How My Cat Became Addicted to Craniosacral Therapy

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It all started when I brought Gigi home. Mimi was the standing queen of the household and wasn’t excited to share her crown, or her space. Unfortunately for Mimi, Gigi was a tough Philadelphia street cat and very much an A-type personality. The struggle was very real for Mimi from the get-go. She ran from Gigi and in 2 instances, where she fell from a high balcony and then fell through the banister and down one flight of stairs trying to get away from her.

Mimi started to develop a rigidity in her musculoskeletal body due to these falls and started to be less active and have more difficulty getting up and down from the sofa and bed. Any movement of her spine in a flexion/extension pattern seemed to cause her pain.

At the same time this very upsetting situation was going on, I began my Craniosacral training. Being an animal lover, I had an attraction to animal training which I was drawn to because of Mimi. Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a gentle, hands-on modality that supports the relief of chronic pain and conditions arising from structural and emotional imbalances held in the body. It is practiced on both people and animals.

My 4 cats were my guinea pigs coming back from the CST training, so I started working on Mimi. She soon developed a true affection for the work as I put my hands on her in a craniosacral way rather than just petting her. She would meltdown and allow me to touch her belly which was a body part that she wouldn’t let even me, her mama, touch on a regular day before my craniosacral training.

When I started to work on her,  her craniosacral rhythm and spine flexibility was very poor, especially in the areas where she was starting to gnaw at her right lumbar area.

As I worked on restoring her craniosacral rhythm and slowly reduced the amount of fibrotic scar tissue from her falls (and who knows what else…she was a rescue too after all!) she started to show signs of increased activity, hair growth where she used to gnaw and an overall sense of a happier state.

She still had major PTSD from Gigi’s repeated bullying. We did our best to intervene and tried to counteract the effects but it was still a problem.

I started to work on Gigi to see if craniosacral therapy could support her being less of a bully. Maybe something was bothering her too and her way of showing it was by being aggressive towards the other cats.

It was a lot more difficult to treat Gigi. She was not nearly as receptive as Mimi who would plop herself sideways as soon as I approached with the intention of doing CST. I didn’t understand why. As time went on, I spoke about this difference in my cats’ reception of CST with other trained senior therapists and learned that asking permission from each animal was paramount!

My CST practice consists only of working with people.  Consent is implied as it is the client who seeks out the session. With animals, this is a completely different ball game. Permission had to be given first. But how? So, despite what seemed like an absurd step as one cannot “talk” to animals (or so I thought), I  asked Gigi nonverbally if it was ok for me to work on her and help her with whatever she needed help with. She was a bit shy about it,  but for the first time, she did not run away after one minute of my working on her with a CST intent! I was very humbled by the experience and blown away at the fact that our animals can actually talk with us, in their own way.

Finally able to feel Gigi’s tissues showed me that she had many significant restrictions affecting her craniosacral system, specifically in her head, neck, and thorax. Who’s to say that she did not have migraines or great debilitating pain! She would often shake her head if she did a “wrong” move playing with her toys. She could also have developed a defense mechanism from her days on the street of becoming the aggressor. Enduring other cats’ aggressive behavior may have set her up in a pattern of constant fight or flight response.

She also had an idiopathic cough/reflux that my veterinarian treated with diet without any noticeable improvement. After several CST sessions, her couching had mostly disappeared and her attitude towards the other cats was more mellow. I also saw less of her head shaking when playing.

I am so grateful to my cats for showing me another layer of respecting others.  Consent is such an important part of developing trust and rapport with others. It is the steppingstone to any good treatment. Here I was trying to help Mimi when in fact it was she and Gigi who helped me.

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