Reiki for Cats & the People Who Love Them

As told to Pamela Miles by Carole Wilbourn, a pioneer of cat therapy, whose practice helping cats and the people who love them is based in New York City.

Reiki for Cats and Cat People

Eighteen years old, with diabetes, borderline renal failure and arthritic hind legs, Winni had his paws full. Connie, his guardian, also felt emotionally and physically drained, and scheduled a home visit so I could give them both a lift.

First I gave Connie some behavioral tips that would help her maintain their well-being after I left. Then I began a modified Reiki chair treatment.

As soon as I placed my hands on Connie’s head, Winni wobbled onto her lap, purring steadily. Connie was delighted. “Winni wants to be part of the action, and my Winni has discerning taste,” said Connie.

A cat’s actions reflect a cat’s feelings. That’s obvious.

But I’ve been a cat therapist since 1970, and working with thousands of feline-guardian duos has shown me what’s not so obvious: how often a cat’s feelings and behavior express the angst of the guardian. You can call it Whole Cat Therapy if you want, but it became clear to be that in order to help a cat, I needed to help the guardian as well.

Learning to practice Reiki in May 2009 made that so much easier to do, and my Reiki hands have become a featured — and favorite — part of my service. I also nurture myself with daily Reiki self-treatment, and I’ve come to appreciate that my daily self-treatment is part of what I bring to my human and feline clients.

I recently treated cats at a fund-raising event. One was recovering from pelvic surgery for a fracture. An attendee who watched me give Reiki treatment commented, “What a relieved expression on that cat’s face as you treated her. We watched her face soften as you placed your hands on her body.”

Another attendee noticed the guardian’s shoulders relax and his breath deepen during the treatment — the one I gave his cat! You should have seen how well he responded when I placed my hands on him.


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15 thoughts on “Reiki for Cats & the People Who Love Them”

  1. My cat has been diagnosed with chronic renal failure. I have faith we will overcome this opstacle. Can you advise me of where I can place my hands on him to start the healing process?

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your cat’s illness, Patty. Put your hand or hands on him anywhere that is comfortable for both of you. Placing hands is more important than where you place them, as any contact can elicit the self healing response. Think of how the full protocol would fit your cat’s body, and move hands from area to area, staying longer if you feel sensations, as your cat tolerates. With animals in the home, it is often a matter of treating as is convenient and as your cat is amenable, rather than a full treatment all at once as you would for self care.

      And speaking of self care, I hope you are giving yourself a full daily hands-on Reiki treatment. Remember that everything you do for yourself helps everyone else.

  2. My cat Smudge is totally dehydrated and has kidney failure…he was a kitten when I picked him and have had him for nearly 9 years (I live in India by the way). I take care of 5 cats in total, 2 dogs, have two little boys of 4 and 2 yrs and a busy job as a social worker. The cats come and go, do not eat at the same times, sometimes don’t come home for 24hrs or more so this one slipped past me…he wasn’t eating, then stopped drinking and the next thing I know he is on a drip at the vets. That was yesterday and he is now back home and it’s been 36 hrs. I just thought this evening about Reiki and I gave him a 10 min session. Please help. How much is right? Since he is sick he is not moving away, hence the hands on, but would it be better distance?

    1. Cristelle, why not offer Reiki treatment as you are able? There is no right or wrong amount, but generally speaking, more is better, and that’s even more likely to be true in a crisis. Hands-on treatment has the added benefit of your comforting presence and touch, but either hands-on or distant practice is valuable.

    2. My cat Smudge passed away yesterday with critical kidney failure. I did my best giving Reiki until the end and hope that it helped him pass in peace.

      1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Cristelle. My experience offering Reiki treatment at end of life has been that it eases suffering and brings peace, and Smudge was fortunate to have you to tend him as he left.

  3. Hi Lisa,

    What a beautiful Sam story. My late cat Orion, was my catalyst for becoming a Reiki practitioner. We were only together 28 months — renal failure was his demise. I was in the midst of making tributes when Reiki stepped in on the net. Orion was my
    catalyst. Now I can give myself and others what I couldn’t give Orion (l). Thank you Lisa
    for a healing Sam moment.

