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Our cat, Ambush, was found as a feral kitten. Now Ambush is almost two years old and she still jumps, and is scared, of sudden sounds.
Ambush, was found as a feral kitten and brought to the vet when she was four weeks old. At the vet, she lived in a cage when she was not running around. We got her when she was six weeks old and had a companion of the same age which died nine days later.
If I drop something she runs - she does come back now when I tell her it is OK. She hisses for no reason and we think she does not know what that sound means. The minute she does not like something she also starts growling.
The interesting part is that she desperately wants to be loved (which we do), but does not know how to handle it or what to do with the feeling it gives her. When we pick her up she purrs for maybe 5 seconds and then the growling starts - when it gets to the point she also hisses, or we think she may bite (she often bites), we put her down, she walks away and turns to look at us and comes back.
She is always happy to see us when either one of us comes home. Things have gotten better since we got her, but not much. Can you give me some advice? Patricia
It sounds like you have provided Ambush with a wonderful home. Loving care can help in many ways to overcome problem behavior yet the results can be limited. Adding TTouch to the time you already spend with her can help the cause of her behavior and deepen your relationship as well.
Where is this coming from? Sometimes it is useful to know the cause of behavior. As a feral kitten, Ambush carries certain cellular memory that influences her behavior. Some of that cellular memory creates tension patterns and sensory sensitivities that contribute to the problems you are experiencing. Those tension patterns help her to be close to the "flight or flight" response. This low threshold makes her more reactive or fearful when something surprises or over stimulates her. I call this a "Different Alarm". Anything that is different could be dangerous.
She also lived at least a part of her young life as an orphan, and may not have had the benefit of socialization with siblings and the sensory input of the "kitten pile" to help her nervous system develop normally. This can cause the hissing, as she doesn't really know how to express herself as a cat normally would.
The fact that she comes back to you after the reaction lets you know that her recovery time is pretty quick - now, how can you help her feel safe and comfortable more consistently?
In the beginning, it is useful to just contain her by gently holding her between your hands with her in a position where you are beside or behind her. The more you are relaxed, breathing, and keeping your eyes soft the more successful this will be. Watch her body language and let her go before you think she will tell you she has had too much contact.
If she is comfortable with that, gently move the skin on her shoulders in a clockwise circle and a quarter, pause, and softly slide your hand to another place to repeat the movement. You are just sliding the skin, not pressing into the muscle. If that is OK with her, continue down her back or toward her head, adapting your hand or fingers to be able to move her skin and still keep your hand and body in a comfortable position.
Cats have very sensitive nervous systems and they often benefit most from short frequent TTouch experiences. Perfect for busy people! Do a little bit of TTouch and know your cat is processing the information while you are moving on with your day. If she objects to something, go back to what was easy for her. Make this part of your normal petting or other interactions with her. Even a minute or two at a time can make a difference.
Using TTouch to release the cellular memory and tension patterns can have a significant effect on improving her behavior. If you want more help, please consider:
TTouch Books and Videos: Getting in TTouch with Your Cat
Contact a practitioner in your area: TTouch Practitioner Directory
Schedule a phone consultation: I am happy to help you with suggestions and support over the phone or with e-mail or video. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for rates and availability.
One more thought: Sometimes the names we give animals influence their behavior. Would you consider changing her name? Or calling her a nickname?
I hope you enjoy doing TTouch.
Kathy Cascade, TTouch Instructor for Companion Animals
Known for her creative, engaging, and often-humorous teaching style, Kathy believes learning should be fun for both humans and animals alike! Following the completion of the first Tellington TTouch Certification Program for Companion Animals in 1996, Kathy went on to become an instructor in 2003. With her professional training and experience in physical therapy, she also brings a unique perspective on the neuropsychological and sensory aspects of TTouch to her students.
One of Kathy's specialties is working with extremely fearful dogs who often exhibit reactive behaviors to other dogs or people. We asked Kathy how Tellington TTouch has influenced her approach with these dogs.
“Helping animals learn to cope with the demands of living in our human world is a passion of mine. It is important to recognize that a snarling, lunging dog is likely responding out of fear. Creating a sense of calm and safety for the dog is the first step to eliminating reactive behavior. The TTouch Method allows me to do this with effective tools for reducing stress and building confidence. Often these animals are transformed from living in a state of fear to feeling safe in the world.”
