During the Seminar on Cats, various speakers discussed many of the problems that are common in cats. They include aggression, spraying, unwanted scratching, nervousness etc. What all of the speakers agreed on was that most of these things included some stress and anxiety. The good news is that TTouch addresses exactly this! Below is a hands on guide on HOW TO DO THE TTOUCH.
What is TTouch?
TTouch is a gentle and unique method of working with both health and behavioral problems in animals. Developed by internationally known animal expert, Linda Tellington-Jones, TTouch is based on cooperation and understanding. These revolutionary techniques promote optimal performance and health without fear or force. It utilizes bodywork for cats as well as groundwork exercises for both dogs and horses.
What is Body Work?
TTouch Bodywork uses a combination of circles, slides and lifts to increase awareness and sensation, reduce stress and relax tension held in the body. This allows the body to function to it’s full potential in the healing process. As the body comes into balance, we find that the mind and emotions follow! TTouch works via the neurological system of the body. Just as the brain sends messages to the body, the reverse is also true. Therefore, if there is tension in the body, there is a blockage of information to the brain. TTouch uses non-habitual movements to activate unused neurological pathways to the brain. This indeed turns uncooperative animals into willing partners. By stimulating different parts of the brain, we teach the animal to think and realize it has a choice of behavior!
When would one use TTouch?
- An older animal that is in pain [i.e. arthritis, hip dysplasia, etc.]
- Help injuries and surgery to heal more quickly
- To deepen the bond between you and your pet
- To improve you pet’s confidence, balance, agility or performance
- If your animal is fearful of thunderstorms and loud noises
- If your animal is getting near the end of it’s life and you’d like to do something to alleviate the pain and help in the passing.
- For Improving behavior or temperament:
- Cats who don’t get along at home
- Cats who are fearful of company
- Cats who are standoffish
- Cats who are fighting etc.
- Cats who have trouble going to the Vet
- Cats who are spraying or scratching in unwanted places
Holding your cat
Sometimes the hardest part is holding on long enough to be able to do touches on your cat! First I’d like to say that the phrase we often use: “Less is More” is nearly always true with cats. A small amount of touch work can be beneficial. Let’s start with cats that won’t hold still or don’t like to be confined, even feral cats. We use what we call a wand (actually a dressage horse whip) and it’s usually important to use two. Most cats have a sense of play or at least Prey!
We find that a cat will play with one wand while you can start stroking with the other. If they turn to attack the second one, stroke with the first! Animals that are concerned will be happier if you keep your distance at first. By using wands, you can start to make contact with a cat without getting into its space. With feral cats and even birds, we might even stroke the floor near them or the air above them! As the cats gets used to the wand, you can start to slide your hand closer and eventually stoke with the hand. If you don’t have a wand, be creative! We’ve used PVC piping to peacock feathers! Ultimately, you want to get something touching them that is a bit more solid. We even wrap a bandage around the ball end of the wand and do rolls with that end as well as circles.
Cats normally feel more secure with four feet on the ground. For this reason we often work cats on tables with a non-slippery mat or towel underneath. Containment needs to be gentle, but firm. This means not holding tight, but be ready to contain the cat with your body. If you put one hand on the cat’s chest, you start to give the information that you want the cat to stay with you. You might have to keep changing hands often at the beginning as cats have a tendency to move! But most cats will settle eventually with gentle and non-invasive touches. If you have a cat that wants to back out, you might need a helper on the side. Your own body can block some movement, but not all. You also might like to try sitting on the floor with your legs spread in front of you. This way the cat is contained by your body and your legs while your hands keep it from going forward.
If you are concerned about getting scratched or bitten, there are three other possibilities besides the wands. One is letting the cat stay in the crate and using the wands through the holes to start the process. The second is to only take the top off the crate and cover it with a towel. Then start to touch the cat through the towel. They sometimes feel safer this way. And the last method is to wrap the cat in a towel rather like a Superman cape, but keeping the open side on the cats back and holding firmly at the neck. This helps keep claws away from you. It’s important again to let the cat have its feet on the ground and not be tangled in the towel.
Whatever method you use, if you have concerns about the cat, be sure to wear protective clothing! Cat bites can really hurt! Heavy garden gloves and long sleeved sweatshirts are recommended.
