Wednesday, March 21, 2018

From Fearful and Hiding to Joyful Cuddling and Playing: Simon and Caleb

It is an extra-special pleasure when I am able to continue to work with cats who I have worked with in a shelter after they have been adopted into a loving home.  And in this case, it was so beautiful to witness the transformation of these two dear boys from being shy and a bit scared of people to being so open and loving.

When I first met these two young kitties, who I affectionately call "the orange boys", it was at Bideawee shelter, and their names were Ticky and Tocky.  In working with them, I could tell that they were shy, but so sweet, and they were so connected with each other, I was hoping they would go to a home together.   The bigger boy, who would later be named Simon, was especially shy, but was receptive to being petted when nestled in a cozy place.  Caleb started out shy, but once you started to make contact with him, he came forward pretty readily, rubbing on my hand.

These little boys could not have had better fortune! They ended up going home with Brigid, a friend and client of my friend Eileen, who is a wonderful animal communicator, and has done cat sitting for years for Brigid.  A couple of weeks or so after their adoption, Eileen connected Brigid to me, and I began doing sessions with them in their new home.

Brigid had been starting to let the boys have the run of the apartment, not realizing that this was too overwhelming for them, especially for Simon, so I had her seclude them in the bedroom as she had initially.  Whenever introducing shy cats to a new place, it is important to keep them in one small space for a good while, til they are comfortable in that space, then let them slowly expand their territory to include another room, etc.  A bathroom is good for the first space, especially if the cat is very shy, then a bedroom might be next.

Caleb was still a bit shy initially, but soon after touching him, he would register that he enjoyed the contact, and he would start responding to it.  So I showed Brigid how to do some of the TTouches, and encouraged her to make contact with him frequently, to keep reminding him that he liked touch.

Simon was more shy.  And sometimes when feeling very shy, he would also start nervously grooming.  At times, though, he would settle in a place enough to touch him, so it was a matter of being patient and waiting til he settled pretty well in a place, like on the bed, and then gradually approach him, perhaps stroking him with the stick end of a stick toy first.  In one of my first sessions, it was not until the end of the session that he really settled, but it was so worth being patient, because when I approached him, he really settled into the TTouches and started responding to him.  I had Brigid come and sit next to me and do exactly what I was doing (gentle TTouches on the head) so that she could experience it as well and have the confidence that it could happen with the two of them. Such a beautiful moment!

Simon tended to hide under things or in edges or corners of the room.  I had Brigid block under the bed as much as possible.  But she needed to provide him with hidey spaces which were more accessible, so I had her do that at the same time, so Simon would not feel he had no place to hide.  A simple cardboard box with a towel or something cozy inside can do. I also suggested that a tunnel could be a good idea, or cozy hidey beds, and so she got these items as well.  Simon still seemed to find underneath places to hide, like under a chair, but at least these were more accessible than under the bed. 

And each week, more progress was being made.  Caleb got friendlier and friendlier, really turning into a lap cat, and Brigid slowly was able to touch Simon more. And of course, the boys are just the best of buddies, and are seen curling up with each other or playing together all the time.

The boys both love to play, so one thing that worked really well with Simon was to play with him gently with a string toy, and then bring the toy closer to me, so he would need to come in closer proximity to me. At times he would end up resting not too far from where I was.   So I would be able to stroke him a couple of times with the stick end of the toy.  I generally don't mix play energy with a petting-type thing, but in Simon's case this combination worked well.  It helped encourage Simon to come nearby in a non-threatening way.  I also told Brigid to simply sit quietly with them not even trying to touch them, just letting them get used to being near her.  One session I took her through a guided meditation that she could share with the boys. Following is a version of it.  This is similar to Reiki, but is something that anyone can do, whether trained in Reiki or not. 

I incorporated Reiki into our sessions.  Usually I let the Reiki flow throughout the session, no matter what else we might be doing, but sometimes I spent a certain amount of time with just a dedicated Reiki session.  The boys are young, so sometimes they would take a while to settle into the energy, or would relax for a while, then play for a while, etc.  But that is all good.  Reiki will go where it is needed.

As we continued to work, I saw Simon's nervous grooming less and less.

I also made flower remedies for the boys for them to take internally as well as to be sprayed in the environment.  The essences I used helped to de-stress them and to let go of some of their fears.
OK Sarah, where are the treats?
In the beginning I tried to work a bit with treats with the boys, but it took a while for them to be comfortable with this.  However, after their general anxiety lessened, and we experimented with a variety of treats, then they realized that they loved the treats, and loved them enough to be able to eat them around us.

So...I taught Brigid some basic clicker training, which turned out to be a great success with both of the boys.  Using the clicker and treats, we got the boys used to coming to us, and really wanting to come closer to us.  First you just click and treat to get them used to the association.  Then you can get them to come to a target.  A natural one is to offer your finger or the stick end of a stick toy, and usually naturally the cat will touch its nose to it.  Then you can use the target to help them get closer and closer to you, or to do other fun tricks.

