Meet the cat whis­perer

The National - News - The Review - - Front Page - Ann Marie McQueen This ser­vice was pro­vided for the pur­pose of a re­view. Ann Marie McQueen is the fea­tures edi­tor at The Na­tional.

Iam pre­pared to raise an eye­brow at Zoe Hen­der­son. An in­tu­itive an­i­mal healer? Re­ally? The con­cept re­minds me of a rich cou­ple I once met.

They sat, with a chi­huahua in the crook of an arm, de­scrib­ing in earnest how they had hired an an­i­mal in­tu­itive to get to the bot­tom of what­ever it was that was clearly both­er­ing Lily, the chubby, light-coloured one.

It turns out that Lily had all sorts of thoughts about how this cou­ple, a busy ar­chi­tect and a den­tist, were tak­ing care of her. I re­mem­ber think­ing, how aw­ful, pay­ing all that money to have some­one read your dog’s mind and then hear­ing noth­ing but harsh judge­ments.

But that is an­other me, one who couldn’t fathom hear­ing a story about an an­i­mal in­tu­itive, let alone invit­ing one over with the idea that he or she could sort out my cat.

I’d adopted Ninja Jr about six months ago, af­ter suc­cumb­ing to a hard sell from a friend’s young daugh­ter, who has be­come laser-fo­cused on sav­ing as many street cats as pos­si­ble. No presents for her: just do­na­tions so she can avail her­self of the lo­cal vet­eri­nar­ian’s half-price cas­tra­tion day.

I hadn’t had a cat since I had to put my beloved 11-year-old, 10-kilo­gram tabby Geral­dine – an­other stray – to sleep one painful day in 2006. Her death hit me hard and I could never bring my­self to get an­other cat.

But my friend’s lit­tle girl charmed me, with flat­tery and dra­matic arm ges­tures, and I was sold. And some­how over time, a feral cat who was once half-dead with jaun­dice and wouldn’t come out from un­der the couch for weeks, let alone look at me, has warmed up to be­come my lit­tle shadow, fol­low­ing me ev­ery­where, sit­ting on my chest when­ever she spots an op­por­tu­nity and just gen­er­ally be­ing my best buddy.

But she’s not per­fect. She bites fre­quently and throws a hissy fit when­ever I try to pick her up. She’s also alone quite a lot, what with my work­ing and so­cial lives, and I had been won­der­ing if I should get an­other cat for her to hang with – even if I re­ally don’t want to.

So, when a friend tells me an an­i­mal in­tu­itive is vis­it­ing, I think, “Per­haps we could get to the bot­tom of Ninja Jr’s less ap­peal­ing habits?” Af­ter all, what if there is a fire? Mock me if you will, but I’ll know that you’ve never tried to force a freaked-out cat into a pet car­rier.

And so it is that Zoe Hen­der­son, a Bri­tish an­i­mal in­tu­itive and healer of more than 40 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence, ar­rives to com­mu­ni­cate with my cat one Satur­day. When Ninja Jr spots Hen­der­son, her eyes widen to saucers and she be­gins creep­ing slowly around, ob­vi­ously fas­ci­nated, clearly drawn.

We can’t get Ninja to sit on our vis­i­tor for a proper read­ing, so I flop on my set­tee and Ninja soon curls up be­side me. “She’s ob­vi­ously got bad trauma,” Hen­der­son says. “She’s been aban­doned by her mother … she’s been trapped.” Hm­mmm, things I could have guessed, I think.

Ninja takes off for the bal­cony, much to my cha­grin, and af­ter a minute or two, Hen­der­son places her hand on my so­lar plexus.

“Maybe you need heal­ing,” she says, look­ing into my eyes.

And there her hand stays for a good 15 min­utes, much of that time with us spent watch­ing Ninja rub­bing her face into the healer’s cast-off cork wedge shoes.

Nor­mally the sce­nario I’ve just de­scribed – a stranger touch­ing me for a pro­tracted amount of time – would be my worst night­mare. So why do I lay here, Hen­der­son’s hand com­fort­ingly, if a bit weirdly, nes­tled mid-torso?

I can’t ex­plain it, any more than I can ex­plain why Ninja seems ob­sessed with ev­ery­thing about her.

Hen­der­son sug­gests I use Emo­tional Free­dom Tech­nique to help Ninja heal from her trauma, which in­volves some fin­ger tap­ping and talk­ing, much of it about her head. I haven’t learnt this yet.

As for the bit­ing, it’s just a play­ful habit, Hen­der­son says. She’ll grow out of it. And don’t get a sec­ond cat, she ad­vises. “She’s quite pos­ses­sive of you and she’ll want to keep it that way.”

What a re­lief, I think, wel­com­ing the ex­cuse to turn down my friend’s daugh­ter, who had be­gun hard sell­ing me on Ninja Jr’s nephew Crusty.

“She has cho­sen you,” Hen­der­son says. “She’s heal­ing you and you know that.”

Ninja doesn’t bite me as much now, that’s for sure. And I don’t feel guilty leav­ing her alone, be­cause she re­ally does seem quite happy. Have I needed heal­ing lately? Prob­a­bly. Does Zoe Hen­der­son have some­thing very spe­cial about her, which I don’t un­der­stand and can’t bring my­self to poke fun at, no mat­ter how much I try? Def­i­nitely.

Couresy Chris Win­sor

Some say an­i­mal in­tu­itives can get to the bot­tom of any prob­lem both­er­ing your pet.

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