Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Balance and Change in a Multi-Cat Household: Peanut, Rocky and Mushroom

Above:  Peanut
Most cats find changes in the household difficult, so it often will take some strategizing, and sometimes approaching from a few different directions to help deal with the stresses of a new situation.  TTouch., Reiki and Bach Flower remedies can often be of great help in creating a more harmonious atmosphere.
Dominque called me because one of her cats, Peanut, is very stressed.  In the past months, a new cat and a new human baby have come into the household, so that is quite a lot of change.  The new kitty is a playful little youngster (about 4-5 months old) named Rocky.  Peanut had been attacking Rocky often, sometimes quite aggressively.  Peanut pretty much ignores the baby, but I'm sure there are many changes in the routine, etc. of the household as a result of the baby's presence that Peanut is feeling. 
Peanut has also had an ongoing issue that has gone on for years with peeing and sometimes pooping outside of the box.  Dominque has had Peanut checked out regularly by the vet and it has been determined that there is not a medical issue causing this.  The vet had recently prescribed Prozac and when I first met with the gang, she said that so far the Prozac didn't seem to be having any effect on Peanut.
There is a third cat in the household, Mushroom. who has been in the household for some time (Peanut was the first, then Mushroom, then Rocky).  Mushroom and Peanut do tussle sometimes, but Dominique was not so worried about these fights, as they did not seem so serious or scary.
Dominique has been doing her best to try to help, and had tried a variety of things to try to calm the atmosphere and help the situation before she calle me, but nothing was working as well as she would like it to.  She was especially concerned about the ongoing attacks on Rocky by Peanut.  They had been keeping Rocky separate from Peanut for quite a while but were finding it harder and harder to do.  They do keep an eye on the cats so they can separate them if they start to fight.
I spent the first appointment doing TTouches with Peanut and showing Dominique how to do the TTouches so she would be able to do them as well.  Peanut was very receptive to the TTouches and Dominique picked them up very well.   Usually Reiki is flowing through my TTouches but sometimes I will stop the TTouches to just let the Reiki flow on its own, as I did during part of this appointment, and I felt that Peanut was able to reach an even deeper level of calm while doing this.  Peanut is a very intense cat, and as I felt the Reiki flowing, I felt her letting go in a very deep way, as though she had been holding some of this tension for quite a while.  It was lovely to see her stretch out and really relax.
We also tried the Thundershirt with Peanut.  I don't suggest the Thundershirt for every cat, as some cats are so stressed by having the shirt put on that it is not worth it.  Cats are not used to having clothing put on their bodies.  But Peanut was very cooperative, and was calmed by the Thundershirt.  She did temporarily seem to lose control of her back legs, probably because this was such a new feeling for her.  It is good to get the cat moving by offering treats, etc, so it doesn't feel frozen when the Thundershirt is on, especially for the first time.  And it is also good to introduce the shirt in steps, if possible - first you can offer a treat to the cat on the shirt, then drape it over the back of the cat, then wrap it part way around them, then all the way around.  Dominique decided to keep the Thundershirt and continue to use it with Peanut.
For subsequent sessions, we decided to focus on Reiki, and Dominique could work with Peanut and the gang with TTouches on her own.  I suggested that she and her husband simultaneously work on two cats at a time, especially Peanut and Rocky.  I also made Bach Flower Remedies for all three cats, to help to encourage more harmony in the dynamics between the three cats.
After the first Reiki appointment, Dominique said things were getting better, Peanut was fighting with Rocky less, peeing somewhat less too.  But the peeing has been going on for a very long time, so I would expect a long-time pattern of behavior to take longer to subside. 
In addition to what we were already doing, I explained to Dominique the importance of positive visualization.  When our pets get into an unwanted pattern of behavior, we most often keep picturing that behavior, instead of the preferred behavior.  In this case, some positive images could be seeing Peanut and Rocky playing or sleeping near each other peacefully, or Peanut peeing in the litter box .
During the second Reiki session, I began to send Reiki to Peanut when she was on the floor, then Dominique brought Peanut up on the couch.  Peanut then began to really settle into the Reiki.  At one point Dominique left the room with the baby.  I was not sure how Peanut would react to this, but she continued to settle even further into the Reiki energy, stretching out on her side.  She fell asleep, then turned over on other side, placing body in my hands.  Initially she had been hesitant for me to have my hands directly on her, as the energy can be very intense, but once she began to relax, she was completely comfortable with my hands resting on her body lightly.  Peanut is a very intense cat, so it was so sweet to see her really let go.  Almost exactly an hour later, Peanut just stood up and very gracefully walked away, as if to say she was done with the session. 

Above:  Rocky
While I was offering Reiki to Peanut, I didn't see what was going on behind my back.  After Peanut got up, I realized that Rocky was asleep on the other side of me, and Mushroom was also napping.