Once the boys were comfortable with the clicker and treats, we started to pet them while they were taking the treats.  I remember one session when it seemed like things really "clicked" for Simon with this exercise, and he seemed to start enjoying the pets as much as the treats, leaning into my hand.  So beautiful to see!  The real breakthrough was to see Simon seeking out the touch and really enjoying it. 

I also showed her how to help the boys start making friends with their carriers, by working with the clicker and tossing treats for them to retrieve from inside the carriers. 

As we continued working with the boys over a few months, they kept progressing and progressing, so I kept adding in more things to do with them.  Now that Brigid could touch them both more, I taught her more of the TTouches so that she could share them with the boys.

Eventually, it was time for Brigid to just take over the process of working with them on her own, and she has done a wonderful job.  I have not seen them for a few months now, and they continue to progress.  I am so happy with how far they have been able to come, and that they continue to learn and grow with Brigid with all the love that she surrounds them with, and that they give back to her as well. 

And, shy Simon is not so shy any more! Simon now will come on her lap at times, and is doing just great, as is dear Caleb! And, both cats are very friendly with Eileen, who comes to cat sit them whenever Brigid is away. The following photo was taken by Eileen recently.  This is Simon being sooo relaxed after playing with Eileen!

Patience, love, persistence, trying different tools, not giving up.  Trying something different if one thing is not working so well.  When working with shy cats, something doesn't work one day but might work another day, and visa versa.  Keep your mind open, and you may think of a variation on what you are trying that will work better.  The cats have so much to teach us - we just need to quiet our minds enough so we can hear them:)

I wanted to say a big thank you to Brigid and the orange boys.  I have learned so much from you, and am so happy that you all are doing so well.  Thank you, Brigid, for adopting these sweet souls and for all your patience, love and care.  And for providing most of the lovely pics which are in this blogpost:) And thank you to Eileen, and of course to Bideawee, for helping make this adventure possible:)

PS. I encourage everyone with a shy, fearful or feral cat to check my recommendations for acclimating a shy cat on my website.  There are some more in-depth descriptions and links there that could be helpful for you and your cat(s).

Monday, February 5, 2018

Listening and Following Intuition: Exatias (and Friends Bandit, Sherrie and Amana) at Bideawee

Exatias, after becoming more at ease
Exatias is a handsome kitty who was among a group of cats taken into Bideawee from a hoarder. Most of those cats were super-friendly and were adopted right away.  Exatias seemed more feral - very scared of people, and was lashing out at the staff who were trying to care for him while he was in a cage in the Receiving area.
Exatias in first session in cage
I quietly sat down outside Exatias' closed cage.  I think that at first, even speaking to him felt like a lot, he was so scared and reactive to every sound and movement.  I first connected with Exatias through Reiki, and slowly felt him beginning to soften his eyes and to relax his body a bit. 
I have been learning about some of Donna Eden's energy techniques, one of which uses a figure 8 movement of the hands.  This feels like something that is both centering and connecting.  I began to do a figure 8 with my hand below the cage, out of Exatias' view, with the 8 going sideways, really more like an infinity sign.  The motion would go towards him, then towards me.  I kept imagining that it was connecting our energies.  I did this just for a couple of minutes, and when I stopped, I still felt the energy of that motion, and felt it was helping connect us in a very powerful way, along with the Reiki energy.  And not in a forced way.  I felt our hearts connecting.
After I sat with him quietly for a while, I put a few treats in the cage, rather close to him.  At first he wasn't sure, but slowly he began to inspect the treats and eat them. Little by little I put treats closer and closer to me, and, walking low and slowly, he would creep towards them and take them, then retreat to his place at the back.

I kept letting the Reiki flow, and did more of the figure 8s with him again.  Slowly, he crept up to the top of the Kuranda bed and laid down tentatively at first, but then relaxing there.

Then I just sat with him with Reiki for a while longer.  He looked more settled, more at ease.
Soon he was moved to a room upstairs with cats who I had worked with a long time, so that was great.  In the beginning, I think it was just Bandit and Sherrie there.  They are both former ferals who I adore, and who have grown to trust me and who are quite comfortable with touch. I will have to write more about them in a separate post soon!
I had heard that Exatias was scared and lunging at people.  So I walked in slowly and sat down. 
I put one of my paintbrushes near him, and he began to play with it.  He wanted to play!
So I got a string toy, and began a bit of gentle play with him.  He quickly came near me, and seemed to want to be close by me.  The toy was helping him to be more comfortable.  I started to work out a process where he would come towards me with the toy, then when he would settle near me, I could stroke him just a couple of times with my hand or the paintbrush (usually my hand, as he often thinks the paintbrush is a toy). 

