Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Connecting with Krishna: Making Contact

Yesterday I went to work with Krishna.  He is a beautiful, very smart cat who I have been working with off and on for quite a while.  He is fearful of people other than his guardians Rebecca and Tim, but over time my connection with him has gotten closer and closer.  I have worked with him with a combination of Reiki, TTouch, and Bach Flower remedies, and have also found that interacting with him through play is another non-threatening way to connect with him. 
I hadn't seen him in a couple of months.  When I entered the apartment, he was in another room at first but Rebecca coaxed him out.  I lowered myself into a squatting type of position.  He slowly came up to me to sniff me.  I stayed very still, and if he tried to engage me in a stare, I softened my eyes and turned away a bit, so he wouldn't feel that I'm a threat.  He settled a short distance from me.
First I did some TTouches, just very gentle little circles and strokes, just a couple at a time, using a very soft paintbrush, similar to a long-handled makeup brush, that he had responded to well in the past few sessions.
Again, as he has before, he rolled around as though he had just had some catnip.  I have seen one or two other cats do this when they rub their face on the soft brush.  I'm not sure whether it is something about the smell, the texture, or what, but it seems to be comforting.  While he was rolling around, he seemed very unconcerned that he was within inches of me.  At a couple of points he stopped, his eyes getting very big and looking at me - and again, I softened my eyes and turned away so as not to lock into a stare.  This generally helps to avert him getting scared and meowing or swatting.
At that point, I began to offer him Reiki energy (of course, telling him silently that he need only take as much or as little energy as he would like) .  I was about a foot away, sitting on the floor.  As the energy began to flow, I felt him begin to pull it in, very strongly, as though he were pulling it into his body.  He relaxed, laying down with one of his rear legs stretched out, eventually laying his head down and going to sleep for a while.
After a long while, he got up, went to his bed, and curled up there.  I began to offer him Reiki again, and he was very calm, resting with his head down and his eyes closed.  I moved closer to him slowly and quietly. and began to do circular TTouches and strokes all around his head with the soft paintbrush.  He completely settled into the TTouches.
Just having this much contact with him really was a lot, but after a bit, I decided to nudge a bit further in a very gentle way, to see what could happen.  Little by little I moved my pinky finger next to where the brush was touching his skin, incorporating it into the TTouches, giving breaks every so often to allow him to process the work, and to observe what his reaction was. 
He continued to be completely at ease, just as at ease as he was with the brush.  Then, little by little, I began to TTouch him directly with my hand without the paintbrush at all. 
He remained completely relaxed, still with his head down, completely relaxing into it.  I had to continue to check in on myself too, to make sure I continued to be relaxed.  This is the most direct contact I have had with Krishna.  We felt completely in synch with each other.  I would pause every so often and take my hands off him, to see what his reaction was, and then start again.  It is really important to give breaks to the animal, and to give yourself a chance to feel what's happening and decide whether to stop or continue.  When I felt it was enough, I slowly moved my hands away and gently moved away from him.  At that point, he lifted his head up and looked at me, but not with a frozen, frightened stare - with a much softer, more relaxed look.
I was reminded once again that it is so important to let go of our expectations when we are working with an animal - to simply be in the moment with the animal ... and it is in that moment of connection that the most amazing things can happen...
Thank you Krishna - and I look forward to seeing you again this weekend :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Emmylou and Natalia Start to Explore the Apartment



(Above, TTouching Emmylou outside the cage)
Emmylou and Natalia are two sweet kitties who I adopted from BARC Shelter (where I volunteer). They came into the shelter as ferals in December. They are getting more confident every day, but I am acclimating them to my apartment very gradually. I am using a kitty condo, which is a large multi-level cage on wheels. Lately I have started to let the girls out of the cage for play and socialization - at first for just about an hour, and now for longer periods, and sometimes a couple of periods during the day. I am keeping the door to the bedroom closed, but the door is a large screen door so they are able to see what it going on in other parts of the apartment.
They were both excited and scared to be out at first, but the excitement is increasing and the scaredness is decreasing as they get used to being out of the cage. 
It is a joy to see them tear back and forth in the apartment and leap and jump without restriction.  I have set up a little playground for them in the bedroom, with scratching post and pads, toys, a long kitty tunnel, etc.  They especially love playing in the tunnel, which has a crinkly sound to it (which scared them at first but now they are used to it) and a hole on the side in the middle of it so they can play with each other while in the tunnel.
These two love each other and it is very sweet to see them tumble and play with each other.
Below you see them on the stairs which go up to our platform bed.  They have only ventured up to the bed briefly, but I'm sure that will be explored more as they are out more.
After they wear each other out playing, they will stretch out on the floor, in the tunnel or in a little space under the staircase.  When they do this, I will feed them some baby food off my finger, petting and TTouching them as they lick it off.  At times they are comfortable with me TTouching them without the food, but other times they will initially move away.  The more they get used to being out of the cage, the more they are getting used to being touched outside the cage as well.  The good thing is that when they are feeling like they want to run for cover, they simply go back into the cage instead of burrowing into some tiny place in the apartment. 

