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Cats as Healers and Teachers: How Felines Teach Us the 6 Pillars of Animal Reiki 

an orange cat sits in the shade teaching an Animal Reiki practitioner about cats as healers
Copyright Lexie Cataldo

Recognizing cats as healers and teachers opens you up to seeing the six pillars of Animal Reiki in a new, feline-focused light. Cats can teach us so much about the importance of our energy shared with them, including emotions, intention, body language and more when we share Animal Reiki sessions with them. 

It’s so important for us to recognize that cats understand and sense the energy of compassionate connection and healing in a way that we humans will never be able to fully comprehend. Once we appreciate and honor this, it’s much easier to let go of our control of Animal Reiki sessions and learn from our feline teachers! 

Our 6 Pillars Seen Through the Lens of Cats as Healers and Teachers

The Let Animals Lead method for cats is the perfect approach for this intelligent, sensitive species of non-human animal.

Here are some lessons I've learned from cats, based on the 6 pillars of the Let Animals Lead method of Animal Reiki: 

black and orange cat sits in a tree and relaxes during an Animal Reiki session

Pillar 1: Based on (and uses) traditional Japanese Reiki techniques.

Lesson: Cats teach us that sometimes you just have to remember to breathe.  

Over the years, I’ve shared Reiki with shelter kitties quite frequently. Perhaps these are some of the most challenging sessions because of the feelings of sadness, stress and uncertainty that the cats in these settings are facing. 

One of my favorite techniques to use when I’m sharing Reiki with shelter cats is the “Joshin Kokyu Ho” or as I like to call it, the “Reiki Space Meditation.” This is a very simple practice that involves seeing your breath as a pure and clear light. As you breathe in, imagine this light comes in through your crown and fills your body, all the way down to your lower belly. As you breathe out, imagine this light expands out your skin, into your aura, and out into the universe.

There is no need to force the breath, see this exercise as easy and flowing. Just focus inward on the breath and on the light. 

You might be able to visualize the light, you might feel the exercise, or you might just set your intention to do it. There is no “right” way – the point is to bring all your scattered thoughts to the breath, and in this way your body, mind and spirit calm down and you begin to radiate peace.  

Although this is such a simple practice, I have seen it create huge shifts for shelter cats. Cats who are fearful will come closer during the session. Cats who are agitated calm down and rest. Cats who are skittish will come closer, sometimes climbing into my lap or lying down nearby. 

When we are stressed, sometimes we forget to breathe, or breathe very shallowly, and this Reiki technique is a way to create a calm, easy breathing pattern that can shift your own energy, and create a signal to the cats around you that All is Well.  

students who are learning Animal Reiki stand together and practice being Reiki in the presence of a cat

Pillar 2: Touch is used only when animals seek it out, and then only as a compassionate support. 

Lesson: Cats teach us that healing is about touching hearts, not hands. 

We humans tend to focus Reiki on hands: Hands equal healing. Well, we humans are very tactile creatures, aren’t we? We feel more connected when we use touch. For example, we might love to give a cat a little scratch behind the ear to show affection. Those of us with domestic, affectionate cat friends might think of a Reiki session as us with our hands resting on the cat. 

However, I’ve had so many beautiful experiences of connection and healing with shelter cats without ever making physical contact. It is amazing to see a feral or traumatized shelter cat respond to Reiki meditation with a softening of posture followed by yawning, falling asleep and sometimes even a slow eye blink (wonderful!). No touch needed! 

Or should I say, and more importantly, no touch wanted. My shelter cat teachers have shown me that we should always let animals choose touch, rather than initiating it ourselves, just because it’s our “human” way. Cats know that healing is much more than skin deep! 

Black and white shelter cat enjoys animal energy healing while recovering from illness

Pillar 3: Our mental focus techniques develop an “All is Well” state of mind for the practitioner that sees the animal’s perfection in the present moment, rather than focusing on what’s “wrong”. 

Lesson: Cats teach us that healing is possible amidst illness. 

We humans are always looking for the “cure.” That’s one reason many people end up finding me and asking for help with their animals: They’ve exhausted every other modality, both conventional and holistic, and they’re desperate to find a cure. 

In my own personal journey through breast cancer, I have come to realize that healing isn’t always about a physical cure, even though we may wish for it. 

Another special cat named Sam, also a hospice resident at BrightHaven, showed me this lesson through his beautiful poise and charisma. When Sam was rescued from the streets, extremely thin and very ill, he was not expected to live even a week—yet he lived for more than a year! 

He was the ever-present, extremely enthusiastic Reiki sponge at every class I gave, charming all the students with his affectionate head butts and blinking “kisses.” As I recovered from my own cancer treatment, he often sat in my lap, gazing up lovingly into my face and reminding me that we are not our bodies and our illness, we are the light that resides within. 

When I would feel discouraged or emotional about my own struggle, he would reach out a paw and stroke my face, as if to say, “All is well.” And somehow, he was right. 

Although Sam passed away, in the 15 months he lived at BrightHaven, he showed me that true healing is about the love and kindness that we can share with others each moment that we live. And this is so much deeper than the physical body! 

Animal Reiki Source founder Kathleen Prasad connects with a cat during a Reiki session

Pillar 4: Meditation is practiced as a state of mind, rather than in a rigid physical position.  

Lesson: Cats teach us how to be present with them as we meditate.  

Most of my Animal Reiki experience with cats has been with highly-stressed cats in shelters and senior cats in hospice. In these kinds of situations, my Animal Reiki meditation is usually practiced while I sit on the floor or on a chair or couch, eyes closed and within a comfortable proximity to the cats (giving them the option to move closer or farther away from me). 