Getting a general feel for where your pet is holding tension and stress
We know from science that we hold emotional issues in the cellular structure of our bodies. Animals do the same! Try an experiment with your pet and see if you can tell where he/she is holding his tension and issues. Do some long steady strokes over every part of your pet’s body. Is there any area where you can’t touch? Or that your pet gives an indication that he might be concerned or uncomfortable?
The signs you might get include:
- Moving away
- Sitting: especially when you get to the tail and hindquarter area
- Turning around to look at what you’re doing
- A calming signal [see Turid Rugaas’ book on dogs] such as yawning, licking of lips, scratching, chewing sniffing, etc. Many of these also apply to cats. Have you ever seen a cat do something naughty, then calmly sit and start licking?
- Fooling around! He’s trying to distract you!
- Scratching or trying to bite! Please be careful and pay attention to the information your pet is giving you
And what does this tell you? It could be several things:
- Your animal could have pain in that part of his body. i.e. if he has arthritis
- He might have a memory of pain. Ever have a cat that was injured in the past, has healed fully but is still wary of that part of his body?
- Your pet could be holding emotional issues in this part of the body. (For those interested in a more scientific approach, read Candice Pert’s book “Molecules of Emotions” to understand how we hold emotions in the cellular structure of the body.)
Make sure you work from the mouth [including inside], to the ears, down the legs into the feet and toes and go all the way back to the but and the length of the tail. If you know how to do the circles then try that as well! (See basic circular TTouch). If you’re getting reaction in a certain area, try a softer pressure or a flatter touch. Sometimes the reaction will be very subtle and sometimes quite dramatic.
Just know that this is the area where your pet feels unsafe and what we want to do is give him a NEW experience of this part of his body. You might gently try going into these areas more frequently until he is more comfortable with touch. Good luck and let us know how you do!
Doing the TTouch
There are many different touches, but numerous ones are based on a clockwise circular motion. The Clouded Leopard is the first one we teach because the techniques and principles used are basic to all TTouches.
- Start by holding up both hands in a slightly cupped position together.
- Let the heel of your palms touch and the ends of your fingers touch.
- Where your 4 fingers are touching is what you will use to make the Clouded Leopard circle.
- Now visualize the face of the clock.
- We want to make a circle and a quarter ONLY, in a clockwise movement.
- Now place one hand on the animal for support and balance and use the other hand to make the circle.
- Rest your hand lightly on the animal, with your thumb a few centimeters from your fingers for support, and start your fingers at the 6 o’clock position, move around the clock by pushing (or pulling) the skin in a clockwise motion until you’ve done one complete circle and a quarter, which will land you up at 9 o’clock.
- Remember to move the skin and not slide over it and always start your 6 o’clock from the ground upwards. It really feels different to end in upward motion rather than down! Do ONLY ONE circle in a spot, then move on to another.
- Keep your fingers and knuckles soft and flexible. If there is tension in your hand or wrist, that tension will go directly into the animal.
- Keep your pressure very light until you know how comfortable the animal is with the touch. Remember that you’re activating the nervous system, so you don’t need to go into muscle.
- Keep your hand as an extension on your arm to avoid getting into an awkward position.
- While you concentrate, don’t forget to Breathe!
- Try doing connected circles down the body, keeping them small.
- Afterwards do a long steady stroke to integrate the circles.
Try these circles on yourself and friends and see how they feel!!! Attempt to keep the circles even and with the same pressure.
Do this anywhere on the body of your pet. You might do some randomly or work your way down the body. There is no right or wrong way. Just pay attention to the reaction you get. GOOD LUCK!!
Cats really enjoy that spot on the nose just below the eyes! There is actually a pressure point there for feeling good! I like to do a circle and a slide up between the eyes to the forehead. It’s the fastest way to get a cat settled that I know.
Why do ear work?