One amazing example of this transformation Kathy shared with us was Alf. [Photo of Alf by Marlene Lynch]
Kathy writes, “In the course of our TTouch work, we sometimes encounter animals who have suffered various forms of neglect, abuse, or violence, often at the hands of humans. It is difficult not to be overwhelmed or angered by these sad stories, but important to focus on the animal before us in the present moment. Our intention when working with these animals is to help them move beyond the limitations of their past experiences to reach their full potential.”
After being rescued from Michael Vick's dog-fighting compound and spending some time with a rescue group , Kathy had an opportunity to work with Alf and his foster person, Molly Gibb.
“When Molly and Alf arrived for their first visit,” Kathy reports, “Alf cowered on the floor of the car and would not get out. No amount of coaxing or offer of yummy treats worked, as Alf just would not budge! Of course, we could have pulled him or lifted him out of the car, but that would have defeated the goal of giving Alf some choice and earning his trust.” Finally, Kathy's neutral dog, Indie, coaxed Alf out of the car by walking past the open car door for a few minutes.
Alf was extremely fearful, and the first few sessions involved taking tiny steps to build Alf's trust one experience at a time. Kathy introduced Alf to the body wrap to start reducing his “bracing” pattern and touch sensitivity. She says, “the initial sessions were brief, and I allowed Alf to move away as needed. Giving him some choice seemed to lessen his fear and eventually he started to approach me, staying close to be touched for longer periods of time. Our goal was to introduce Alf to several safe new sensory experiences, allowing him to gain confidence.”
The impact of Kathy's work with Alf was apparent a few months later, when Molly brought a transformed Alf to one of Kathy's weekend workshops. Kathy joyfully reports, “Alf handled the situation beautifully! Witnessing Alf's newfound confidence and ability to cope with so many different people in an unfamiliar environment was a profound moment for both Molly and me.”
Feedback from some of Kathy's students:
Hi Kathy, I especially want to thank you for the work that you did with my dog in Rupert. In those few days, you showed me how much behavioral change could be effected in a matter of minutes with unwavering patience and confidence by a handler. I always new that he was an awesome dog, but I was unsure of how to help him. You gave me a sense of direction and hope. - Shirley, TTouch Student
Hi Kathy, Your respect for other species and your approach to meeting them on their own terms is so incredible. Watching you work with the dogs, the kitty, the bunny and the rat is so inspiring to me. In addition to your knowledge about dogs and your respect for other animals, I also admire how you present the information. Your ideas and the words you choose to explain those ideas are so clear and your observations are so acute! The follow-up of your words with hands-on, real-time demonstrations helped solidify the ideas. Thank you for sharing your calm, your humor, your insights, and your deep respect for animals. It was a pleasure to spend the week at the workshop with you. - Christina, TTouch Student
Kathy, I again want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for such a great experience that has really changed my life and the lives of my dogs and how I will work with dogs and other animals for the rest of my life. Again, thank you for your willingness to share your gifts with the world so that all animals we come into contact with can benefit. - Dennis, TTouch Student
Sunny and I really appreciate your respectful approach, relaxed style, clear presentation, and delightful sense of humor. Your teaching and the Tellington TTouch method has made an incredible difference in our lives and our relationship. Thank you. - T.C., TTouch Student
Find Out More:
Thanks to Betsy Lane for her contributions to this article.
by Cathy Alexander
My dressage horse, Fortunate Knight called Lance, had been in full training about eighteen months when the trainer mentioned that Lance was shying more frequently and that he didn't seem to know where all of his body parts were (or that they were attached to him.) Being on the large side this didn't surprise either of us, but if we could uncover a way to introduce him to his body parts and expand his confidence level, why wouldn't we?
She went on to mention that there was someone locally who was familiar with the Linda Tellington -Jones “TTouch Method” AND was willing to introduce me to some of the exercises. Staying in step with my “can't hurt, might help philosophy” I reached out and met Ava.
