TTouch Practitioners have a very high success rate in being able to improve wellbeing for cats and as such can provide owners and carers with invaluable tips on how to help their cat over come common problems such as spraying, sensitivity to contact, frustration and so on.
The approach is the same regardless of the animal species we may be working with at the time. Look for any signs of tension in the animal’s body such as stiffness through the limbs and reduced mobility through the spine. Pay attention to the coat. Coarse hair, staring hair that stands up on end, dandruff and so on are usually a good indicator of underlying tension in the soft tissue. These may be the areas that trigger the cat to become reactive when contact is made in these areas.
A high number of cats that react to being handled and picked up show signs of discomfort through the body. If you think about the flexion of a cats spine it makes sense that it wouldn’t take much for a problem to occur. Cats fall out of trees, slide of roofs, suffer glancing blows from cars, and then of course there are the accidents that can arise from interaction with other animals and humans.
Cats that are fearful will often carry tension through their hindquarters and tail and as a result may be triggered to display defensive behaviours when handled around the hind end. The good news is that a lot of these problems can be overcome with TTouch.
If a cat is worried about contact start by initiating contact with long quills attached to long white dressage schooling sticks. If the cat is really concerned and likely to lash out try using two wands with feathers on the end. This diffuses the focus and as the cat attacks one feather you can start touching the cat with the other one. The length of the wands also means that you do not have to threaten the cat by being too close giving them plenty of space to move or hide if necessary. This approach also keeps the person safe from flying claws and teeth and is a great way to start with cats that habitually hide under the bed or the sofa.
Keep the movement slow and rhythmical and remember to breathe and stay relaxed. Try stroking the cat a few times with one of the wands then give the cat and break and gradually extend the session over several days. A few minutes of TTouch goes a very long way and it is often in the break that most changes occur.
Practitioners also use fake hands, water colour paintbrushes, cloth on long sticks and so on to give the cat the experience of being touched with a variety of textures. You can also use a paintbrush or feather to stroke the whiskers against the side of the cats face and work over the head to encourage the blinking reflex. A happy cat will rub his whiskers against his owners leg and will also slow blink. By creating these behaviours with the use of the brush we can encourage a better sense of mood. It could be likened to encouraging a person to smile when they are feeling low or afraid.
Stroking any animal with the back of the hand is far less threatening that being stroked with the palm. This approach also ensures that the contact is not heavy. Cats are perfect for teaching people the slowly, slowly approach. It is better to work little and often perhaps no more than 5 minutes at a time. If the cat is accepting of contact with the back of the hand or back of the fingers progress to hand contact with a sheepskin mitt covering hand which reduces the amount of heat the cat might feel from the palm of a hand. If the cat is happy with the sheepskin mitt move on to light finger tip contact, gently moving the skin of the cat in slow, one and a quarter circles noting the cats responses and reactions at all times. If the cat is unsure at any point go back to the step where contact was acceptable and the cat remained calm.
Over stroking a cat may be the trigger for Relaxation Induced Aggression – that is the cat seems happy being petted then suddenly lashes out and runs away growling. Taking a slow approach and working below the threshold at which the cat has to react can improve the cat’s tolerance levels and builds trust and understanding in a quiet, respectful manner.
Every interaction we have with a cat will affect his behaviour for better or worse. A cat that is stressed at the vets will benefit from being transported in a cat carrier that is in two parts. The top can be removed slowly and as the lid is taken off a towel can be slid in under the lid to cover the cat and help him to feel safe. A few gentle TTouches can be done to settle the cat before the examination and taking this extra few minutes will save time as the cat will be calmer and more likely to accept the injection, blood test, examination and so on. Many vets and veterinary nurses use this approach with great success and it is far more pleasant (and safer) for all concerned.