a very little bit at a time with her.

I would always send her Reiki from where I was standing outside the cage, and speak to her calmly.

Sometimes when she seemed to start to get comfortable, she would start rolling on her back and rubbing against the floor of the cage, looking like she wanted to play.  Which is what finally led me to what I did next with her.

As Tiger Lily is a young cat, and seemed to want to play, I tried playing with her with a string toy, and then every once in a while I would stroke her with the stick part of the string toy.  This was the most successful contact I had with her so far, and it was after these sessions which you see in the videos above and below that she started to appear much more comfortable.

She would be at the front of the cage instead of at the back or up on a shelf in the cage, and when I approached the cage, she looked as though she wanted to play with me.  Her whole facial expression and body posture changed, as you can see in the photos below.

After a number of sessions with the TTouch and play concept, she would still sometimes get overstimulated.  I felt like I needed to change up what we were doing, and decided I needed to spend some very quiet time with her.  I began to just sit with her with the cage door open, sending her Reiki energy from where I was sitting.
She grew more and more comfortable with me, and one day she came up to me and licked my arm! I stayed perfectly still, as I didn't want to startle her.
Last week when I was at the space, when I opened the door of the cage, she started peering outside the cage into the room.  And finally, out she came!  I think this may be the first time she has ventured out of her cage in her time at the space. 
I got off the chair where I had been sitting, and crouched on the floor. At times I would dangle a string toy to see if she wanted to play, but she was more interested in sniffing around.
She ended up settling on the chair I had been sitting on, as you see below.  She started rolling on her back and on her side, stretching and ended up settling there for a while.  I just stayed pretty still, speaking to her in a quiet voice, telling her what a good girl she was and telling her I loved her very much. 
When she had enough, she went back into the cage.  This had been a really big step for her!
She kept looking at me, maybe wondering if I would let her out again, but I wanted to stop on a positive note, so just told her she was such a good girl, and that I would be back soon and we would do this again :)
It is a lesson the animals tell me so clearly each time:  we really need to listen to what they are comfortable with, and keep our minds and hearts open so that we can hear them and so that we can keep our creative side of our brain working so we can keep trying new approaches that we may never have thought of before.  Sometimes it is just a matter of sitting and being truly quiet with an animal, to give them that time and space they need in order to start to trust us.
Love you Tiger Lily! Can't wait to see you again! xo

1 comment:

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