Alternative Healing Modality: Reiki

As I mentioned in my post on Friday, I’m starting a new series here at AWG where we learn more about a specific healing modality in each post, and also get to meet a practitioner and read one of their case studies. I’m very excited about this series; it’s fascinating to read all the stories, and I’m sure you will enjoy them as much as I have.

First out is Reiki. I had never heard of until I was a student at Bancroft and we had a class exploring energy healing techniques. I remember having a very interesting experience while practicing on one of my teachers: I wasn’t even touching her, but something in her leg that had been bothering her all of a sudden twitched, and my arm did too at the same time. And she felt a lot better afterwards.

I always assumed that you had to have a special gift in order to do any kind of energy healing, but apparently anybody can learn how to use Reiki.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese energy healing system that is gentle and noninvasive but still has the power to heal the body, mind and spirit. It is administered by laying on hands or healing from a distance (you don’t have to have physical contact with the person/animal you are treating) and is based on the idea that an unseen life force energy (“chi” or “ki”) consistently flows through us. If one’s ki is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress.

The name Reiki (pronounced ”Ray-key”) comes from the Japanese words ”rei” meaning spirit, and ”ki” meaning energy. It is usually translated as ”universal life energy.”

When using Reiki to heal, the practitioner simply sets an intention to facilitate the healing process and allows the energy to flow in whatever amount the client wishes to receive and for whatever he or she needs most. The energy “knows” where to go; you don’t even have to be aware of what the problem is exactly in the person/animal you’re treating. You are just a conduit for the energy.

It is ideal for use with shy or fearful animals since the effectiveness is not dependent upon physical contact. The animal controls the treatment, accepting Reiki in the ways that are most comfortable for them, either hands-on or from a distance, or a combination of both.

Reiki is easy for anyone to learn and use, and can’t do any harm, even when used by the most novice practitioner. It always goes to the deepest source of the problem and always supports a path towards balance and harmony.

To become a practitioner, you go through training sessions with a Reiki Master where you learn different techniques and symbols, and get attuned. There are 3 levels: Level 1 is the basics, Level 2 is advanced (this is where you learn the symbols) and Level 3 is the Master level. You can take a teacher training at this level after which you are able to teach Reiki to others.

Meet Kathleen Prasad

Today’s case study comes from Kathleen Prasad, world-renowned animal Reiki teacher, founder ReikiKathleenPrasadand director of Animal Reiki Source, and President of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association. Kathleen is truly a leader in her field, and I am greatly honored that she agreed to be part of this series.

Kathleen’s Path to Reiki
While Kathleen was teaching in the San Francisco public schools in the 90s, she designed curriculum and community projects for her students in animal kindness, encouraging volunteer work in animal shelters. In 1998 she learned Reiki and began volunteering Reiki with local shelter animals. Inspired by her volunteer experiences, Kathleen decided to dedicate her teaching career to Animal Reiki full time in 2002.

Publications and Teaching
Since then, she has co-authored the books The Animal Reiki Handbook – Finding Your Way With Reiki in Your Local Shelter, Sanctuary or Rescue and Animal Reiki: Using Energy to Heal the Animals in Your Life and written many articles on animals and Reiki for publications such as The Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Animal Fair, The Whole Dog Journal, Dog Fancy, Animal Wellness Magazine, Equine Wellness Magazine and Natural Horse Talk Magazine. In 2007, Kathleen Reiki for dogsauthored The Animal Reiki Practitioner Code of Ethics – the first code of ethics for the profession – which has been published in professional Reiki publications and adopted by practitioners around the world. Her three volume series Animal Reiki Tails is a compilation of real life animal Reiki stories from practitioners around the world, and her latest book, Reiki for Dogs: Using Spiritual Energy to Heal and Vitalize Man’s Best Friend was published in 2012. She has also been featured on several radio shows as well as local news.

She has provided Reiki training to the staff of organizations such as The East Bay SPCA, The Humane Society of Silicon Valley, BrightHaven Healing Arts Center for Animals, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and The Elephant Sanctuary. In October of 2008, Kathleen was invited to teach a seminar on Animal Reiki at the 33rd Annual Conference of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. She continuously teaches courses and workshops, both in person and through teleclasses, audio and correspondence courses, and also offers a Reiki internship, conducted via phone and email.

In May of 2008, Kathleen co-founded the non-profit Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA). SARA aims to boost adoption rates in shelters nationwide by reducing stress and supporting healing in homeless animals. The mission will be achieved via a standardized rollout of animal Reiki programs in shelters worldwide and the creation of an unprecedented global information resource for practitioners and facilities that assist animals in need.