I would not generally combine playtime energy with a relaxing modality like TTouch or Reiki, but this process worked for him.  Which reminded me that I always have to be open to what the cat is telling me, and to follow my intuition and be open to experimenting.
Cats are so individual.  We need to be sensitive to what is going to be most beneficial for them, rather than having a set agenda in mind.  As someone recently put it in a conversation with me, socialization is not a "one size fits all" type of process, but is usually a combination of strategies that can help the cat to connect with us and trust us.  In their own time schedule and on their own terms.  What works for one cat may not work at all for another cat, and what works one day for one cat may not work the next.  So we always need to be flexible and open.
The Reiki precepts are so wise and so helpful to keep in mind when working with animals:  For today only, do not anger, do not worry, be humble, be honest, be compassionate.  With those precepts always in mind, we can be truly in the moment with an animal, and open to what we can find in our connection with them.  Reiki is always flowing during the session, and is always in my heart and in the center of whatever other modalities I may be combining with it.
I would only do a few strokes or TTouches, and then wait to see if he would settle or wanted to play more.  Any time he looked like he was unsure, I would distract him with the toy for a bit, and that immediately helped.

I was still working very slowly and carefully, as I did not want him to get overstimulated and swat at my hand like it was a toy.  But I would start to stroke him with my hand behind his head, not coming towards it, and that was working.  Little by little he began settling more and more.

I would often come in and just put down my paintbrush near him and that seemed to calm him and we got started.
And, over a couple of weeks, we were able to stop using the toy, and I would just come down and sit on the floor.  I could sit near him and gently begin to stroke or TTouch him.  Or, increasingly, he would come and sit near me.  It was as if he was slowly discovering that he could be comfortable being close with a person, and even enjoy the contact:)

Generally when I come into the room, both Bandit and Sherrie approach me, so he started to do the same thing.  I think that their comfort level with me was definitely helpful in showing him that I was ok.
Now he is coming right up to me and pushing his face into my hand!.

The next thing that happened is that Amana, who was a shy cat who had been recently returned, was brought upstairs and was to be slowly introduced into the room.  She had a cone on her head from ear surgery, so she stayed in the cage til she could have the cone off.  I would sit and work with her in the cage and the others would come near me.  It was a great way to get everyone used to each other before actually being in the same space without the cage.
I had worked with Amana before she was brought into the cage in the room, and she was quite at ease with me when I had worked with her in the cage, purring and rubbing against my hand.  The staff were unsure as to how Amana would act with the other cats.
Sherrie, Bandit and Exatias
I do think that the fact I had worked with all of these cats extensively, and that they are comfortable with me helped them in the introduction as well.   I sat outside Amana's cage and would work with her in the cage with one hand, and TTouch the others as they came near me, using my other hand.  The other three cats readily came up to me, in close proximity to Amana, and everyone seemed all right with each other.  Reiki was flowing the whole time, as usual:)
Bandit and Exatias
Amana is now out of a cage and doing really well. There is good vertical space in the room, so everyone can find their own comfortable places.  Amana tends to stay up high, but lately when I have gone in the room, she comes down to ground level and all four of them gather around me, which is really sweet. In the following photo, you will see Exatias settled next to me, and Bandit and Sherrie lined up for Reiki.  Amana is sitting close to me out of the camera's view, on my left side.
Sherrie, Bandit and Exatias (Amana is to my left out of view. 
You can see that my paintbrush is close by.  Sherrie loves being stroked with the paintbrush.

Here are two videos showing my progress with Exatias, and his comfort level with his roommates.
The second video was shot with a different camera, and focuses on his progress once he was in the room.  He loves being brushed with a mini jelly scrubber brush. Often he will be comfortable with me brushing him as he is eating.   First, here is a still, followed by a video.
This is a horse-grooming tool, but a lot of cats enjoy it as well because it is soft. 

The staff members and a few other volunteers are starting to be able to pet him now, and to have more connection with him, which is great.  Staff member Annie said she was able to pick him up, and so of course I had to give it a try.  I know he looks a little funny here, but he was in a bit of awkward position as I had to hold my phone with one hand to take a photo:)
Exatias was recently moved into a different room, with some new kitty friends, where he will get more exposure to potential adopters.  Hoping that this sweet, and very individual kitty will be adopted into a wonderful home soon. 
Thank you Exatias, for reminding me to always be open, humble and to listen.  And thanks, as always, to all those at Bideawee for all the love and care they show to Exatias and to all the animals every day. :) xoxo

