What does science say about whether and how animal Reiki and animal communication work?
What we know (or hypothesize) about anything today may only scratch the surface of what we’ll figure out tomorrow — but there’s more scientific knowledge out there than you might think.
Animal Reiki benefits
There are a few studies about Reiki, but not many about animal Reiki specifically. Here’s what I found in late 2021:
• The American Kennel Club recently published a story on the benefits of Reiki for pets, also citing a study you can find on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website. That 2017 (human) study, published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, indicates Reiki is better than a placebo. In particular, it “activates the parasympathetic nervous system to heal body and mind. It has potential for broader use in management of chronic health conditions, and possibly in postoperative recovery. Research is needed to optimize the delivery of Reiki.”
• An Innovative Veterinary Care Journal article also touts the benefits of Reiki to animals, especially in clinical settings. This one cites an animal-specific 2008 study, “Reiki Improves Heart Rate Homeostasis in Laboratory Rats,” from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. It showed Reiki reduced heart rate and blood pressure in noise-stressed rats.
• Kathleen Lester’s 2019 article in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Association, “Reiki as Complementary Care in Veterinary Medicine,” cites numerous scholarly sources to discuss how Reiki can benefit not only animals but the veterinary staff caring for them. (With a shortage of veterinarians exacerbating an already stressful job, I think this will be increasingly important.)
Animal communication: dog brains, cat names and more
I found a bit more research on human-animal communication:
• Dogs have some understanding of what we say and how we say it, Hungarian scientists found. They trained a group of family dogs to enter an MRI machine and scanned the way their brains responded to not only words but their tone. The study appeared in the journal Current Biology in 2014.
• Two books reviewed in the Christian Science Monitor further delve into research on how attuned our canine companions are to our emotions, speech, and behavior. Alexandra Horowitz, cognitive scientist and author of Inside of a Dog, followed that bestseller up with Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond. Clive D.L. Wynne, a dog behavioral scientist examines that bond in Dog Is Love: The Science of Why and How Your Dog Loves You.
• Cats react to the sound of their names, according to a group of Japanese scientists whose study appeared in the journal Scientific Reports. Monique Udell, an animal behaviorist at Oregon State University, told the Associated Press the study shows “cats are paying attention to you, what you say and what you do, and they’re learning from it.”
• Goats prefer positive human facial expressions, says a UK-based study published by The Royal Society. “These findings suggest that the ability of animals to perceive human facial cues is not limited to those with a long history of domestication as companions, and therefore may be far more widespread than previously believed,” the authors concluded.
• Norwegian researchers taught 23 horses to express their needs using symbol boards — for example, to request a blanket on a cold day. “When horses realized that they were able to communicate with the trainers, i.e. to signal their wishes regarding blanketing, many became very eager in the training or testing situation,” the authors wrote in their study, which appeared in Applied Animal Behaviour Science. “Some even tried to attract the attention of the trainers prior to the test situation, by vocalizing and running towards the trainers, and follow their movements.”
When you look at any study, pay attention to who conducted the research, who paid for it, and whether any conflicts of interest are disclosed.
Also keep in mind that many factors influence what we believe about the legitimacy of animal communication, Reiki, or anything else.
Scientific inquiry, by nature, is ongoing, so please send or post a link to any animal Reiki or animal communication study you find that I didn’t!
And, as they used to say on television: Stay tuned.