In some ways, practicing Animal Reiki with cats has created some of the easiest meditation experiences because: 1) it’s quiet 2) the cats are relatively still and relaxed, often lying down and sleeping for the duration of the session. Without noisy distractions, sharing Animal Reiki with cats can be very calm for the practitioner as well. However, it’s not always this way, and yet even when it’s more challenging, we can learn something! 

One year when I was visiting Remus Horse Sanctuary, a stray cat had come onto the property and given birth to a batch of kittens in one of the stalls. Needless to say, the stall was immediately converted to “kitten nursery” for mama and her babies! I was thrilled to share some time meditating with them, as I don’t often have the pleasure of sharing Animal Reiki with kittens! 

I found a soft place in the hay to sit down and began my Reiki meditation. Within a few minutes, I had cats climbing up my body, launching off of my head into the hay, running in circles around me and more! I found myself giggling and laughing but also wondering, “Are they even accepting the Reiki?” I responded to their movements, offering calm petting and even moved my position a few times when their exuberance became a bit “ouchy” LOL. 

All the while, my eyes were open, and I was observing their hyper behaviors with a smile. Amazingly, within just a few minutes, they all fell deeply asleep, some on my lap and others nearby. What a change! And it was a great reminder to not worry about moving around physically during sessions and just continue to hold space with a calm state of mind and be present, without expectations. 

Animal Reiki Practitioner in training sits in the shade meditating practicing Reiki for cats

Pillar 5: Animal Reiki is mindfulness meditation practiced “with” our animals, rather than an energy therapy done “to” them. 

Lesson: Cats can teach us the power of intention (and show us when we are being too pushy).  

Over the years, cats have taught me that less is more with regards to my thoughts during Animal Reiki sessions. When I found myself focusing mentally on what was “wrong” with a particular animal, the animal would be unable to relax and not want to connect. On the other hand, when I let go of pushing and “doing” and relax into simply “being Reiki” with them, I can get much better responses.  

I remember one time early on in my practice, when I was offering Reiki to a cat at a person’s home because the cat was having some behavior issues. I remember sitting across from the room from the cat as he was walking by. I imagined in my mind that I was beaming Reiki at him. At that very moment he stopped suddenly, gave me a very offended look, and then ran quickly from the room!  

Another time, I was offering a session at a person’s house to a very fearful kitty who often lived under the bed and never came out for strangers. This was a later time in my practice when I understood the importance of my thoughts and intentions. 

The person asked if they should bring the cat downstairs to the living room, where I was sitting on the floor, to start the session. I told them no, that it was fine even if the cat stayed upstairs under the bed. The most important thing was that it was the cat’s choice when/if/how to participate in the session. Then I simply closed my eyes and began the Animal Reiki meditation, without expectations. I imagined I was radiating love and compassion and just being present in the space, and simply invited the cat to join if they wished. 

Several minutes later, I felt as if someone was watching me, so I opened my eyes and sure enough, the cat had come all the way downstairs and was standing in front of me, staring at me very intently. The cat’s person was sitting on the couch nearby and was astounded! The cat chose a place nearby to lie down and sleep for the rest of the session. 

I truly believe that it was my letting go of the mental “pushing” about what the cat should do or how they should behave during the session that helped them feel comfortable to connect. Even from the other side of the house, the cat was that sensitive to my intention! 

Black and white cat relaxes next to a human during an Animal Reiki session outside

Pillar 6: Honors each animal as a spiritual teacher and healer in their own right. 

Lesson: Cats can teach us that healing is not a one-way street. 

One special cat, Frazier (may he rest in peace), taught me how healing is a space that we share in compassion, rather than an act that we do from a space of pity. Frazier lived the final chapter of his life at BrightHaven holistic animal sanctuary and hospice in Northern California. He was in his 30s (!!) when he passed, and I only knew him for the last few years of his life. 

When I knew him, he was suffering from cancer, and the tumor had taken one of his eyes and part of his face. Yes, he was living with cancer, but truly I can say he was “living.” He had the energy of a young and vibrant cat. He carried himself as if he was the most handsome of all the cats at the sanctuary. And he loved Reiki. 

But every time he sat in my lap and pushed his ravaged face into my hands during our Reiki meditation together, something strange happened: I felt a beautiful healing warmth in my own heart from his compassionate presence. It was as if he was saying to me, “Oh yes, Kathleen, I know I have cancer and I’m in hospice now, and you might think you’re here to help me. But actually, we’re here to help each other.” 

And so we would sit in Reiki and heal, together as One. Frazier knew that true healing is a space that is shared. 

Connect with Cats and Let the Lessons Unfold

I am so grateful to my feline gurus for lighting the way and for allowing me to see cats as the healers they truly are! The most important things to remember when we offer Animal Reiki to cats is to let go of our expectations, open up to the lessons they have to teach us, and of course, always let them lead.  

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Kathleen, thank you so much for this beautiful essay, and guidance on how to apply the LAL way with Cats. As well as having two cats in my life and a dog, I volunteer every week for a few hours at a Shelter cattery mostly with cleaning duties but also afterwards some time for being 'with' them more quietly. I will re-read about the 6 Pillars before my next shift, and do my best to practice with a calm, quiet and undemanding understanding and presence as I go about working and being 'with' or 'around' the cats of varying ages, backgrounds, health and temperaments. I will also try the Joshin Kokyu Ho. Bless you .... 💜 Anne L.

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