Monday, January 29, 2018

Happy Update re Bubbles the Kitten

Bubbles is a dear kitten who was at BARC Shelter.  I spent a lot of time with him with Reiki (both in person and remotely) and TTouch, and he had been in very rough shape, and we formed and incredibly deep bond.  When I previously wrote about Bubbles (, he was rallying after some really tough health issues, but still not quite out of the woods. I wanted to share a happy update that he became healthy and strong, and recently was adopted into a loving home:) 
He is living with a lovely couple and their sweet dog.  Bubbles has been re-named Juno, and is adjusting well to the apartment and to his new dog friend as well.  He is eating well, playing a lot, and having a joyful existence!
Much love to you, little guy, will always remember you and love you, and I am so happy for you!  May you have a beautiful life!  And many thanks to the lovely people and dear dog who opened their hearts and home to him:)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Celebrating Each Day: Reiki with Brooklyn

I was called to work with dear Brooklyn, a sweet senior Mastiff, because her people, Monica and Ignacio, thought she was very near the end of her life and they wanted to give her whatever comfort they could.  She had been taken to the vet for examination and tests, and had been found to have cancer, which had caused fluids to build up in her body, greatly affecting her breathing and mobility.  At this point she was not able to walk on her own. The vet thought perhaps she would have a couple of more days at most.
In the first session with Brooklyn, Monica sat with her and petted her to make sure she was at ease, since I was a new person.  I sat a short distance from them.  Brooklyn fairly quickly relaxed into the energy.  At times her breathing was rapid, but I could see it start slowing down.  I imagined peace and light surrounding them, and began silently chanting the Reiki symbols.  I felt her connecting with the energy, and since she is a very large dog, I felt the bigness and power of that energy as well.  I felt the room filling with the light and energy.

By the end of the session, I felt her quite peaceful.  I also felt the atmosphere of the space in the apartment peaceful as well.  There are two sweet, beautiful cats in the household, Luca and Tommy.  Tommy is usually very shy with strangers, yet they had both come out to see what was going on. 
At this point, we did not know what was going to happen, but we made another appointment for the following day.  We ended up doing several days in a row.  Particularly when an animal is in a precarious condition, it can be really helpful to have at least several appointments very close to one another.  And I felt Brooklyn's strength and personality coming more forward with each session.  Her breathing started looking more normal, the swelling in her leg went down, and by the following week she was able to walk on her own again.
Often, particularly in the early sessions, I visualized Brooklyn running and running in grass.  It was amazing to hear she was able to walk again, and these days she even wants to run and play.
Here is a photo from one of these sessions that Ignacio took - it looks as though Reiki energy is coming in as light from the window!

I think it is important to share that one cannot know what will happen with Reiki, but that it will always help on some level.  At the very least, in this situation it provides more peace and comfort for the animal, and in a best case scenario, it can help an animal with a terminal disease to have more quality time.  So in Brooklyn's case, her people are aware of her medical status, but are embracing each day with her, and I am so happy that she has been able to come back from the precarious situation she was in a month ago when I first started working with her.  I am happy for every good day that she can have, and every beautiful moment she can have with her family.

It is now a month after the vet had said she would only have two more days -- and at the moment she is doing very well:)  Monica says that if they didn't know she had cancer, they would just think she was just having some old-age issues like arthritis.  Brooklyn's energy continues to feel strong when I see her.  Apparently she wants to run and play a lot now - in fact, her people have to calm her down so that she doesn't overexert herself.
We are continuing to do regular sessions - one distant session and one in-person session every week, and that seems to be working well for her at present.

As they often do, my cats have been joining me for the distant sessions with Brooklyn.  It feels like they add to the energy - that they send their healing vibes as well. 

And again, it is interesting to note that in the distant sessions as well as the in-person sessions, I feel the bigness of Brooklyn's energy.  It truly feels like she is present with us during the sessions.  Energy knows no boundaries, so Reiki's power can be felt no matter how close or how far away you might be from another being.

During the in-person sessions, one or the other of the cats, or sometimes both of them come around.  Brooklyn is not so crazy about the cats coming close, but the cats love her, and usually one or the other of them finds a spot that is an acceptable distance away so that they can be nearby.

The cats came to the household in such an incredibly moving way - Brooklyn discovered the two of them, abandoned in a carrier in the garbage:( 
Monica and Ignacio kindly took them into their loving home. I know that the cats are eternally grateful.
Brooklyn is sensitive and attentive to sounds she hears, and at times it takes her a bit to settle, but eventually she always does, and there is such a palpable feeling of love and peace filling the room.  I feel light and energy flowing through her body, and filling the room as well.
Either one or both of her people are always present for the session, and I think that gives her a feeling of safety as well.  Brooklyn wants whichever one of them who is home to stay in the room with us during Reiki, so that is what we do:) I usually incorporate some TTouch and/or Debono Moves into the session as well, to add to Brooklyn's comfort.

Thank you Brooklyn!  I love every session I share with you, and here's to more comfortable days ahead for you. And thank you to Monica, Ignacio, Tommy and Luca for being such a loving family for her xoxo