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

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