Saturday, December 22, 2012

Calming Feral Kitty Berry: Slow, Steady, and in the Moment

I'm calling this dear little feral kitty Berry.  She was rescued from the same backyard as my two cats (Emmylou and Natalia).  She is younger, and has medium/long fur, but has a bit of resemblance to Emmylou, I think.  She was brought into BARC shelter right before Hurricane Sandy. 
Because Hurricane Sandy left many of us, including me, without power and hot water for about a week, it took me a week to get back to BARC, but I was eager to do what I could to help calm her.
When I came back to the shelter, it was clear she was as terrified as when she had been brought in.  When I first work with a new cat, unless they come right up to the front of the cage to greet me, I most often use a long-handled tool such as a plastic back scratcher or paintbrush to touch them. 
But before I even do that, I talk quietly (or silently, inside my mind) to them, reassuring them I am there to help them, and would only do as much as they are ready to do.  I start sending Reiki energy to them from outside the cage. 

When I first opened the cage and gently stroked her head with the back scratcher, she wasn't quite ready for that and hissed and swatted at the back scratcher.  I told her that was ok, and then just continued to send her Reiki for a while.  I tried the back scratcher again, still she was too scared to accept it, so I again took it back out of the cage and sent her Reiki energy from outside the cage.

The next time I worked with her, I gently approached her with the back scratcher (standing sideways to the cage, and kind of approaching her from a diagonal instead of straight-on), stroking the sides of her cheeks and under her chin a bit.  At first she was a bit hesitant, but then she started to gently rub her face against the back scratcher a bit.  I worked with her for a while this way, giving her breaks, then starting again.  I also did some TTouch circles with the scratcher on the top of her head and the base of her ears.
Each time I continued to work with her, she was more receptive to touch and began to come forward and eat her food while I was working with her.  At this point I could do TTouch circles and zigzags on her body as well as her head. 

One day when I opened the cage and began to work with her she sat straight up and looked at me right in the eye.  I could tell we were having a breakthrough by the way we were connecting.  She was really looking at me and I felt the energy from her go right to my heart.  she began to push her head into the back scratcher and began to walk forward towards the cage door. 

I began to work my hand down the handle til I was touching her directly.  She was rubbing into my hand and kneading her paws, looking a bit like she was marching.  I thought she was going to come out the door!!  She seemed so energized and felt so good from the session, first she went to her wet food, then her dry food, then her water :)

Since that session, when I first see her I blink at her and she recognizes me, as opposed to starting with a hiss.  I showed a couple of other people in the shelter how to work with her gently and they have had good success working with her as well.  Now I am able to approach her with my hand, though I still start from a bit of a diagonal approach, first putting the back of my fingers on the back of her head and working from there, so I am not sticking my hand in her face.  It is really important, especially for frightened cats, not to just directly face them and stick your hand in their face.

She now comes right to the front of the cage, kneading and sometimes flopping on her side. Last time I worked with her, she literally jumped up to butt her head into my hand. She really is a beautiful little cat, and it is amazing to see her inner beauty coming forth as well. 
It will take her a while to be comfortable enough to be receptive to others, especially potential adopters she is meeting the first time, but she has come such a long way in a few weeks, it is beautiful to see. 
Of course I feel an extra connection with her too, being that she was rescued from the same yard as my two. 
Thank you Berry, it is such an honor to connect with you.  Look forward to seeing you soon!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Adventures of Emmylou and Natalia: Closer and Closer

Emmylou and Natalia are my two lovely kitties who I adopted from BARC Shelter in July.  They were brought into the shelter as feral cats, so I have been going through a very gradual process of helping them to become acclimated to the apartment and to us, which has been going so well - better than I ever could have dreamed.  Every day there is visible progress. 

When I get home, they greet me at the door, waiting for me to give them attention, which is so sweet.  As soon as I can after getting back home from somewhere, I sit on the floor to do TTouches with them.  Each day they are comfortable with longer periods of contact, and with me being in closer proximity to them.  I can pick Emmylou up briefly, and sometimes can put an arm around one or the other before beginning TTouches with them.  Natalia is starting to come up to give me nose-kisses. 

They still can get startled with sudden sounds or when friends come over, but even that is becoming easier for them to handle. 

It has been very important for me to continue to use the socialization tools which I have been using all along with them:  TTouch, Reiki, play, and often just sitting on the floor and hanging out with them.  Feeding them baby food off our fingers is also a great tool, as they will come right to us and even climb up on us to get to the food.  They are coming around for attention more and more, and emjoy hanging out near where I am.  For example, as I type this, Natalia is sleeping on the floor right near the computer chair.  Yesterday when I was in my art studio, Emmylou was watching me through the glass-paned doors that separate the living room from the studio.

Calm music is also wonderful for keeping the environment very peaceful.

Play is also a very important way to connect with the cats and to let loose any tension, and these two really love to tear around.  What a pleasure it is to see them chase a toy or each other around the apartment!  They also have a cat tunnel, which is fun for them to play in, as well as a place they can hide if someone comes over and they want to hang out in there.

When friends come over, the girls may initially go up to the platform bed and watch us from there, but sometimes they come down in the living room, especially if we give them treats, which we always do.  We are starting to let others try giving them the baby food off their finger as well, which works really well, as it gets them accustomed to being in closer proximity to other people and having something nice happen (the baby food treat!).  Others are starting to be able to pet them a bit too.

I am so grateful to have these two special creatures in my life every day.  They both have such a sweet, gentle nature, and it is so lovely to see them stretch out and feel like they are truly at home. xo