Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TTouch at BARC Shelter: Ophelia

Ophelia is a lovely grey and white kitty at BARC shelter, thought to be maybe 3 yrs old, though she looks younger as she is a small cat. She was extremely fearful when she first arrived. She is currently quite playful and seems to seek contact, though often will swat if you try to touch her. I am constantly trying different tools with her to see what she responds to and what will be helpful to get closer to her. We now have some paintbrushes and a back scratcher or two around at the shelter, so other volunteers can try touching her with the tools as well. I have showed them how to use these tools in a very gentle way.
A few days ago, I was working with her with a wide, flat brush that looks like it is made for basting. She didn't seem to be so responsive to the brush any more, so I turned it around and tried touching her with the rounded other end of the brush, as you see in these pictures. The wood of the handle is varnished and very smooth. One of the places she most responds to being touched is under her chin, so I would start there.

Then I tried some circular TTouches around the top of her head and the outside of her mouth area. I very consciously slowed myself down, tried to let go of whatever notions I might have for the outcome.. Little by little she became more and more relaxed.

I would do a few TTouches or strokes at a time, then give her a break, then start again. She can get easily over-stimulated, so it is best in this case to just do a very little bit at a time.

Gradually, as I felt her relax, I wanted to see what would happen if I worked my finger down the handle of the brush and occasionally touch her with my finger. As you can see in these pictures, I am still holding the brush but am TTouching her with my finger, then I would go back to touching her with the brush handle. Keep in mind that all of these touches are done using a very light pressure, just enough to move the skin around in a circle and a quarter.

Funny, in the picture below she is looking straight at me!
A short bit after these pictures, she got quite sleepy and I was able to do TTouches around her head directly with my hand for quite a while. I feel that with continued work with the tools, shifting from one to another, then transitioning to the hand, gradually she will get more and more used to being touched with hands.

Many thanks, Ophelia, look forward to working with you again soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

TTouch and Reiki at BARC Shelter: Easy Does it with Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne is a very soulful-looking tabby kitty at BARC Shelter. He was given this name as he arrived with a very big clump of matted fur on his back. Of course, they took care of the mat, and his fur is all one length now :) He started out in the shelter as a bit shy, but friendly cat. But he has been through a few health issues, which I think made him feel a bit grumpy, so he started occasionally nipping. When this happens, people start to approach the cat with more fear, which can make the cat more fearful, and a negative dynamic or cycle can get set up. I wanted to see what I could do to try to get that dynamic to change around.

Initially I started doing some TTouches on him using very fitted long leather/kevlar gloves (made by ACES), so that I would not be afraid at all if he did decide to try to nip me. This went well for a while, and he was enjoying being TTouched. Then he seemed to be afraid of the gloves, so I wanted to try another way.

I tried briefly doing TTouch with a paintbrush or a back scratcher, I would actually suggest transitioning from the paintbrush or back scratcher to the hand at this point as a next step, but decided to take a little more risky approach (though, as you will see, it was done very gently and gradually, I didn't just stick my hand in there!!).

As I always do with the cats in the shelter, I stood sideways to his cage (head-on can be too overwhelming for most cats). I spoke gently to him, sending him some Reiki from outside his cage. Then I opened the cage.

I continued offering him Reiki energy from outside his cage, and told him I would wait til he showed me he was ready to be touched by putting his head out of the cage for TTouches. I was feeling that when someone stuck their hand inside his cage to touch him, that was a bit too scary for him at the moment, and could result in a nip.

So when he put his head outside the cage, I would do a few TTouches on his head, using the back of my hand (less intense feeling than front of hand), or even just the back of a finger or two. The minute I felt him start to pull his head back I would stop, then wait for him again.

He began to rub his head against the sides of the cage door, then eventually brought his head out again. I was continuing to send Reiki energy with my left hand, and would TTouch him with my right hand.

I also found that he was receptive to being TTouched with the back of my hand (llama TTouch), as shown above), while he was eating. Again, I would take my hand away the second I felt him move his head back or do any movement which felt it was leading up to being overstimulated. This all requires being EXTREMELY attuned to their body language. And, keep in mind, this was often just a few TTouches before I took my hand away.

After some days of trying this strategy, I am able to do TTouch with him for longer periods of time. I am still watching his expression and body language and will gently move my hand away if he moves his head back or does any other type of movement that signals overstimulation to me.

Now he realizes that he needs to signal to me that he is ready to be touched by putting his head outside of the cage. Usually he warms up to doing that by rubbing his head against the sides of the cage door.

I am continuing to primarily do TTouches using the back surface of my hand and fingers. I do the TTouches on the top of his head, his forehead, and if he turns sideways to me, I will do some llama TTouches (circular TTouches using the back of all the fingers) going down the side of his back.

He seems to be more comfortable in general, and now waits at the front of his cage for me to give him attention.

What a beautiful being he is! He has already come a very long way in a couple of weeks.

I know that with time and patience, he will continue to make progress and become more and more comfortable in general, and less apt to become overstimulated. Patience and a very quiet mind are SO essential when working with a cat of his very sensitive temperament.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

TTouch and Reiki at BARC: Light as a Feather with Quinn

Quinn is a big grey and white cat who has been at BARC for a while. He seems to crave contact, as he will often come to the front of his cage to say hello, but he easily gets frightened and will let you know he has had enough with a swat and a meow. I have been working with him very slowly, and also have given him a few Bach flower remedies, and I do see a change in him little by little. Just a little more trust, and a more relaxed look on his face more of the time. BARC staff member Vince, who takes care of the cat loft, recently told me that when he gives Quinn wet food, he can pet Quinn's whole body, which is so interesting, because at other times, that much contact seems too much.

I have tried using several tools with Quinn, which enable me to make contact with him from a short distance, so that gives both him and me a feeling of increased safety. I have found that Quinn responds best with me to TTouch circles and strokes using a long feather, as shown in these pictures. I purchase these at a stationery store which carries a lot of arts and crafts materials.

I also have been working with with my body oriented sideways to his cage, and I am on the side of his cage rather than the front, all of which makes the contact less threatening.

I start out by speaking to Quinn quietly, then let him sniff the feather, and usually start by doing gentle circles and strokes under his chin. He also responds to little circles and strokes around the outside of his mouth, around the top of his head and ears, and sometimes behind his neck. Occasionally I can touch him on his back with my hand, but this often seems to feel too intense to him, and will prompt a loud MEOW.

On the day pictured here, I decided to see if I could approach him from the front of his cage, which is more challenging to him than working from the side. Again I let him smell the feather first, then began to do some gentle strokes and circles under his chin. In the pic below he looks a bit skeptical, but once he realized that everything was still ok, he relaxed into it.

As I am working, I will work with him for short bursts of time, usually a few seconds up to a minute, depending on how he reacts, then stop and see how he is doing, then either give him more of a break, or continue. With a cat like him who can easily get overstimulated, it is important to watch the body language: tail twitching, stiffening of the ears, pulling back of the head, etc.

As you can see in the pic above, he eased into the touch as I went along. Much love to you, Quinn, look forward to seeing you soon!