I wrote a couple posts about how very high energy our Shadow is. Although she was quite high energy herself when younger, Tigger has always had a side of her personality that has a still watching quality, call it her inner kitty. She will hen up and seem distant, remote and untouchable. Tigger is also very sensitive, sometimes easily freaked out. At those times, she doesn’t want anyone to come close or touch her.
This weekend with her illness, it has been very difficult because we have had to handle her way more than she is comfortable with. Fortunately, we discovered something by accident years ago that is also helping make her to feel more comfortable with us again in between needing to be medicated or cleaned up. Tigger likes to be stroked with words.
Tigger can have the same purring reaction to words that many animals have while being hand petted. Since she is so sensitive and easily panics, while she was quite young, we started talking to her from a safe distance of at least a few feet so that she knew we could not pick her up. Depending on the circumstances, we would tell her she was all right, things were okay, that she was a beautiful girl, a good bunny, a good Tigger. We started to notice that Tigger would begin to relax and noticeably tooth purr, just the same as if we were physically touching her and stroking her. She loves to be told she is a good bunny. Soft tones of voice, quiet words and those words “good bunny” help her find a mellow safe and happy place.
We would like nothing more than to pick her up, hug her and stroke her, because that is what helps humans to feel secure and loved. Tigger wants a lot of sweet talking instead. Physical touching is prefered by invitation only. She will hop up to where we are sitting and peek over the edge of the seat and then lay down on the floor. That is one cue that an invitation to hands on petting is being extended. Another is if we are on the floor and she hops up next to us and flops down. The last invitation is when she will look at us from a distance and as we approach, she will put her head flat down on the floor. She presents herself by assuming the “I am ready for grooming” position. It is the same position she uses to signal to Shadow that she wants his attention. We are being accepted as surrogate bunnies.
This weekend, we are helping her feel more comfortable and safe again with us by talking to her a lot and telling her that she is a very good bunny. She has shown us she really appreciates our understanding of her needs. Yesterday, she hopped beside Blaine and flopped down asking to be stroked. Today as I was talking to her, she weakly hopped up to where she could see me clearly and put her head down presenting it to be petted. We enjoyed some very sweet time together.
Throughout her life, talking to her and letting her issue the invitations for physical petting has rewarded us with lots of opportunities. We have really gained her trust and even while she is quite ill now, that trust continues and is making it easier for us to care for her and keep her comfortable.