Sunday, 21 March 2010

Scaredy cats?

Most of the cats I go to look after are very friendly and welcoming - sometimes so much so that it's difficult to get away again!

But there have been a few who have been a little less forthcoming, and I wanted to tell you about these lovelies.

Some of them have been rescue cats, but then many of the cats I take care of are, so that's no particular marker of a cat who holds back with strangers. However, we don't always know what situations rescued animals were in before, so some do carry some horrible memories of people with them. Mostly though, it's just because that's the way they are, either because of their essential nature, or sometimes because they've had little contact with people other than their carers. On the whole, I think they're shy cats, rather than scared - just like some people are.

I know it's really important not to force myself on these cats - that probably would scare them - but just to let them know I'm there for them, and they can come to me if they like. Often they're happy just knowing someone is there, so I'll sit quietly talking to them, even if I can't see them! Sometimes it seems a shame, as they're missing out on a cuddle, stroke and fuss - which most cats love - but I'm there for them, and if they don't want that, then that's fine.

I've learnt a lot about taking time with shy cats, and allowing them to do what they want - by working with the ferals at Animals in Distress. And of course, by tuning into them, hearing what they have to say, and feeling their energy.

My first shy cats were Ellie and Harry. They've moved away, so I don't see them any more - but didn't see them too much when I visited regularly either. They were a brother and sister, had always been together, and had each other to keep company. When I first went to meet them their carer brought them out to meet me, but it was clear they would have preferred not to!

Each time I visited they'd be lying under the bed. So, once I'd done their washing up, put out new food, and sorted their litter, you could find me lying on the bedroom floor feeding them treats. They seemed happy with this arrangement, and although they didn't come close enough to be stroked, neither was there any sense of anxiety.

If I had a little longer to spare, I'd sit quietly in the lounge and have a drink. Because it was quiet, they thought I'd gone, so would suddenly appear round the corner of the door - then look at me very surprised! But by then they could smell the food, so got up courage to come in anyway, slink all round the outside of the room until they got to the kitchen area. In all the time I looked after them, they never did get to be any less shy, but they were happy in their own way.

I've looked after Oscar and Felix for a couple of years (sadly just Felix now), and at first I was told by their carer that they were very shy, and would probably be hiding in the bedroom when I came to visit. Whenever she had friends to visit that's what happened, hiding away until they'd gone again.

But the first time I visited although clearly a little uncertain, they did approach me. And from then on it was hugs and soppiness all the way. There were times they'd both try to squeeze on to my lap at once - and they're big boys! A short while later their carer had a friend to come and stay, and couldn't believe how friendly they were with her too. Both remained quiet and gentle cats, but always loved a fuss. In their situation, I'm sure that the Reiki I brought with me, and which they discovered on my first visit, helped them to get over their shyness.

At this point, it's important that I say that Reiki will do whatever is in the best interests of the being receiving the energy - and although we might think we know what's best, the fact is that we don't always. So, for Oscar and Felix, this was right, but for others, including Ellie and Harry it wasn't right for them to be less shy with people. But they still received the energy while I was there, and that helped them to be happy, calm and relaxed while their carer was away. Sometimes we have to take ourselves out of the equation - it's not what we want for the being, but what's best for their higher self.

Then I met Enrico, who I've written about before. Lovely big bear of a cat, who was painfully shy at first, but who very quickly turned into a slobber-monster, putting his arms around my neck and hugging me at every opportunity. Haven't seen him for a while - would be lovely to come and take care of him again, especially now that he has a sister too.

Recently I've had another couple of shy cats. Mack was a rescue cat, who loves his carers, especially his dad, but otherwise hides away from people. I was told that he'd been to stay with friends last time his carers went away, and spent the entire time hidden. Perhaps this was also because he was in a strange environment, away from his own territory and familiar smells.

Because of this, his carers decided that this time he should stay in his own home and they'd get someone in to visit each day. They were keen to find someone who had lots of experience in working with rescue cats, which is why they asked me to come and care for him. When I went first to meet them all, they'd just moved house, so Mack was understandably a little anxious about his new environment. We found him hiding behind some boxes that still needed unpacking. But at least we got to meet each other, and he could hear my voice as I and his carers chatted. That's so important too - for them to hear that the energy in our voices is gentle and friendly while chatting means that when I'm there for the first time on my own, it should bring back favourable feelings.

