When our cats are ill our world changes and we would do anything in our power to help them. There is a natural way to approach your pet's health and it is through their own body, their own energy system, using Reiki Energy Healing. Reiki is a beautiful way to take care of the pets you love.

I first came across the wonderful healing power of Reiki through a friend, Janine, who was training as a holistic therapist. If it hadn't been for her I would probably have dismissed it as a load of 'mumbo jumbo' but I trusted her. She's so down to earth that if she believed in it then there must be something to it and that was good enough for an old doubter like me. At that time I was suffering from a painful knee which was causing me to limp a bit and I was worried I wouldn't be able to enjoy a salsa dancing party I'd planned on going to in a couple of days time. Janine suggested a Reiki treatment and what followed was the most wonderful hour of relaxation. Never mind the limp, I floated out of there on a big fluffy cloud with a huge smile on my face! I went to that party and danced all night! I promptly packed off Graham, my husband, for a treatment on his tennis elbow, which to this day gives him no more trouble. (He's still rubbish at tennis though...)

I decided I'd like to learn the art for myself as I wanted to be able to help my immediate family which of course included our cats and dog so I booked myself on a 2-day course which was held at the Reiki Master's own house. Wendy welcomed me warmly and showed me into her treatment room where three of us were to be 'attuned'. Whilst we were waiting for the last person to arrive one of Wendy's six cats pushed open the door and jumped onto her lap. Wendy placed her hands on the cat and said that he'd come for his Reiki session. I was amazed how still that cat sat. You could tell he wasn't there for petting - there was none of the usual nuzzling of her hands. He just stayed still, totally contented for about 5 minutes then got up and jumped down when he'd had enough. She told us how she'd give Reiki to a couple of her older cats on their faces whilst they were eating as they found chewing painful. The vet had advised having the teeth removed if it got too bad but in the meantime the Reiki was helping.

I got chatting to another co-learner, Alleem, who was there mainly for the benefit of his cats I liked this fella ;-) A fourth rescue cat had recently adopted him and he desperately wanted to keep him, but he wouldn't settle and was terrorising his other three cats. Alleem had heard about Reiki and how it could calm a distressed and unhappy cat so decided now was the time to come and learn it for himself, for the sake of his other cats' sanity. On our second morning we all reported our previous evenings' experimental experiences. The bully cat had had a Reiki session that evening and overnight turned into a real softie and had that morning been rolling on his back and his three fellow housemates had been lying with him! Alleem was thoroughly delighted and completely amazed at the transition. I'd gone straight home after that first session and announced to Purdy, my 16-year-old tabby that she was going to be my first 'victim'! She wasn't suffering from any particular ailment but as I felt the heat and tingling in my hands I knew she was drawing the energy and benefiting somehow. Later that evening I sat my eldest son down and gave him a treatment as he had a cold and felt chesty. Within a couple of minutes my red tabby was sitting under the chair with a smug look on his face. Since then, both cats have magically appeared and wheedled their way to get close to the energy if I'm treating myself or someone else. Purdy, who used to only move to eat or for her twice-daily 5 minutes in the garden, has been much more sprightly and sleeping noticeably less, which is very encouraging.

Wendy told us many tales of how she'd helped animals with Reiki, including one about a very sorry litter of kittens who'd been rejected by their mother. There were fears that one in particular wouldn't survive. She placed her hands above their box and gave Reiki to them all together, but the weakest one would always manage to worm its way into the middle to gain the most benefit. Needless to say, it thrived.

So how does it work? To be perfectly honest, I wish I could explain it better. All I can say for sure is that it does! But here goes - Reiki is Japanese for 'universal life force energy'. Whilst Reiki is thought to have its roots in ancient Buddhism, it is not a religion, but is a laying-on of hands energy healing technique. Cats, indeed all animals, have main energy centres in their bodies (along with several minor ones) which function to keep them happy and healthy. Each energy centre contains a combination of their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self. All are interrelated and dependent on one another to sustain overall health in the body. Often, things like stress, trauma, anxiety and physical ailments can easily block these energy centres causing pain, illness and even disease. It is the disruption of the energy flow that causes problems. During a Reiki treatment universal energy is channelled into the energy field, or system, of the animal, clearing away any blockages and restoring health. The treatment can be done with or without touch depending on the comfort level of the animal. A cat's treatment will generally start behind their ears with the hands moving to where they feel guided. Reiki can do no harm; even when used by the most novice practitioner, it always goes to the source of the problem and works for the highest good.

The true healing power of Reiki can be seen most clearly when healing animals. In fact, at no other time can we get a clearer view of this awesome force. You see, animals know nothing of faith or religious belief systems. And, because they cannot communicate like humans, they have no judgments and no scepticisms. This means that they are able to feel the energy and not attach any beliefs or disbeliefs to it. The bottom line is that they are actually much more receptive to the energy.

How often have you seen your cat staring at something only to wonder what on earth it is that they can see? Wendy, being a Reiki Master and having practiced for many years, was able to see our Reiki energy flowing when we were practicing our treatments and animals are born with this ability too. Cats are very sensitive energetically and quickly understand that Reiki will help them. They enjoy receiving the energy, as it is gentle and loving. Because they are so sensitive, cats usually prefer Reiki from a distance and always require treatments on their own terms, but they respond very well and love Reiki, always appreciating the healing that is offered. Reiki can't be forced onto anyone - it needs to be requested or accepted. Of course, I can't ask our furry friends if they're in need of a treatment, all I can do is offer. If they didn't want it, they'd simply move away. One of my cats enjoys the hands on treatment whereas the other, I think, finds the heat a bit intense and is happiest receiving it from a distance. One of the best things about Reiki is how it provides the animal with an opportunity to help itself. Reiki healings are completely dependent on what the animal wants and needs; they are not subjected to anything they are not comfortable with. It is a beautiful non-invasive opportunity for the animal to take charge of its own health. A chance for them to get in touch with their true self and accept healing in the places needing it most. For an owner this is a very comforting thought. For a pet it can mean a remarkable new lease on life.

Reiki works especially well on broken limbs, and as it can flow through obstacles, it can be given through a plaster cast. Doctors are often surprised at how quickly and well a treated bone has healed, even declaring that the bone can't possibly have been broken in the first place! For animals I've heard many a tale of how it's helped arthritis, diabetes, stomach upsets; even cancer tumours have been known to shrink. Whilst Reiki is not an alternative therapy it is a very complimentary one and as such a visit to the vet should never be discarded in favour of Reiki. For mild conditions, however, a couple of Reiki sessions could save a huge vet bill and would give relief from the pain of an injury or illness. It will increase healing after surgery as well as giving the benefits of increased comfort and relaxation for your pet. Reiki may not cure cancer (though it has been known) or prevent death, but for animals nearing the end of their life, it is a powerful yet gentle way to provide comfort; relief from pain, fear and anxiety; and to ease their transition. Reiki has a special nurturing quality for the terminally ill by helping to decrease their discomfort and support them in the acceptance of their illness. We all know the body has a natural ability to heal itself. Sores, cuts and colds all heal eventually on their own. When Reiki is channelled into the body, the body's rate of self-healing dramatically increases resulting in quicker recovery time and an increase in their overall mental, physical and emotional health.

Reiki affects body, spirit and soul, and as such is very good to use on pets with behaviour problems or stress-related disorders. It's great for aggression, fear disorders and phobias to name a few as it induces peace, relaxation and brings new vitality to life.

May 2007 - Article by Manuela Croft. Reproduced in Ocicat Muse, issue 26.