One of the best places to start TTouching your pet is on the ears. You might wonder why and there are several reasons. The first being that they usually really like it! Watch you cat, he spends time every day trying to scratch deep down into his ears! So if you’re prepared to put you finger there, cats sometimes are VERY grateful. So it’s always good to start bodywork in an area that your pet is happy with you touching
The next reason to work the ears is that it holds many pressure points for the immune system. It’s the logical place to go if your pet has any illness. There is also a pressure point for SHOCK near the tip, so if your animal has been hurt and you’re off to the Vet you might actually save his life by doing ear work and helping him not go into shock! Whether it’s a catfight, accident or just a cut from the garden, it’s great to know there is something we can do. EAR WORK! Yes, I’m serious! There are pressure points near the tip of the ears that can keep your pet from going into shock. All of the ear work is good for boosting the immune system so don’t wait for an Emergency!
What to do:
- Start by doing ear slides from deep inside the ear out to the tip. Do this on all points of the ear from the base upwards, both on the outside and inside
- Do small circles in the same direction from the base upwards in lines until you have covered the entire ear. For big-eared animals, you might hold the ear open with one hand and do circles with the other
- Take the whole ear in your hand and do circles in BOTH directions. A great “Non-habitual” touch.
- Do circles around the base of the ears. There is a meridian that runs from the outer edge of the eyes around the ears and down the front legs called the “Triple Heater” Meridian and it works with Digestion, Respiration and Reproduction. So working this part of the ears can help anything connected with these. An example is my golden, Angelique who used to get carsick. I cured her with ear work and a body wrap!
Why do mouth work?
It’s true that most of us never look into our cat’s mouths! WELL I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU HOW GOOD IT IS FOR YOUR PET TO HAVE MOUTHWORK! Why? You may ask. The mouth connects with the limbic portion of the brain, which is the seat of emotions. The limbic system controls stress, anxiety and all of the related emotions that allow your animal to think rather than slip into “reaction”. By working in the mouth we can relieve a great deal of stress as well as induce feelings of “well-being”.
When would you use mouth work?
I must admit that I would use it on any dog or cat, but some of the main uses are for animals who bite, chew, bark or whine too much. I would certainly use mouth work on any aggressive dog and often for fearful animals. The tightness of the mouth area will give you an indication of how concerned your animal is about you going there. I recently worked on a cat that wouldn’t hold still until I did only 30 seconds in his mouth. He then suddenly settled and I could relax with more bodywork! I have previously discussed how to see if your animal will let you work in all areas of the body. For the mouth it might be a little trickier as most cats NEVER get touched there.
What to do:
Start by doing long and gentle strokes on the muzzle from the nose backwards being careful of the whiskers. You might even continue to the ears if your cat likes it. Then try doing small circles on the muzzle. [Refer to the basic circular touch] Remember that the circles will be small and if your pet is very small you might have to use one or two fingers instead of all four.
If your cat wants to pull away you might support the head under the jaw and if he moves - GO WITH HIM! This is not about “holding” or forcing. Try doing circles from under and/or on top of the nose. Different cats react differently to how they are held. Now try lifting the lip and see how tight it is and if your cat will allow you in the mouth easily. If so, do small circles on the gums all over the mouth. Be careful if the mouth is dry! It can indicate some nervousness and you’ll need to wet your finger in a bit of water. I can also often find saliva towards the back teeth even when the front of the mouth is dry.
People often say, “Oh my cat doesn’t like that”! If this is the case, then you have found one of his “stress holding points”. Well done! Remember there is always a reason why an animal doesn’t want you to into a certain area of the body! As in all parts of the body we want to make sure that there is no pain involved, so for kittens, they might be teething or for older cats, they might have teeth that are giving problems. Just be aware and know that you can help them. WHAT IF YOUR CAT HOLDS HIS BREATH?? He might get anxious and not know how to relax. Mouth work can change that in minutes!
NOTE: As the mouth is often a big stress holder for many animals, start your touches somewhere else first and only go to the mouth when you feel the animal is more relaxed. GOOD LUCK!
The Tail and Hindquarters
The tail and (or) the hindquarters can often be a challenging place to work on an animal and there are several reasons why this might be so. The first is simply that we so often pet our animals on the head and maybe halfway down the back. How often do we go the whole way down the body and into the buttock area? So it might be that your dog or cat, etc. is simply not used to being touched there! But remember that we want animals to be aware of their bodies all over.