The first words out of her mouth were “we do this with no expectations.” That worked for me, because I had no idea where we were heading . . . We discussed Lance's personality and any roadblocks that had been hindering his training. Ava then selected specific exercises to speak to his needs. It was obvious that although not familiar with Ava , my gelding had a comfort level with her right from the start. The exercises were easy enough to learn. Back lifts, front leg circles, tail Ttouch , Raccoon Ttouch , neck release, hoof taps, and the body wrap were a few of the seemingly simple steps Ava guided us through. After what seemed like a short time my gelding let out a heavy, deep, slow sigh. “That is the million dollar breath” replied Ava .
During the session I took a few notes. Subsequently I purchased a copy of The Ultimate Horse Behavior and Training Book by Linda Tellington-Jones. The commitment I made to myself was to continue on with the process at least once weekly. I am thrilled to say, not only did Lance's body awareness increase, he actually did gain overall confidence and his shying episodes were greatly reduced. As an added bonus, I have enjoyed an enhanced relationship with my horse. Hardly a day goes by that I don't incorporate one (or more) of these training techniques into our session. Hardly a day goes by that I don't get a million dollar breath in response! As far as I am concerned, it just doesn't get better than that.
The little black and white kitty who inspired Tavi and Friends.
I've had a soft spot since childhood for Rudyard Kipling's little mongoose character, Rikki Tikki Tavi. Then in 1985, a very pregnant mother cat came knocking at a door to deliver her babies . . . one of them was my Tavi. From early kitten hood, she embodied that little mongoose's personality: playful, loving, loyal, indomitable - taking it all in stride and meeting every challenge!
I've pretty much been taking in homeless animals my entire life. Once Tavi entered my home, she took over the role of mothering them, guiding them, and disciplining them! Made my life easier, sometimes, but every stray who we took in learned a lot from her, and was found the ideal home and person! I never, ever thought of life without Tavi, until in 2000, I lost her to cancer; in 2002, I lost my little Muffin at the age of 7, in the prime of her life, to cancer (a 3-week old kitten I found on the street, who Tavi “raised and kept” with us); and then, in 2003, I heard about TTouch.
I always knew my path was leading towards a “rehab/rescue” sanctuary of some sort, but until my first TTouch foundation training, the road wasn't as clear as it later became. As I learned more about TTouch and what it accomplished, I began looking at how TTouch could be incorporated into my “dream.” The gentleness of TTouch, the wellness and holistic aspect, all certainly fit, but I still needed to work out the particulars. Tavi was always in my heart, and I thought of how she would have enjoyed TTouch and watching me work on our “fosters.” To keep the story short, all these ruminations led to the formation in early 2008 of Tavi and Friends , a 501(c)3 non-profit animal welfare organization that is dedicated to helping animals with unique challenges through teamwork, public awareness, rescue, foster care, adoption and, of course, TTouch and other holistic methods. Two of our main programs are the TTouch-in-Rescue Program and the TTouch-for-Adopters Program. And it's all because of, and inspired by, my little Tavi and TTouch.
There are so many animals I could tell you about, but I'll hold back and mention just a few to inspire you. Through our TTouch-in-Rescue Program, we work directly with animals, with shelter volunteers and workers, as well as using TTouch in trap-neuter-return (TNR), a method of humanely reducing feral cat populations, and rescue work. One very special little “client” is Sparkle , a small feral kitty who was rescued - and subsequently adopted -- by one of Tavi and Friends Directors and Program Managers, Ginny Higgins.
Ginny rescued Sparkle, along with what she thought were her three siblings. Emmett, Starr and Skye were quickly adopted out into good homes, as they were easily socialized, but Sparkle was a tough case to tackle. We all soon realized that, although small, she was much older than the others and not from the same litter. Sparkle was already distrustful of people so our initial sessions were with Sparkle hissing, spitting, and cowering in her cage.
Gently working with TTouch Jelly Scrubbers, sheepskin mitts, backscratchers, anything that she could readily tolerate, Sparkle's TTouch program began. Remarkably, it didn't take too long before Sparkle was accepting my hands-on touches. That's the beauty of TTouch. Even so, Sparkle had a long way to go. Throughout the months, TTouch helped Sparkle progress step-by-step and become better socialized and more trusting. Today, although she still isn't quite ready to be “cuddled,” she loves being on our laps (a big coup for her!), being petted and getting her TTouch session. But one of the most significant changes that TTouch has brought to Sparkle has been in her growing independence and self-confidence.