Emmylou is pictured below, stretching out near the chest of drawers, a little bit wondering what is going on, but curious too!
Natalia is caught in midair below as she plays.  In the background you can see the bottom of the kitty condo.

Below, I am TTouching Natalia, who is partially underneath a wavy scratching toy, which they use as a tunnel.  When she is out of the cage, often she is more comfortable being touched if she is partly in a more closed space, like this.
A few times I have brought them into the living room/kitchen within the condo, so they can start to get a feel for that space too, which is larger and has a lot more nooks, crannies and general busy feeling to it.  Once they are very comfortable with being out in the bedroom, I will start letting them out into this space as well, but that is a ways down the road. 
It is interesting, most often after they are back in the cage for a while again, they are very affectionate and comfortable with me and in general.  The slow, gradual approach seems to agree with them.  It is an interesting balance.  Each day I am trying to challenge them in new ways, but also want to reinforce their feeling of well-being and safety, which are of such ultimate importance.  They are teaching me so much every day!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A New Adventure Begins: Emmylou and Natalia

I haven't posted for quite a while, it has been an intense time, to say the least!  First was the adjustment to Garbanzo being gone, which has been huge, and of course I continue to miss him greatly.  I do feel him still with me in spirit, of course, and he is definitely guiding me in my next cat adventure, which began a few weeks ago.
This began sooner than I had expected, but sometimes life's twists and turns and momentum just have a pace all their own, and this adoption felt like it was just meant to be. 
Emmylou (above) and Natalia (below), formerly known as Griffin and Samantha, arrived in December 2011 at BARC shelter as feral cats.  Emmylou could not be touched at first, and Natalia was frightened but would allow petting fairly soon.  They were both quite fearful. 

I have done some earlier blog posts about these kitties, particularly Emmylou, which you can find if you search my blog for feral.  I began with a feather with Emmylou, first stroking parallel to her whiskers and down her front legs, then eventually on her head and body, then working up to touching her directly with my hands.  I started with a feather with Natalia at first as well, but soon found she was comfortable being touched directly. 
Over the past months, I worked a lot with these two, especially Emmylou, as she was more hesitant to be touched.   As they grew more comfortable, quite a few other volunteers were able to touch and pet them as well.  They are both quite gentle in nature, not aggressive at all, just timid.
When I brought these two home, I soon realized I would need to give these kitties a chance to acclimate to the apartment in a safe and gentle way.  I spoke to a couple of my friends who work a lot with feral cats and they kindly offered to lend me a kitty condo, which is a large cage with several levels, on wheels, so it can be moved around in the apartment.
This has turned out to be perfect, as the cats can be in an enclosed space larger than what they had at the shelter, with shelves that they can jump up and down on so they can get exercise.  And we can move the cage to different parts of thr apartment so that they can see them before going out to explore them.
I'm doing TTouch and Reiki with both cats every day, sometimes a very little bit at a time, other times in longer sessions.  I am also getting them to come to me by putting baby food on my finger, which they come and lick off.  As they got more comfortable with the baby food, I can pet or TTouch them as they are eating. 
Often my partner and I just sit outside of the cage, speaking to them or to each other, so they get used to having us close to them.
I began playing with them in the cage more and more, using string toys and feather toys and the like, and as they have gotten more comfortable, they now play with each other very often as well.  It has been so lovely to see them become more active and engaged, as well as more friendly.  They often will play and tumble with each other on their own, looking like kittens! 
And, the past week, we have done longer and longer play sessions with the cats outside of the cage, with the large screen door to the bedroom closed.  It is an absolute joy to see them tear around in the room and tumble and play.  And every day we are able to have more and more contact with them outside of the cage, though it will take a while to gain the same truat that they have when they are inside of the cage.  We also are using baby food to get them to come to us when they are outside of the cage, having them lick it off our fingers.  And each time I have them out of the cage, I am able to do a little more TTouch with them without them running away.
One of the lovely things about this slow and gradual acclimation is that now when they are out of the cage, they are not burrowing underneath or behind furniture, but stay out to play or rest, and go back into the cage when they want to.
Now that I've given you a hugely condensed version of what's been happening, I will try to do some more detailed ongoing blog posts to let you know what's going on as these sweet cats continue to become more acclimated...... It is such a pleasure to have them in my home,  and I feel that Garbanzo must be happy that I have taken in two ferals, being that he was feral himself :)