Here is Kathleen’s case study, in her own words:

Reiki for Feral Cats

One of the wonderful things about Reiki is that it can be given from a distance. Thus, it works well with any animal, whether tame, wild, or somewhere in between, as is sometimes the case when treating rescues. In addition, when the Reiki treatment is approached in a way that gives the animal choice, in my experience animals almost always choose to receive the healing that Reiki can offer.

The following anecdote illustrates the importance of being willing to treat animals from a distance, meditatively and respectfully “offering” rather than physically and actively “giving” Reiki. As you will see in the below story, cats are especially sensitive to Reiki energy and will greatly benefit from this approach. And in incorporating this philosophy with all animals, animal Reiki practitioners, too, will find wonderful benefits: a greater openness from the animals and thus greater successes in their treatments.

I placed the chair about ten feet from the cage. Inside, two feral kittens, one gray and one black, stared at me, terrified. The black one stood in front of the gray, clearly protecting her little brother. They had been rescued the previous day from a hillside just off the freeway. My friend Janet, who feeds several feral colonies throughout San Francisco and also frequently rescues and gives aid to these kitties, had taken the two kittens into her home until the SPCA could evaluate their adoption potential. Thus far, Janet had been scratched and bitten, and had to wear gloves when reaching into the cage to feed or clean. The other members of her cat family were also very interested in the new arrivals, sitting near the window where the cage was located.

One of these cats, Honeydew, had been previously rescued and adopted by Janet from the same colony. Still quite feral, she had hidden herself in another room when I arrived. Before I began the Reiki treatment, I asked permission from the kittens, mentally introducing myself to them and letting them know I would offer them some healing, but that they need only take what they were comfortable with. I visualized myself several feet away from them and not breaching this space. I let them know that I would definitely not be approaching or touching them at any time during my visit. In addition, I avoided eye contact, so as not to push any kind of physical connection with them. I closed my eyes, rested my hands on my lap, and began to offer Reiki. As I began the treatment, I sent thoughts of peace and tranquility to them. It was obvious that they were tremendously fearful and stressed, and I knew Reiki would help them relax. I also visualized Janet and let them know she was a safe, good person. They were in a good place where they would have food and shelter. I sent Reiki to their future situations for their highest good.

Although I didn’t open my eyes for nearly a half an hour, I felt the energy flow strongly to the kittens and knew they were accepting the treatment. At the end of the treatment, when I began to feel the energy dissipate and my mind return from the deep meditation I had entered, I opened my eyes. The two kittens had moved to the front of the cage, closest to me, and fallen fast asleep. In addition, Janet’s cat Honeydew had come out of her place of hiding and was curiously watching me from just a few feet away. As I met eyes with her, she held my gaze quizzically for a long moment, then looked at the kittens, and then back to me. Then she disappeared as silently as she had come. It was as if she was telling me, “I felt the energy too. Thank you for helping them.” Janet had been quietly watching Honeydew’s visit from the next room. She smiled wide-eyed at me, amazed at her cat’s uncharacteristic behavior.

In just one treatment, the kittens showed good improvement. As early as the next day, Janet was able to reach into the cage and hold and pet the gray kitten. The black one was still fearful, but refrained from attacking her hands. Soon, with continued distant Reiki and patient work from cat socializers, the kittens learned to trust people. Within a few months, “Cody” and “Millie” were adopted into good homes.

Don’t miss Kathleen’s other case study – Reiki for a Horse and Cat – and Caroline Thomas’ post about offering Reiki to rescued sheep.

Cattie Coyle

Cattie Coyle

Founder and Editor at Animal Wellness Guide
Cattie is the founder and editor of Animal Wellness Guide. She is a freelance photographer, graduate of Bancroft School of Massage Therapy’s small animal program, and has studied Applied Zoopharmacognosy. Learn more about Cattie
Cattie Coyle
Happy Midsummer (lots of celebrating going on in Sweden today) and Happy Anniversary… - 3 days ago


  1. susan wild says

    I have been studying and have just graduated as an equine practitioner.
    I am also a reiki master – humans and animals especially horses. I find this type of work especially rewarding, but would like to continue in Australia, my home, to do this. My reiki teacher was great and we trained along the animal spirits concentrating on this. My question is:
    Do I need to have a formal “Animal Reiki ” qualification and if so,how? What are your formal qualifications?

  2. cattie says

    Hi Susan!
    That’s a good question. I don’t know what the requirements are in Australia, but I will try to find out. If anyone has the answer to this, please let me and Susan know.

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