Although Sparkle could not bond with humans in the beginning, she did bond with Ginny's other cats - especially a beautiful black rescued boy named Ebony . Coming from a feral colony, Sparkle needed the companionship of other cats and followed Ebony everywhere; after a time, Ginny could pet Sparkle if Ebony was there. Ebony was her security blanket and bridge. But now, Sparkle has enough awareness and confidence in herself to be able to mingle with us humans on her own terms - and enjoy the physical contact of laps, kisses, nail clipping, and so much more. It may not seem like a lot to some people, but to this little kitty, and to us, it's huge! Through Ginny's efforts and her openness to this gentle TTouch therapy, Sparkle has made her own place in the world of humans and with her new family. Each day we see more and more progress, and we see Sparkle becoming a kitty on her way to a more trusting life. We also know that she will never give up her TTouch sessions!
Ebony is reaping the benefits of Sparkle's TTouch sessions. He typically “sits in” and Ginny is pleased to note that he has become much less fearful of, and friendlier towards, new people and situations!
A special little dog helped through our TTouch-in-Rescue program was an elderly Chihuahua named David, surrendered by his owner to the city shelter, and who was luckily scheduled to be released to a no-kill rescue group's foster program the day following our session. However, David was a very frightened little dog who shook all the time, whether awake or asleep, terrified of being alone, in a cage and in this strange environment. When I picked him up and began working on him, the shaking was even more apparent. I took him to a quieter location in the shelter where I began speaking softly and using TTouch on him. It took a little over ten minutes for him to settle in but the shaking subsided. I continued working on him and cuddling him, until he nestled into the crook of my arm, took that wonderful deep sigh, and went into a nice sleep - with NO shaking. The staff was amazed. As I brought him back to his cage, they commented on how they hadn't seen him calmly sleeping, and not shaking, since the day he came into the shelter. Don't you just love TTouch!
I could go on and on . . . there are so many animals who have benefited: colony cats; injured, disabled, and terminal animals. The list is endless.
Another of our programs is the Seniors-in-the-Home, Seniors-for-Life, which promotes the adoption of adult, mature and elderly cats and dogs, particularly to senior folks who can benefit from knowing up front about the personality traits that are not always apparent in still-growing kittens, puppies and juveniles. We show the human “baby boomers” easy TTouch techniques that they are able to use on their pets - and subsequently on themselves.
In addition, Tavi and Friends is dedicated to rescuing and re-homing the American Curl cat, through a program called Tavi's Curls. For those who may not be familiar with this enchanting breed, they have backward curled ears, are very intelligent and playful, and are often called the “Peter Pan” of cats. Peaches, my sweet American Curl - and a Tavi graduate - can't get enough TTouch. It's right up there with her grooming sessions - and that's saying something!
It's all part of what we call TTLC: TTouch, Love and Comfort.
Any dream is possible when there are enough people who want it and are willing to strive for it! A big mission of Tavi and Friends is to bring a unified, widespread TTouch movement to shelters, rescuers, adopters and the general public. We are also committed to helping end cruelty and abuse, and to a day when animal welfare organizations are no longer needed because we've become a more enlightened society. Dream big, always believe in your dreams, and work hard for them. That's when they come true.
You've all heard the saying, “If I knew then what I know now . . . !” Well, I wish I had heard of this remarkable method back then, so Tavi, Muffin and so many others who shared my “pre-TTouch” life could have experienced the benefits. But they are looking over my shoulder and inspiring me each time I use it to help another fellow animal. Tavi is always with me in heart and mind, and she will be there guiding me throughout my mission of working with these special creatures. Loss is always difficult but should lead us to greater things.
Linda Tellington-Jones and Edie Jane Eaton have graciously agreed to serve as Advisory Board members to guide us in our roles as TTouch envoys to these animals, for those times when WE, the practitioners, face a challenge that requires “expert” insight! We thank them for being part of our dream.
We would also like to reach out to other TTouch Practitioners, or Practitioners-in-Training, who would be interested in furthering the mission of Tavi and Friends. Contact us to learn more about our campaign to help homeless, abandoned and uniquely challenged animals through TTouch, and how you can help us to bring it into mainstream shelter life.
