Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Continued Adventures of Lulu and Natalia: Mouth TTouches and Tooth Brushing/Cleaning

Above: Lulu and Natalia
Tellington TTouch not only has tremendous benefits for an animal physically, mentally and emotionally, it can also have wonderful practical applications.  When an animal is accustomed to having the gentle TTouches done on areas such as paws, around the mouth, or on or near the belly area, this can aid in nail clipping, tooth brushing (or wiping), or picking up the animal, respectively.

My dear cats Lulu and Natalia were brought into BARC as feral cats, and I subsequently worked with them at the shelter and eventually adopted them, going through an extended process of acclimating them to the apartment, etc, which you can see detailed in earlier blog posts if you do a search for their names on my blog (Lulu was originally named Emmylou).

I have done everything with them in small steps, and touching around their mount ha also been a gradual process.  Natalia is particularly head-shy, so I will usually do some TTouches on her body before gradually working up to TTouches on the head, though sometimes if she is relaxed to begin with, she is ok with me TTouching her there.  Lulu is less head-shy but can be hesitant to being touched when she is in certain moods, so I always watch her body language to see what is the best approach.  I may start with her by TTouching her with the back of my fingers, as that is less intense than the front of my fingers.

Lately I have been getting them used to TTouches around the outside of the mouth area, which can be so calming, as they connect with the limbic system, which has to do with emotions.  I started out with these just a little at a time, and they have gotten more and more comfortable with it. 

The next step which I wanted to try was to get them used to me TTouching them inside their mouth, and wiping off their teeth a bit with some gauze. 

Above: Raccoon TTouches with Natalia
I started out working with Natalia. First I did some zigzag TTouches and general TTouches on her body to relax her.  Then I put the gauze around my finger, and gradually began to do Raccoon TTouches (circular TTouches with the tip of my finger) all around Natalia's head area -- the top of the head, back of the head and around the outside of the mouth.  I wanted to get her used to the feel of the gauze on my finger before attempting to go inside her mouth with it, as though this is all one cozy process.  Once working along the outside of the mouth, I did raccoon TTouches as well as a few gentle slides with my finger.  She got more comfortable as I continued working with her, so I decided to go to the next step.  Just a tiny bit at a time I slid my finger inside her mouth and along the outside of a few of her teeth.  I did this a few times, paused, and then did it again a few short times and then went back to some general TTouches.  I then gave her a break, giving her a lot of very slow, quiet praise, goooood girrrrl.  The tone of your voice can help to relax the animal as well as the general level of your own energy.
Above: TTouches with Lulu, gauze on finger

Then I tried the same procedure with Lulu, and it worked like a charm with her as well.  It is really key to be sensitive to what they are ready to do in that moment.  If you try this and it feels they are not ready to go to the next step, pause and give them a break, and you may want to wait till later or even another day to try again.  The point is to have it all be part of a really comfortable process, like this is part of a relaxing TTouch session, you just happen to be putting your finger in their mouth and gently sliding over their teeth with the gauze.  The gauze was a tip recommended to me by a vet, it helps to prevent buildup and hardening of plaque.  If necessary you can dip the gauze in something that tastes good, like maybe tuna juice, but I just used it plain and my cats were fine with it.  You will have to experiment a bit!
Above: TTouches and slides with Lulu along outside of mouth with gauze on finger

Bravo Lulu and Natalia! Our journey together continues to be such a moving and beautiful experience as we are continually learning from each other :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Calming a 3-Cat Dynamic with TTouch, Reiki, Remedies and Wraps :)

 Above: Dr. Germanicus Higgenbottom (aka The Doctor, Higgs, Germanicus, Beans, etc)
Thank you Daniella for the rest of the photos in this post!

