Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Power of Patience: TTouch with Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a dear little cat, probably about 2 years old, who I have been working with through Tavi and Friends, Mayor's Alliance and the Picasso Veterinary Fund.  Apparently he had been kept in a basement for a long time, with very little contact.
When he first arrived (photo above is from early on), he was quite shy, and could suddenly get very insecure and hiss or meow very loudly.  I remember the first time I picked him up, he meowed so loudly, it sounded like I was touching him somewhere that hurt him, but it was just that he was terrified. 
I began to do TTouches just a little bit at a time with him.  Fortunately, in the space where he is, he can be let out of the cage so that I can do a few TTouches, let him walk around and come back to me as he likes.  As I do with the other cats in this space, I let him out without any of the other cats, so we can really have a private space, without intervention from any of the others.
Initially, I would literally do a few TTouches on his head or body, then he would walk away from me, then come back to me when he was ready for more. 
Over time, he was more and more responsive to the TTouches, and was right at the front of his cage when I got to the space, putting his paw through the holes in the cage door and meowing to me to let him out.  He would still come to me and go away from me, but would settle for longer and longer periods of time.  I kneeled, crouched or sat on the floor so I would be on his level.  I mostly sat or kneeled up until very recently, because I wanted to be able to stand up or move easily if I started to feel he was getting scared and/or needed more space.
At first it was a bit of a trick getting him to go back in his cage.  Sometimes I would lure him with toys to get him to go back in, because he seemed so frightened of being picked up.  As I continued to do the TTouches with him, I tried to gradually work towards his stomach area.  Just even doing a few TTouches on his side, approaching the stomach area, was good progress. 
Over time, he became more and more at ease in general.  And one day I found I was able to pick him up with no reaction from him at all!  I still would use gloves to pick him up in case he got suddenly frightened, but he has been quite comfortable with me picking him up for some time now. 
And the more he has gotten to know me, the more he has been seeking attention, purring and rubbing his head and body into my hands.  Initially, I would have to be especially mindful of his body language, as he could suddenly get frightened and it was as though a switch flipped back to a very fearful state, meowing loudly and maybe swatting or hissing.  These changes have happened less and less -- actually it is hard to remember when it happened last with me. 
He recognizes the energy of the TTouches and will settle down right next to me.  He especially responds to raccoon and chimp TTouches on his forehead area and to abalone, chimp and clouded leopard TTouches on his body.  I have been more and more able to do TTouches around his mouth area as well, which is a great area to work if you can do so safely, as the mouth area connects with the limbic system, which has to do with the emotions.

The past couple of sessions, we have broken through to another level.  As you can see above, Pumpkin is now starting to come and snuggle with me, aww! 
What has been beautiful to see is how the TTouches truly can help to change the way he reacts to contact and the way he reacts to situations that previously would be stressful for him (such as being picked up).  And it is as though a fearful exterior has given way to his true inner self, which is a sweet, affectionate cat who will be delighted to connect with a person once he gets to know them.
He will need a patient person to adopt him, someone who can give him the time and space to become comfortable.  Given time, space, love and understanding, he will be such a loving and sweet companion.
Love you Pumpkin! and thanks to all the other folks involved with him, Tavi, Mayor's Alliance and PVF, for giving so much him and other animals like him.

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