reiki for shelter animals

Shelter dogs and cats are under a lot of stress. Reiki can relieve their discomfort and even make them more adoptable.

Animal shelters are stressful places for dogs and cats – and for the staff and volunteers who work there. Reiki is a simple and effective way to ease that stress. In fact, it offers four wonderful benefits to shelter animals and the people who care for them.

A bit about Reiki

Reiki is an easy-to-use energy therapy that complements both conventional and holistic care approaches. Reiki translates from Japanese as “spiritual energy” and is a system of meditative practice that uses mindfulness techniques to help bring the body, mind and spirit back to harmony and balance. It’s meditative practices are a wonderful addition to any wellness program.

A study entitled “Integrative Reiki for Cancer Patients” concluded that it may “activate the relaxation response” (Fleisher, et al. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2014, Vol 13(1)).

Meditation brings you to a peaceful, balanced state, mentally, emotionally and physically, and this peacefulness will ripple out! We call this the “Reiki ripple effect”. When we find peace of mind and heart through meditation, then healing, contentment, transformation and renewal will follow for ourselves as well as the animals and people around us.

Reiki in shelter settings

Reiki can be a life saver in animal shelters. “Despondent cats and dogs become more social and seem happier,” says Amelia Funghi of Berkeley Animal Care Services. “Sick animals are aided in their recovery. Most amazingly, animals who have been here for a long time often get adopted shortly after treatments.”

The Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA,, a non-profit I founded in 2008 with Leah D’Ambrosio, brings Reiki training and treatments to shelter and sanctuary animals. SARA now has over 400 members worldwide, and is endorsed by over 40 animal organizations. It supports wellness through it’s programs in four main ways.

1. Reiki helps animals re-build trust with humans

Because many rescued animals come from situations of abuse and/or neglect, finding a way to help them trust people again is crucial to their healing progress and chances of being adopted. It helps animals relax enough to allow people to approach and touch them.

2. Reiki helps animals get adopted

When animals are in shelter environments, they experience extreme levels of stress. This stress results in behaviors that may not be attractive to potential adopters, such as aggression, fear or depression. One of the amazing benefits of Reiki is the inner transformation it creates in these animals. Because it creates a strong and peaceful space, animals can release their stress and get back in touch with their true essence. Once they remember who they are, their sweet spirits can shine through again so potential adopters can see who they really are. Then it’s only a matter of time until love finds them their forever homes.

3. Reiki assists animals through transitions

BrightHaven founders Gail and Richard Pope often speak of how Reiki transforms the hospice experience. BrightHaven is a senior and special needs sanctuary and hospice in northern California. Since learning Reiki and using it to help with animal care during hospice, Gail and Richard report that all the deaths they have witnessed are extremely peaceful. They now consider it to be one of the most important ingredients in a successful animal hospice program. They also use it daily to increase peace and harmony.

4. Reiki helps shelter workers cope with job stress

Burnout and high turnover rates among shelter and sanctuary staff are an ever-present threat, due to the brutal daily realities these people face. To help with this very difficult issue, SARA teachers train interested shelter/sanctuary staff and volunteers in simple meditative practices to help them stay grounded and peaceful, even in the most chaotic situations. This training has been a transformative and life-changing support among shelter and sanctuary staff who practice it.

All in all, when working with shelter and sanctuary animals, it’s the meditative space that is so transformational. It sounds so simple, and yet it’s so profound. By simply relaxing, being quiet, breathing and having a heartfelt intention to help another being, you create a peaceful space for healing.