  4. Hi Lisa,

    What a beautiful Sam story. My late cat Orion, was my catalyst for becoming a Reiki practitioner. We were only together 28 months — renal failure was his demise. I was in the midst of making tributes when Reiki stepped in on the net. Orion was my
    catalyst. Now I can give myself and others what I couldn’t give Orion (l). Thank you Lisa
    for a healing Sam moment.

    Hi Ingrid,

    Oh yes, I agree. A cat is so exquisitely sensitive to all that comes his or her way. Less
    is more.

  5. I’ve found that cats often prefer Reiki at a slight distance. In my Reiki practice, I only have a handful of cat clients who like hands-on sessions. I’ve also found that most cats prefer shorter sessions than even dogs, and definitely shorter sessions than humans. I’ve always felt that was due to the fact that because cats are so sensitive to energy in general, they’re able to utilize the energy very quickly.

  6. Hi Carole,

    It’s remarkable how well cats respond to reiki. My Sam was hours away from death when he was admitted to the hospital for renal failure. Less than a week later (and with daily reiki treatments) he was released with normal kidney values. The vet said she had never seen a cat so deep into kidney failure rebound so well. She estimated he had 6 months with daily fluid treatments. Reiki helped keep Sam’s kidney values normal and over time I was able to reduce his fluids to once a week. The 6 months she gave him turned out to be over 5 happy, healthy years.

    My vet called Sam a miracle and me The Cat Whisperer. From one cat whisperer to another, keep up the beautiful work.

  7. Hi Cheri,

    You are certainly a sensitive and caring practitioner. When I do Reiki with cats, I give what I have, they take what they want, and I let go. The more I relax (my daily treatments really help), the easier it is. Cats and other animals have always been my greatest teachers, and I’ve learned, but slowly, that I can accept what may be mysterious to me, is not to them– and that’s a coup. Thanks Cheri for your insight.

    Hi Martha,

    The cat in the photo with me is my cat Orion 2. Your Pipes really is a cat on the go.
    Martha, thanks for your colorful input.

  8. Martha Pettengill

    Beautiful story about Winni and Connie, thank you for sharing. I have to say, however, when I saw Winni’s photo, I accused my Siamese of “stepping out on me” with another human! 😉 Winni looks exactly like my wonderful, sweet male Siamese named “Pipes the Cat.”

    My partner (currently working toward her Master) and I (Reiki I) share Reiki treatments for each other, and Pipes almost always wants to participate. He is very aware of the energy and usually places himself in a seemingly strategic area. It’s beautiful, and I looooove him being part of my treatments. It always seems enhanced when he is part of it.

    He likewise tried once to be part of an in-home acupuncture treatment, which was a little unnerving! He actually moved carefully to each of the 28 needles and sniffed them individually. He also managed to find an open area on my torso between two sets of needles and laye there. It was interesting.

  9. Hi Carol,
    Thank you for the work that you do and allowing me to ask a question. Pamela I love your blog and I am a frequent visitor.

    I am a recent Reiki II practitioner. When I started my journey with Reiki it was with the intention of providing Reiki to the cats in shelters to give them some relief from the stress of life there. I had already been volunteering as care staff at a shelter for feral cats.

    My journey with Reiki over the past two years has taken some interesting and gratifying turns. However my connection to Cats with Reiki has been complicated. It has often felt that instead of offering a gift and letting them take what they need. I am a annoyance and threat. I have been very careful to prepare, and stay hands off unless invited. However the connection and inner knowing I have been experiencing with people does not happen with cats.

    I was wondering if there were steps you took to prepare that you would be willing to share? Also have you had this difference experience with cats then humans and other animals?

    My two cat companions have become great teachers in my life and I do wonder if it is because my relationship to cats have become so valuable to me that I have set myself up to not enjoy the connection with other cats.

    Thank you so much for your time and again for the wonderful work you do on behalf of cats.

    Cheri Linehan

  10. Hi Carole-
    When I began Reiki 15 years ago, I worked for a vet’s office. The cats are tricky, but they always loved it. They, more than dogs, semmed to make use of it to transcend to the next level. At first, that was scary for me- but then I realized that if the tell you that geriatric people may do that, there’s really not much difference. And that’s the beauty of Reiki- it works how it’s needed, not how you feel it should.
    Blessings to you, keep up the wonderful works!
    Tracy Wilson
    Pooler, GA

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