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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah,
    That is such a great point about the negative dynamic that can be set up between people and an animal -- rather than working through an animal's symptoms of fear or their personality, people often brand a cat "a biter" or "a caution" and then the relationship stops. I appreciate, too, your detailed account of working with this boy -- very informative to learn more about your techniques. And reminding us to stay in the moment, especially with these sensitive animals.