Please open your hearts . . . become a “Friend of Tavi”. Your support will ensure we can always fulfill our mission to bring the best options to these animals so they can have the best lives possible. Tavi and Friends relies solely on public support to bring the magic of TTouch to as many disadvantaged animals as possible. You can make a general donation or support one of our programs. Thank you!
For more information about Tavi and Friends, visit: www.TAVIandFRIENDS.org
Mary Bruce, CTTP
My husband and I have a 2 (?) year old female border collie. She is a sweet beauty but “aggressive” towards most dogs. She does have, however, dog buddies with whom she is very gentle. “Aggressive” is in quotes because we have been told by a trainer that the problem is us, that we are too “soft.” Maggie was boarding with this trainer for 1 week where she showed no aggression towards other dogs. We took her home and same day she was lunging and barking at other dogs.
She is also frightened of loud sounds and groups of kids and teenagers. We have had her since she was 8 weeks old and believe that she has never been mistreated by anyone since we have had her.
We have tried to build her confidence with urban agility. She jumps over fences and jumps on rocks with ease. She seems to love this, but it has not improved her interactions with other dogs.
We have another dog, Dozer, who is very calm and confident with other dogs and in all situations. Her big “brother” though does not a calming influence on her however.
We are at a loss. I have attached a picture of Dozer just because he is so darn cute. ;) Gayle
Thank you for your email, and for taking the time to seek out some extra assistance for Maggie, Dozer and yourself. I can understand how challenging it is to work with a dog like Maggie who has been labeled aggressive yet also has a sweet and gentle side. First of all, if you haven't already, you may want to consider having Maggie checked by a vet to make sure she doesn't have any physical issues that might be causing her to be reactive. Dogs are like humans in that if they don't feel well - mentally, physically and/or emotionally - they can become reactive.
Maggie appears to react to situations in which she feels uncertain - loud noises, some dogs, kids, teenagers. When an animal (or human) increases their stress level, the brain literally turns off and we react rather than act. When an animal carries tension in their body, they become more reactive to certain situations. By releasing tension through the use of Tellington TTouches, you can help Maggie to relax, become more aware of her body and reduce stress so that she is able to think and use her brain rather than reacting.
Something very simple you could begin with is a Half Body Wrap. I have a photo of my “Java” wearing one on my website.
The Half Body Wrap is a very simple tool that helps animals to feel more secure in many situations because they can feel their body more and it also has a relaxing effect - kind of like a little hug. I have had amazing results with this simple and inexpensive tool for dogs who are shy and reactive. For Maggie, you can try using a 3" elastic bandage - making sure it's loose enough (like a sock might fit) but still giving her a sensation on her body. Try putting it on her for a few minutes and see how she responds to it. Then take it off and try it again. You want to make sure she's supervised (don't leave her home alone with it) so that she is safe. Again, refer to my website link or feel free to call or e-mail me.
It's wonderful that you have Maggie doing Urban Agility (I love that term!). The more you can get her body moving in a balanced state - where she is physically, mentally and emotionally balanced - the more it will help her to overcome some of her fears. With Tellington TTouch, we do something similar called the Playground for Higher Learning - using low level pieces of equipment for dogs to walk over, around etc. By guiding them through these types of obstacles in a balanced way, many animals are able to increase their confidence and overall balance.
If you have a TTouch Practitioner in your area, I would recommend contacting them for a class or private session. You can find a list of practitioners at www.TTouch.com . I'd also be happy to work with you, so please feel free to contact me as well.
PS Your dogs ARE adorable!!
Sage Lewis, The Creature Teacher
Linda invites you to subscribe to her blog "Changing the World One TTouch At A Time". To receive notice of the latest entries go to: www.ttouch.com and click on Linda's Blog - there is a SUBSCRIBE! link at the top right.
If our current event listings are not timely for you or too far away, please be sure to bookmark our calendar and check back often. We hope there is an event that will be just right for you!
Even better send us a picture, too! We'd love to post your picture and and your story/picture on our home page.
