Humans do plenty of strange things to relax, from red-wine baths to scream therapy to Reiki, a Goop-approved alternative medicine that uses touch to promote healing through energy—like a barely-there massage. And now pets can get in on the Reiki action, too.
“Animals are extremely sensitive, and Reiki is a nonthreatening way to foster connection and a feeling of calm space,” says New York City–based Reiki practitioner Sarah Hauser. “I work with animals who have been through trauma, including feral cats and recently rescued or undersocialized dogs. I’ve seen fearful cats become relaxed and even go to sleep and a dog who’s usually cautious with strangers lie right next to me.” How does it work? Depends on the pet, says Hauser: “I don’t use hand positions, like in human Reiki, but I let the animal show me where they would like my hands to be—including whether they would like my hands to be on or off.” In time, troubled pets sense a calm energy from Hauser and release their own tension.
The light touch of Reiki may sound a whole lot like, well, petting your pet, but veterinarians have been turning on to the treatment. “I’ve seen it help in emergency situations and during anesthesia as well,” says Anna Maria Wolf, a veterinarian at PetSynergy, a mobile holistic practice in Washington state. If you want to try pet Reiki at home, start by chilling yourself out, says Hauser. “Set aside a period of time as short as 10 minutes once or twice a day for sharing some peaceful energy with your animal,” she says. No TV. No phone. Just you and your pet connecting. Hauser says, “Just the act of incorporating calm time into your routine can have such a powerful effect on animals—and humans.”