On my first visit I couldn't see Mack anywhere, but didn't want to stress him too much by searching high and low. I could feel his energy and he was a little anxious. And he'd eaten the food his carers had left, so that's a good sign he's pretty much ok. So, I just sat in a chair in the lounge, opened my hands to send him Reiki wherever he was, and chatted away to him in a gentle voice. I told him what was happening, and why I was there, but mostly it was whatever came into my mind! That happens a lot, but cats seem to like hearing someone talking to them.

The second day, I couldn't see him again, but his energy was so different. Much more welcoming, and he was actually quite pleased I was there. Still didn't want to come out, but a very happy cat in his own way. I do find generally that the first time I visit any new cat there is a little confusion, they don't know what's going on - but by the second visit, they've worked it out, and know the score. Cats are very quick to learn!!

It was hoped that as the week went on he might get braver, but it didn't happen. One day I opened the front door to see him emerging from under the bed of the room opposite. He stopped for a moment, looked surprised, then went back under. At least I knew where he'd made his nest, so from then on I'd sit in that room with him and gently chat. We'd have intuitive conversations, and I know he was quite happy, just didn't want to come out. It was good to be able to tell his carers that he was happy and not anxious. Just very shy!!

Then there's Bubble (one of 3 Bubbles I take care of!). He and his carer live together, and his carer mostly works from home, which is great for Bubble. But now and again he needs to attend meetings in Europe, although only ever just away for a day or two. They've also just moved house. Before, a friend who lived very close by would come to feed Bubble and check to see he was around - although there was never any interaction as Bubble was quite shy.

Just before the move Bubble was diagnosed as diabetic, so now needs twice daily insulin injections. This development, together with the house move meant that it was no longer possible for the friend to do the visits.

When I first went to meet them both Bubble was very friendly, which was great as I'd been told that he was rather anxious and would probably scoot if he heard the doorbell go - I had to call the mobile to say I'd arrived. Given what I'd expected, this was indeed a good sign.

His carer had to go away the following week, so I was booked to come to feed him and give him his injection. Also, by then, they'd moved house, so Bubble was not yet settled in, everything was still very new, and probably still full of the scents of the cats who used to live there. It was very cold, and I found him curled up under the duvet. He looked at me with his big, beautiful eyes (and he really does have amazing eyes), then took at swipe at me, and ran downstairs. I slowly followed - didn't want him to think I was chasing him - and found him sitting under the kitchen table. He then went back up again. Once again I followed slowly, and found him in his basket, so sat on the bed and talked to him gently, telling him why I was there.

By then I knew that it wouldn't be right for me to go any nearer to him at that time. Luckily his diabetes is only mild and his insulin dose is very small - I'd been told that if we missed one there would be no problem. So, I judged that would be the best thing to do, that one time. However, there was another trip abroad planned for the following week, and a holiday at the end of the month, so the situation did need a resolution.

I told his carer what had happened, and we decided that given his shyness, and the anxiety of the house move, a new person coming to take care of him was all too much at once. We then arranged for me to come and visit three times a week, in order for Bubble to get used to me. Sometimes I'd be on my own, other times with his carer there too. And after a couple of visits, he let me inject him - but only while his carer was there. He seemed to be happiest sitting at the top of the stairs with his carer lower down on the stairs and me on the landing. We'd chat and he would doze while we took it in turns to stroke him.

I noticed that he was happy for me to stroke him if his carer was there, but if he went out then Bubble reverted to taking a swipe at me. Nevertheless, we persevered, and finally got Bubble to be happy with just me on our own. We'd noticed that when sitting between the two of us, he'd get closer to me, so I could stroke him - a good sign!!

When I was on my own with him I'd tell him what was happening, and I asked his carer to take some time to explain to him too, giving him permission to be ok with me. I'd realised that this was the problem - that he needed telling that it was ok. It had been just the two of them for a long time, and he wasn't particularly socialised with other people. His carer was a little dubious about talking to animals (well, the part about them understanding), but promised to do it anyway. Seems to have worked!!

Had Bubble not been diabetic it wouldn't have been a problem. There would have been no need for us to work so hard at getting Bubble to be comfortable with being stroked and touched. But clearly I can't give him his injections without touching him, so we had to do this - but in such a way that Bubble didn't feel he was being pushed into it. Everything had to be taken at the right pace for Bubble. So, we're there now, and his carer goes away next week. I'll let you know what happens.....

I love looking after the shy cats as much as those who are more friendly. It means that I have to adjust my energy, so that it's gentle and not jarring for them. And I sit there quietly, sending them Reiki to help them in their own way, chatting to them, telling them what's going on, and listening to what they have to tell me. Sometimes they become friendlier but that's not the aim - all I'm there for is to ensure that they're happy (and have food of course), and I do that in whatever is the right way for each cat.

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