By Shannon Finch - EQ & CA P2
(First published in the T.T.E.A.M. Connections Newsletter)
As I write this, two kittens are running pell mell around my office, chasing each other and wrestling, occasionally leaping up onto my desk, and generally wreaking havoc.
Lacey and Bootsie are my current foster kittens, recovering from upper respiratory infections. As soon as they are well, they will return to the cat colony at a local shelter, ready to go to new homes.
The benefits of fostering can’t be overstated. Moving moderately sick animals out of the shelter makes room for animals who need more intensive care. Fearful or shy cats aren’t likely to get adopted, and stay in the shelter longer.
Thus begins a vicious cycle of cats becoming more stressed the longer they stay in the that environment, creating more fear and anxiety.
They become less adoptable by the day. Getting these cats to a quieter environment while giving them some stress relief and socialization is crucial.
My tack room does double duty as a foster room for the adult cats. We found a small sofa that fits in there, and the cats will sit on our laps or we play with them using toys or a wand. Depending on the cat, I will sometimes play the Through a Cat’s Ear music CD.
The music is a little sonorous to me, but some cats really seem to benefit from it.
Usually these cats need medication, whether it’s antibiotics by mouth, or eye ointment. TTouch really comes in handy. Even a little mouthwork on the outside of the mouth can help with oral medications.
Because they are usually tired of getting medicated at this point, sometimes containing the cats can be challenging, so I use a towel to make a kitty burrito.
This is especially useful when I have to medicate them by myself. After I give the medication, I do some Abalones or hair slides to smooth things over.
Ear TTouch is useful for general calming and well-being, and is tolerated by most cats in short sessions. It’s also helpful as an immune booster, so if a cat is difficult to touch at first, I at least try to get some ear slides in.
For these cats that don’t want to be touched, I use a wand to stroke the cat while using a cat toy wand for them to play with.
Using the wand to touch the cat takes the pressure off of both us and the cat, and they always come around.
Some cats are clingy and needy, and TTouch helps with that too. For some reason that defies explanation, I automatically do a lot of work on the extremities—tail, ears and feet—on these cats. I think it has to do with outlining their edges for them, but I don’t really know. I also do mouthwork on the outside of their mouths to start, and then a bit on the gums as they become more accepting. These cats also seem to like Tarantulas Pulling
the Plow, though again, I’m not entirely sure why. I just do it and let the animal tell me what they want!
Sometimes the cats come for litter box monitoring. Fostering is so important when it comes to litter box problems; it literally could be life or death for a cat, because no one wants a cat who won’t use the box.
Litter box problems are usually health or stress-related. So I immediately start them on a TTouch regime, and some cats will get a TTouch Body Wrap. I’ve yet to have a cat not use the box appropriately here, which means that in the right environment, they should be fine
Playground for Higher Learning
Part of TTouch training is the groundwork, which might seem an odd thing to do with a cat. It helps with body awareness of course, expends some energy, and builds confidence in the shy or fearful ones. And it’s really, really fun.
I built a little confidence course for my friend Kay who was fostering an extremely obese cat. We used food puzzles so that the cat had to work a little for her meals, and the obstacles provided her some great exercise. For kittens, I set up their cat trees, cardboard boxes and scratching posts in a little confidence course and use a wand to lead them through.
The TTouch That Teaches
I use TTouch for kittens in a number of other ways. Often they need a little guidance on the appropriate use of their mouths and claws.
Kittens bite and rabbit kick each other in play, but they don’t understand that our skin can’t take that. I do a lot of redirecting, but also use Mouth TTouch to help them become more aware of their mouths.
It helps with teething too, which occurs between 3 and 6 months.
I do one-fingered Clouded Leopards all over their paws, pads and claws so they become comfortable having their feet handled.
It’s also good preparation for cutting their nails, which I have to do often. Those little spears grow really fast, even with access to scratching posts!
Some kittens are afraid of people, and don’t want to be handled. I’ve gotten many kittens over that fear by doing Llamas or Chimps through a towel or blanket. I then add in Clouded Leopards, Abalones, and hair slides and generally don’t need the towel after a couple of short sessions.
Lacey, the black kitten, wasn’t really afraid of people, but not
interested either. We were concerned that she wouldn’t “show” well when she went back to the shelter if she wasn’t interested in people.
She loved to play though, and I would do some drive-by touches during our games. Soon she started checking in with me when I was at my desk, just for a moment or two of touches. Then she started sleeping in my lap for her afternoon nap. I had lots of opportunities to do touches on her while she
was sleeping. She chooses her moments when she wants to snuggle, and she’s not a total lap cat by any means, but she doesn’t shy away and will initiate contact with new people.
We have benefited from fostering too. We feel good knowing we’ve helped these cats become more adoptable, and maybe shown them the only love and care that they’ve had in their lives so far. We’re teaching them that not all people are bad