You are welcome to transmit your photo and story by email to info@TTouch.com - please send the photos as JPEGs and at least 3" x 4" in size. If you don't have digital images, postal mail the picture(s) to Tellington TTouch Training, POB 3793, Santa Fe, NM 87501. Please keep a duplicate of any picture you send.
Join Debby Potts, Tellington TTouch Instructor, in Portland June 22-27 at the Oregon Humane Society and learn TTouch - an easy way to make your animals happier and healthier and have fun doing it.
Are you interested in TTouch for your own use, to add to what you are already doing with animals or to begin a new career? Debby will provide a fun and interesting opportunity with practical hands on instruction in a positive supportive environment. Learn a new way to enhance behavior, health and your relationship with animals that is recommended internationally by vets and trainers.
If you already work with animals:
Many dog trainers, groomers, vet techs and shelter workers integrate TTouch into the work they do. It is a wonderful way to make your work easier, safer and more fun. You can also enhance customer satisfaction which has it’s own economic rewards.
If you are considering becoming a TTouch Practitioner:
TTouch is a very rewarding career. Practitioners often work with private clients and some teach classes and workshops. Many combine it with other work or use it to supplement other income. There are hundreds of TTouch Practitioners all over the world.
If you want to use TTouch for your own animals:
TTouch gives you the tools to support your animals’ health, behavior and well-being through a deeper understanding and relationship. Among other things, you will learn the skills to help them to be socially acceptable, support them in old age and make the time you spend together more enjoyable.
This is an opportunity to begin learning about TTouch or expand the experience you already have. Come with or without your dog. We will be working with the dogs attending the training as well as various dogs, cats and other animals at the shelter. You will be learning TTouch while also helping the animals there become more adoptable. A winning situation all around!
Oregon Humane Society has been a long time supporter of TTouch and their facility is one of the very best in the country. Volunteers doing TTouch undoubtedly contributes to their 98% placement rate for dogs, 94% for cats, and 95% of all of the smaller animals. OHS is a beautiful, uplifting facility and an ideal venue for a TTouch training. Come and see the benefits of TTouch in action
Debby has been teaching TTouch for more than 25 years and is one of Linda Tellington-Jones’ pioneering instructors. She brings a wealth of international experience with a wide variety of species to her trainings. Debby regularly teaches trainings in North America, Europe, Asia and South Africa. She established TTouch in Japan and oversees the TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner Training there.
Portland is a beautiful city with many scenic areas and recreational opportunities. Plan to spend a couple of extra days and visit the city that tears out parking lots to build parks!
Experience how we are Changing the World, One TTouch at a Time.
"Join me in Virginia, May 6-10 to learn TTouch of Magic for Horses. AND you are invited to experience TTouch for You! in a three-day session, May 1-3. There's room for you also May 22-24, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Friday 7:00-9:00 PM and all day Saturday and Sunday. I hope you will be with us at these events."
Starting a Young Horse - just the training for you in wonderful Wyoming! June 15-20
2009 marks the 20th year the beautiful Arabian horses born on the mountain ranges of the Bitterroot Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming, will spend a week being gentled and TTEAMed. Enthusiastic horse owners come from many parts of the world to learn the steps of the Tellington Method that makes it possible to "educate" rather than "break" young horses under saddle. There is never any bucking or fear or stress in this process.
Join Linda Tellington-Jones on Sunday, May 24, 2009 at 6pm CST as a special guest on The Pet Playground - hosted by Sage Lewis, The Creature Teacher and Tellington TTouch Practitioner Level 3. This entertaining and educational call-in show is for pets and the people who love them. Find out why your pets act the way they do and how to help them (and you) create a happier, healthier, more balanced life together.
Listen live: May 24 from 6:00-7:00 PM, Central Standard Time
Call in with your pet questions:
Learn about The Pet Playground: Visit www.dancingporcupine.com
Linda asks that you to make TTouch available to the world by way of YouTube. We have a link to our YouTube Channel on our homepage, to acquaint more people with the work. The more hits we get on our website, the higher the status we get on search engines, which in turn gets the word out to even more people.
Purchase, for $20.00, a one-year subscription to the online editions of the TTEAM Connections Newsletter! Robyn Hood, editor of the TTEAM Connections Newsletter, will email you the link to access the newsletter.