Daniella and Phil are a lovely couple who I met while volunteering at Bideawee.  One of their cats, Gus (a darling young black and white cat they had adopted from Bideawee – he had been found outside and eartipped but is definitely not feral), had been through the mill with health issues recently, including hospitalization and surgery.  And it seemed that the balance between their three cats had felt off ever since he got back.  The Doctor (officially named Dr. Germanicus Higgenbottom, he has several nicknames, including Higgs and Germanicus), an incredibly sweet 10 year old ragdoll, had been crying incessantly at night, and the other cats had been beating up on him.  Not only was the fact that this was happening bad for the cats, but of course it was bad for the people because they were unable to get any sleep. 
Gus and Willoughby (a young tabby who had been rescued from the streets of London) are young cats and tend to be rambunctious in their play, which is overwhelming for the Doctor when they try to include him, as he is very passive and seems to feel attacked when this happened.
So I was asked to come and see if I could help to bring a bit more peacefulness to the atmosphere.  When I got there, Doctor was hiding behind the couch, as he is very shy, and the other two cats were out and about.  I showed Daniella some TTouches with Willoughby, as he seemed most receptive and so was a great demo cat.  He subsequently curled up and went into a deep sleep.  We eventually got Doctor seated between Daniella and me on the couch and I was able to do TTouches as well as some Reiki with him there.  Daniella was doing TTouches with him as well, and he got quite comfortable, which was really great to see, especially as he can be so shy with strangers.  Daniella was a natural at picking up the TTouches and she subsequently showed Phil how to do some of them so that they both can do them on the cats.
During that time, I could feel that Gus was feeling the Reiki and so sent some Reiki his way after working with the Doctor.  I felt a deep fatigue inside of him, that he was letting go and giving into this fatigue that felt like a result of going through all he went through in the course of his surgery and hospitalization.  He started nodding and going into a deep sleep.
After the appointment, I made a Bach Flower remedy in drops and spray for the Doctor.  The other cats were responding to the effects of the spray and becoming more relaxed as well.  Subsequently the night crying and craziness has really calmed down, thankfully for everyone!  I also made a remedy for Gus, which was about restoring his energy and vitality.  This also seemed to help, because the next time I saw Gus, he seemed so much more peppy and lively.
A recent photo of Gus, looking very relaxed and happy indeed!
In a couple of subsequent appointments, I primarily have worked with the Doctor, and Daniella and Phil have been continuing to give the remedies and TTouches to all the cats. Each cat seems to have their own favorite TTouches.
At the end of a recent appointment, I decided to try something that I had been hesitant about doing, but something told me to just give it a try:  a TTouch wrap!.  Many, if not most cats are resistant to having anything put on their body, so it can be a challenge to use a wrap with a cat, even if it is approached in a gentle, gradual way.  But some combinations of personality, etc combine with the wrap in just a perfect way, so it can be a good thing to try it.  I had thought of it particularly for the Doctor, who I thought might be receptive to it as he was used to having a harness put on him at times, and who could still use some additional calming and soothing, but thought it would be interesting to try with any of the cats if they were receptive to it.
Gus was nearby at that point and so I thought I would first give it a gentle try on him to see if he was open to it.  I have recently made some wraps from very soft, stretchy fleece from inexpensive winter scarves.  I TTouched Gus a bit and draped the wrap over his back.  That seemed to be ok.  Then I just gently put the wrap around his chest, holding it at the back.  He didn't seem to mind at all! So I proceeded to put a half wrap on him. (see wraps for cats demo below)

As most cats do when they first have a wrap on, Gus was still and seemed to be thinking about it, as though it was a very different feeling.  We got him moving, as sometimes animals get a bit "frozen" or even temporarily seem to lose control of their back legs, as it is such a different feeling.  He actually seemed to be very comfortable with it on!
Gus in a TTouch Half-Wrap
Over the next day, Daniella tried the wrap on Willoughby and the Doctor, and they were very receptive to it as well.  So they have been regularly wrapping the cats.

Willoughby in TTouch Half-Wrap

One day Daniella texted me that Willoughby was just sitting and purring away with the wrap on :)

The Doctor with TTouch Half-Wrap.   It matches his lovely eyes!
I went just a few days ago to see the cats, after not having seen them for several weeks, and Daniella said that they were doing very well.  She said the Doctor is even standing up for himself sometimes if Willoughby or Gus try to start something with him.  So that is a very big deal.
Gus has been doing very well, which is a relief, after having been through so much, and Willoughby has been more affectionate than ever, wanting to cuddle in Daniella's lap as much as possible.  So that is all good news!
During the appointment, I spent most of the time with the Doctor.  Instead of staying in the bedroom, he came out in the living room and was quite content with me sitting right next to him for Reiki.  A couple of times he came over to me and rubbed his nose into my hand, which was so sweet! Each time I see him, he seems more comfortable around me, which is wonderful.
He completely settled into the Reiki energy, stretching out on his side, and for a little bit, Willoughby came over and laid on my shoe.  By the end of the session, there was a very quiet, calm energy in the room.  Willoughby was settled on Daniella's lap, Gus was napping on the cat tree, and after finishing with Doctor, he went and cuddled into his favorite chair (see photo at the top of the blog).
Great work everyone! So glad to see that there is more balance in the household, and look forward to seeing them all again soon.