Saturday, June 15, 2013

Update on Nadia, Slow and Steady Work Facilitates a Heart Connection

Nadia is a gorgeous, very shy cat at BARC Shelter, who I have been working with for some time now.  She was dumped in front of the shelter with another cat, who was adopted fairly quickly because she was friendly.  Nadia is very cautious of most people, though she has been slowly starting to trust people more and more.  If someone approaches her too quickly, she may hiss or snap at them, but that behavior has been increasingly subsiding.
I have worked with her very slowly, often using a paintbrush to touch her, as that gives her the space she needs to feel comfortable.  More recently, I have also been luring her to the front of the cage to lick baby food off my finger, which has been really helpful as well.  If you want to try this with a frightened cat, I would suggest first putting the food on a spoon or if the cat is very afraid and may bite, something else with a longer handle so that you can try it with some space in between you and the cat, to assure that you don't get bitten!  Also, use only all-meat baby food with no onions.  Gerber's Turkey in Turkey gravy seems to be a pretty universally popular flavor.
Though I most likely could touch her right away with my hand without reaction, I am still starting out with her by doing TTouch circles and strokes with the paintbrush, and then transitioning to using my fingers, so it gives her a chance to get comfortable with me.  It feels very important to give her space.  Touching her with the paintbrush also gets her accustomed to the sensation of being touched without having a feeling of being threatened.  So, once she gets very used to that, then eventually she will feel the same way about being touched with hands.  I have found that it helps so much with a very fearful cat to take everything in very small steps.
I have shared how I work with Nadia with the regular volunteers and staff, and it has been helpful for some of them to be working with Nadia with the paintbrush too.

We have in her cage a cave-like little bed so that she can go in there to feel safe when things get noisy or hectic in the shelter.  A while back, I started taking the bed out of her cage for part of the day so people could socialize with her more easily, and so she could gradually start to realize that it is ok to be out of the cave-bed.  I would gently turn the bed so the entrance was facing sideways to me, and then tip it a bit til she came out.  Most often, she would loudly hiss at first, but little by little she has become accustomed to that as well. Lately, I don't take the bed out any more, but speak to her and put the paintbrush so she can sniff it, and she will come out of the bed on her own and walk towards me, as you see in the clip below (she was already out of the bed). 
What has been especially sweet is that now after she walks to the front of the cage, she will nuzzle against my hand or lick it a bit.   It is beautiful to see her seeking out attention on her own, and really responding to attention and touch as well.   I'm happy, too, that others are also starting to see the sweet, loving cat that Nadia truly is, underneath her fear.  She even looks more beautiful, as her face has gotten so much more open, and her body language more comfortable.

It is easy to be impatient or to have out ego want to make contact with a cat right away, but it is so much more beneficial for the animal to really slow down and go at the pace that they need.  In the end, you will be able to facilitate a connection with the animal that is more powerful and deep than you could imagine!

Love you Nadia, thank you for teaching me so much, as do all the animals who I work with every day.  And thanks to all the BARC Shelter people for all they do for the animals.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds to me that you are doing exactly the right thing with Nadia. Nice and easy, slow and patient, that's the best way to develop a lasting relationship.

    Nadia reminds my of my lovely Mouse. She is gone now but she was an adorable blue and white.