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


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