It is also possible that this is exactly where animals hold their tension and emotional issues. It is often said that dogs hold Fear in their Hindquarters. I have seldom met a dog that was fearful of loud noises, thunderstorms or fireworks that didn’t react is some way to being touched in the tail area or the buttock area. The reaction can vary from simply yawning (calming signal), to turning the head to see what you’re doing, to mouthing you, to actually growling and trying to bite your hand. Dogs will also often try to move away from you. This is true for cats too! If any of these things occur when you are touching your animal, you might want to do some gentle exercises in this area.
Start by doing long strokes down the body of your cat. They are normally less concerned if they can feel you hand coming! Also by the time they realize that you’re there, you have already finished! Keep it firm and steady, but not too fast. You’ll want to do gentle lying leopard touches around the base of the tail as well as all around the buttocks and thigh area, both outside and inside the leg. For the actual tail, remember that the tail is an extension of the spine and giving a gentle tug is rather like traction. It can be a wonderful way of loosening the spine. BE SURE TO BE GENTLE AND MAKE SURE THAT THE TAIL IS GOING IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SPINE.
Then do a few circles with the whole tail in both directions. Then slide your hand down the tail a couple of inches and do again until you finally reach the bottom. Also just do basic circles right down the length of the tail and remember to do a long steady stroke to consolidate. If your cat has a major problem in the tail or hindquarter areas, be respectful of his concern, but know that by helping him release tension in this area, you can make a major contribution to his overall confidence level and well-being.
Tips for Arthritis
When the cold weather is many of our animals react in their joints! There are a few things that you can do to help. We have a touch that we use on the leg of an animal called a “Python Lift”, which relaxes and stimulates circulation. Use the whole flat of the hand (the palm as well as the fingers) and lift the skin in an upward direction, hold for a couple of seconds, then holding the skin with the same pressure, return the skin to the starting point.
Do this slowly and gently; if you use twice as much time in the release, you’ll get a greater degree of relaxation. This is normally used on legs and is great to do when the animal (meaning all animals) is standing, but for older animals it’s also possible to do lying down. With any touch we like to use our second hand to support, balance or even hold a collar. When lying down, you will find it necessary to hold the foot while lifting the skin on the leg so that the whole leg doesn’t lift with you! Be sure to start at the top and work your way down the leg.
If your animal is lying down, you might then like to gently rotate the leg in circles going in both directions, keeping the circles small until it’s clear what your animal is comfortable with. If your animal is standing and you want to try leg circles, be sure to keep the foot directly under the body and the circles small. IF YOUR CAT HAS HD, OR TROUBLE STANDING DUE TO AGE OR INFIRMITY, PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS STANDING, as you might be putting more weight on 3 legs than is good for your animal. If in any doubt, only do lying down and then gently, carefully and SMALL!
Now having done python lifts on the legs, it is also possible to do lifts on the body. Sometimes lifts starting at the top of the spine and working your way down can release much tension. Again, keep your pressure very light to begin with. Your animal will tell you how much you can do. Just watch his reactions.
In general, do less; be gentle and very alert to your animal’s comfort. None of this should hurt or cause any pain. If your animal has trouble getting up in the morning, do 5 minutes of touches including some Zigzags or Tarantulas to wake up the body. Respect your animals need to have a warm place, preferably in the sun! And make sure that wherever your animal is sleeping, it’s warm and cosy with bedding!
If you want to try circles, try doing connected circles from the top of the head, down both side of the spine, and ending either at the tip of the tail or down the legs into the toes. We do a circle, then a slide to the next spot, circle, slide, etc. This has the effect of connecting the nervous system of the body. It takes information from one end of the body to the other and can go so far as to open unused neural pathways. You can do this down various parts of the body.
Remember that animals who are out of balance because of pain in one part of the body always hold tension and stress in another area, so be sure to work the whole body, not just those areas that you “think” are affected! I nearly always find that animals who have mobility problems hold a lot of tension in the NECK area, so have a good feel and if your pet is tight, help him release tension with circles or just plain massage in the neck area! And don’t forget Ear Work! This is always good for the immune system and seems to stimulate the whole body.
There are of course many other things you can do for your pet. There are many natural products on the market. I also recommend Homeopathic remedies that can be effective. Please go to a homeopathic Vet to be sure your animal receives what is needed as an individual.