Monday, September 24, 2012

The Adventures of Emmylou and Natalia: Discovering the Comfort of the Bed

Emmylou and Natalia are two feral cats who we adopted from BARC shelter recently.  They are doing great and getting used to the apartment in a very gradual, gentle way.  We had them in a cage for a couple of weeks, began to let them out gradually into the smallest room, the bedroom, and now they are in the process of getting used to the larger section of the apartment, the living room/kitchen/bathroom.
It is wonderful to see their progress, and to observe that it really makes a difference to take everything with them in small steps.  In the bedroom, they were very comfortable quickly with the area they had seen a lot in the cage, which is on the floor of the bedroom, but they were not so comfortable at first going up the stairs to the platform bed in there. Every once in a while they would slowly go up the stairs and peek at the bed and then run back down.  Little by little, they discovered that they could see out the window if they sat on the stairs, so that was appealing.  Then one day they started running up and down the stairs to the bed over and over.  Soon after that, I noticed that after they finished a play session, or if I left the apartment, they would go up to the bed and stretch out for a nap.  They often groom each other as well, which is so sweet!

At first they would run back down if I started to climb the stairs to the bed, but little by little they have gotten used to that.  I want them to know that it is fine for them to be up there, so I tell them that in a very calming voice.  I wanted to start to connect with them when they are up there, so what I have started to do is to have most of myself on the stairs, just rest my head and arms on the bed, talking to them in a calm voice, and sending Reiki to them as I do this.  They have started to relax into this process. 
Natalia is most often near the edge of the bed, so it is tempting to want to reach out and touch her, but I don't want to scare her away, so I have been resisting this impulse for now.  Intead, I send Reiki to both of them from where I am, and sometimes do air TTouches (do the circular TTouches in the air), speaking to them in a soft, comforting voice.

These girls are teaching me so much every day, and I am so happy to have them in my home :)  It is truly a humbling and beautiful experience getting closer to them every day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Emmylou's New Adventure: A Gentle Way to Introduce a Cat to Being Picked Up

Emmylou is one of the two wonderful feral cats who I adopted from BARC shelter in mid-July.  We have been getting them acclimated to the apartment, and to us, very gently and gradually, and they are doing great!
We started them out in a large kitty condo (multilevel cage on wheels) and now they are mostly out of the condo.  Emmylou is more comfortable being touched out of the cage than Natalia, so we are respecting where they each are and nudging each one along at their own pace. 
I wanted to share what I have been doing with Emmylou, which is a very gradual sequence in which eventually you can pick the cat up.
With both cats, we are using baby food to help with socialization.  You let the cat lick baby food off your finger, which is a great way to get the cat used to coming to you and being touched.  After a while you can pet or TTouch the cat while she is licking the food off your finger.  With Emmylou I found that after a while, I could do little TTouch belly lifts while she was licking the food off.  Actually it was sort of a modified belly lift, combining little circular TTouches, strokes and a little bit of a lift, all done fairly quickly as she licked the food off my finger.
Now for the next part of the process.  When I come into the bedroom, Emmylou most often comes up to me, rubbing against me, and I do little abalone, lying llama or llama TTouches on her sides.  To add to this, I would at times put both hands under her stomach and just lift up a bit, not lifting her off the ground at first.  Little by little, I would just put both hands under her stomach and lift her maybe an inch off the ground, once or twice and then just let her go.  This way, the lifting just becomes part of a TTouch or petting ritual and doesn't seem like a big deal.  Gradually I have been able to lift her further and further up off the ground. 
I'm not at the point of lifting her all the way up to my body yet, but at this point I am able to lift her a couple of feet off the ground at least, which is great progress, and the only time she has had a reaction of any kind is if I try to do it too many times, and even then, she just sort of turns her head around to me as if to tell me that's enough!
Thank you Emmylou, you are doing great! and I'm sure your sister Natalia will be along with this in due course.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Emmylou and Natalia: Slow and Steady Does It!

Above:  Natalia (below) and Emmylou's leg is visible upper right
Emmylou and Natalia are two wonderful cats who were brought into BARC last December as ferals - and I brought them into my home around mid-July.  An apartment is a completely new environment for them, so we are letting them become acclimated in a very slow and gradual way.  For the first 2-3 weeks, we had them in a Kitty Condo - a large, multi-level cage on wheels.  This is convenient because it can be wheeled around to different places in the apartment and they can still feel safe in the smaller environment of the cage.  Then we gradually started opening the cage and letting them into the bedroom.  Now we leave the cage open all day in the bedroom for them to come and go as they please (except at night, when they sleep in the cage - once they are completely loose in the apt, we will leave the door open at night too), and they have been spending more and more time outside the cage.  In another week or so we will start letting them into the larger space of the living room/kitchen, so by that time they will be quite comfortable outside the cage and not be so intimidated by the larger space.  The larger space is visible from the bedroom cause there is only a big screen door separating the spaces.  We have also been taking them into the living room in the cage from time to time so they can see more of that space before we get ready to let them loose into the space.

Above:  Emmylou resting after a vigorous play session
Right now, I am typing this and the girls are in their condo which is right next to me in the living room.  Initially they were still scared when I first wheeled them in here, but after some TTouch, and speaking to them in a calm voice, explaining to them that everything was all right, that I was bringing them in here so they can see the space first and be safe in the cage, that soon they would be able to come in here and play, etc, they began to calm down.  They respond so much to the tone of my voice.  I also have very calm music playing throughout the day.... sometimes it is jazz, sometimes classical, sometimes new-age music.  So all of that combined with TTouch, Reiki, interactive play, good food, treats, and lots of love, has been having such a profound affect on these kitties.  At thie moment, they have both fallen asleep in the cage. 
They also respond so much to whatever is going on with us, so it is important for me to handle my own stress as best I can :)
Above:  Emmylou playing with a feather toy
Interactive play is so important with these two, it can help them to get out of a scared mode very quickly.  It is also a non-threatening way to connect with a cat who may be too scared to be touched right away.  Natalia is still more skittish when she is out of the cage, so I will often play with her initially, and possibly later on when she is relaxing, I can make contact with her.  If not, then I do connect with her in the cage.  Emmylou is generally very eager for contact with me outside the cage.  When I enter the bedroom, she comes right up to me and I start out with llama TTouches (circular TTouches with the back of the hand), then work into other TTouches as she walks back and forth, rubbing against me.  Natalia often comes to the door as well, but is not quite ready for immediate contact.  I do make a point to talk to both of them when I am doing this so that Natalia does not feel left out.

Above:  Reiki with Natalia
 Reiki is an especially lovely way to connect with Natalia, as she is very shy and sensitive. I can start out with hands off and then start to move closer, watching her response.  It is lovely to see her with such a peaceful expression, as in this photo. 
I learn so much from these cats every day.  I am constantly reminded to slow down and feel where they are, what they are ready to do.  Of course, I do nudge them with new challenges as well, so it is a delicate balance between nudging them forward, and being sensitive about what they are ready to handle.
Something that has worked so well with this slow acclimation process is that they are not hiding when they come out.  They are so used to us sitting in close proximity to them when they are within the cage, that they are very comfortable with us sitting just inches away. 
These girls are progressing every single day, and it is such a joy to have them in my life.  Each day is a new learning adventure for all of us, and I feel us bonding more with each passing day. xo