Above:  Mushroom
At some point while I was working with Peanut, Mushroom had started to meow to ask to go out in the back yard, but then had quieted down as the Reiki session continued.  And it was lovely to see that Rocky was sleeping peacefully in such close proximity to Peanut.
The following week, Dominique said that things were getting better in general.  Peanut was being nicer to Rocky. She said she was no longer afraid was that Peanut was going to hurt Rocky, and that Rocky wasn't terrified of Peanut any more.  I was so glad to hear this, as this was a substantial positive shift in a short time.  What she said to me also helped confirm to me that the Bach Flower remedies were most likely helping the shift in this dynamic, as I had taken into consideration Rocky's fear of Peanut as well as Peanut's reactive behavior towards Rocky when making the remedies (and, of course, Mushroom's issues as well when making her remedy). 
There was a time while I was working with the cats in this session when Peanut briefly went after Rocky, but this time Rocky had started it, swatting at Peanut’s switching tail.
During this session, Peanut settled into hands-on reiki for about 25 minutes.  Then she got up to wander around a bit.  Then she settled into the Reiki just for a short bit, then would walk away, then settle for a bit more, then walk away.  This time Dominique had left the room but, unlike the other time, I think Peanut may have been wondering what she was up to in the other room. I thought perhaps she needed a break, and needed to feel that I wasn't forcing the energy on her, so I decided at that point to let her wander where she chose to go and work with Rocky for a while.  Peanut went downstairs, and Rocky settled right into the Reiki and curled up for a nap.  Suddenly I noticed Peanut had come back into the room, so I just started sending her Reiki from where I was.  Cats are very sensitive, so it is often most beneficial to start sending the Reiki energy from a distance. 

After a while, Peanut began to settle several feet from where I was sitting.  As I continued to send her Reiki, always telling her she could take as much or as little as she wanted, she settled down more and more, stretched out and laid her head down.  By  the time I finished the session, again all three cats and the human baby were all relaxed and very quiet.
Reiki can really affect the whole atmosphere, even when you are focusing on sending it to one being.  And that is always a good thing!!  And it is very important to remember to be patient and sensitive to what an animal is ready to do, as that can so often change from moment to moment or session to session.
All in all, I think wonderful progress is being made in the household so thank you Peanut, Dominique and the rest of the gang for your love, trust and cooperation in the adventure of trying new things.  I look forward to seeing you soon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Adventures of Emmylou and Natalia: More at Ease Each Day

Emmylou and Natalia are two cats I recently adopted from BARC Shelter.  They were brought in as ferals some months ago, and were socialized to a certain degree while at the shelter, but getting acclimated to an apartment has been a whole other journey, as has been feeling comfortable with contact with people when outside the cage.  We have been going through a very gradual, slow process of acclimation with them -- starting out by using a Kitty Condo (multi-level cage with wheels), eventually wheeling it to different parts of the apartment, then getting the girls used to being out of the cage.  That's a very quick summary of what has been quite a journey!
Now they are out of the cage nearly all the time, just being put in the cage (lured back into the condo with food or treats) for meals.  They are getting more and more comfortable with us TTouching and petting them when they are out of the cage, and are so connected with each other - playing together, cuddling together, cleaning each other - so sweet!

Our most recent changes have been to give them access to the whole apartment even when we are out, and having them out of the condo at night.  We introduced them to the larger space of the living room/kitchen/bathroom very slowly, first within the condo, then letting them explore for short periods of time, then longer periods of time, etc.  So by the time we felt they were ready for unsupervised access to the area, they were quire acclimated to it, so it didn't feel like a big change.
Before giving them unsupervised access to any area, we did what we could to "cat-proof" it, which is a bit like baby-proofing - putting anything dangerous to cats away, getting most fragile items out of acccess, and we bought plastic boxes called "Mommy's Little Helper Power Strip Safety Covers", because since the cats walk all over the place, this would keep them from stepping on the switch on these strips, etc.  Luckily we haven't seen them chew on electric cords, but that is something to keep an eye out for, especially with feral cats.  I also placed night lights in a few places, so the night environment would not be completely dark.  I think that having a little light has helped them to feel more safe, as everything looks different in the dark, which can be a bit scary for them at first.
The first night with them out of the cage was a little scary for us, as well as for them, but they did very well. They managed to hunt down a water bug, also got in plenty of playtime as well as some rest.  They didn't go crazy knocking things over - they seem to be very polite in that way so far:)  The first few nights we kept them enclosed in the bedroom, so they would get used to the night in a smaller space, then we began to let them out into the rest of the space at night.  It has been a week of that now, and they are getting more comfortable each night.  Last night they realized that the couch is very comfortable, and were resting there part of the night.  They had been avoiding the couch before that.  A similar progression happened quite a ways back with the bed/ When we first started letting them out of the cage, they were very hesitant to go up to the platform bed.  Then one day they began running up and down the stairs over and over.  The next day they spent a good while up on the bed relaxing. Once again, I can't tell you how interesting this whole process is!

We are still very careful to walk quietly past them, as they are still a little scared of feet walking close to them.  Emmylou is pretty comfortable with it now, but Natalia will sometimes scurry away, though we have made some wonderful breakthroughs with Natalia in the past few days.  Sometimes when I first let the girls out of the condo, or return home from being out, Natalia will come out to greet me and, when I slowly crouch down to pet and TTouch her, sometimes she will relax into the touch intead of running away. 

Also, when she is in her cozy place up on the platform bed, she will really relax into TTouch and Reiki (Natalia, right above, receiving TTouch.

Emmylou (above left) has been very comfortable with me TTouching her outside of the cage for a while now, and is starting to be more comfortable with that with my partner as well.  For some reason, she can get a bit more skittish about receiving touch when she is up on the bed, but little by little she has been getting used to that as well, as you can see by the above photo. 

Yesterday I actually ended up taking a nap with the two girls up on the bed, which was so sweet.  When I first got up on the bed, both cats were up there and Emmylou scurried off the bed, running down the stairs and lying down by the cage.  I continued with a relaxed attitude, curling up towards the head of the bed (Natalia was at the foot) and moving away from the stairs up to the bed.  Eventually Emmylou came up the stairs again, peeked, and couldn't resist the coziness.  After a few minutes, she jumped back up on the bed and settled down right next to Natalia.  It wasn't long before all three of us were asleep :)
Much love, Natalia and Emmylou, we are so happy to have you with us in our home, and you are teaching us so much every day.