Category Archives: animals as healers

Henry the “Spirit Healer” Cat Helps People AND Pets

By Julia Williams

Last December I introduced you to a wonderful three-legged feline named Henry. This extraordinary kitty is a different kind of “Therapy Cat” than those who visit nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities, but his healing work is just as important, and has profoundly changed the lives of many.

I’m writing about Henry again today because his messages of hope, tolerance, resilience and love are too important to forget. Henry shares his story so that others can learn new things and overcome their traumas and tragedies; I want to share Henry’s story to help his healing work gain momentum and reach an even larger audience than it already has. (There’s one more exciting reason for this post, but you’ll have to read to the end to find out what it is!!).

Henry reaches out to help people of all ages through his website,, through personal correspondence and through his critically acclaimed books. “Henry’s World: a Three-Legged Cat’s View of Human Absurdity” is a heartwarming compilation of short tales by Henry about his life, along with hundreds of emails Henry has received and responded to. “What’s the Matter with Henry? The True Tale of a Three-Legged Cat,” was written for children but inspires young and old alike. A third book “What About Me? I’m Here Too!” addresses the emotional issues experienced by healthy siblings of chronically ill children.

Cathy Conheim, Henry’s Mom and self-described Cat Scribe, says “People speak to animals differently and more openly. Animals are our safe havens, an unending source of unconditional love and acceptance. Whether the animals are real, stuffed, or virtual, they become trusted confidants and helpers.” It’s largely for this reason that Henry has touched so many lives. Over the past six years, Henry has received over 50,000 letters from children – and from adults and critters too!

Henry was named the 2010 ASPCA Cat of the Year and more recently, created the “Ouch! Emotional Bandage” app for the iPhone and iPad. This app lets you personalize a blank bandage with a photo and message, or select one of the pre-made bandages. Then you simply e-mail it to people who care about you, as a way to let them know you are hurting and need some TLC. (Brilliant idea, Henry!).

Henry’s words of wisdom include: You aren’t defined by what happens to you; we don’t get to choose what happens to us in life, but we do get to choose how we respond; play the paw you are dealt and be the best “You” that you can be; remember to connect with those you care about. And the one that might be the most important lesson of all: just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something.

The healing messages are for people, but all profits from the sales of Henry’s books and other fun stuff on his site goes to help animals, as well as human children. Says Henry, “I try very hard to teach humans better ways to be and raise lots of dollars for animals. Any group anywhere in the world can buy my books at our printing cost for $8, sell them for $20 and keep the money locally for the animals in their area.” Henry’s books are not sold in a bookstore, because then there would be no profit for the animals or the children.

Says Cathy, “If we could inspire enough people to buy just ONE charming book about a rescued cat, this would create a lot of money for the animals! I think it would be a great story of the power of the internet, the power of healing…of animals helping animals. Henry and I don’t care how the money made is used as long as animals or kids benefit. Let’s say someone had a $1000 vet bill; if they sold 83 books they could pay the bill. People sell Girl Scout cookies by the zillion, fat and sugar, the drug of choice for kids. Why not sell something pawsitive and do good things with the money?”

Here are three simple ways you can help spread the word about Henry and his healing messages: 1) buy a book or two for someone you love; 2) tell others to check out Henry’s books and other cool stuff at; 3) if you know of a group who might want to buy Henry’s books as a fund-raising tool, please encourage them to get in touch with Henry.

Now for the exciting news – we’re giving away some of Henry’s books and other neat things to three lucky readers!! To participate, simply leave a comment stating that you want to be entered in the giveaway, and include either your email address or a link to your “contact me” info. Sorry, only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to win, and entries must be received by May 6, 2011.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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How Much Is Too Much to Spend on Pets?

By Julia Williams

I recently found a great blog called “24 Paws of Love” that chronicles life with six big dogs. I’m sure it’s not easy to meet the physical and emotional needs of six dogs of any size, but these wonderful people do it willingly because these dogs are family. What inspired me to write this post was their commentary about some of the things people say to them about their dogs. They’re asked how they can afford to feed so many dogs, or told that they’ll never get ahead financially unless they “get rid of some of the dogs.”

Wow – really? I have to wonder about the type of person who could say such things. They’re not pet people obviously, and they seem to be lacking in self censorship and social decorum. Would they walk up to “Octomom” Nadya Sulleman and tell her, “It must be hard to feed 14 children, you should give some of them up.” Unthinkable, right? Never mind that Nadya herself admitted on Oprah recently that she was financially destitute. It’s just not socially acceptable to tell a parent how many children they can or should have. It may or may not be the best choice for someone to have 14 kids, but it’s their choice. Likewise, it should never be acceptable to comment on how many pets a person chooses to have or how much money they spend on them – the exception being, animal hoarders who aren’t capable of caring for vast numbers of dogs and/or cats.

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The Inexplicable Human-Animal Bond

By Julia Williams

When it comes to pets, I believe there are three kinds of people in this world: those who have never had a pet and don’t care to, those who enjoy having pets but don’t form particularly close bonds with them, and those who think of their pet as a family member that they would do just about anything for. I find it interesting that my mother is in the first group, my late father is in the second group, and I am in the third group.

Of further intrigue to me is that my sister shares my deep love for cats, while my brother has a cat but only because his children begged for one. This would seem to indicate that the ability and/or the desire to form close bonds with pets is not hereditary, nor is it shaped by your upbringing.

I honestly don’t know where my love of cats came from, but it’s quite clear it didn’t come from my mother or my childhood. Living on the outskirts of a small rural town, we did have an assortment of animals – a dog, some cats, two Shetland ponies, a few cows and chickens – but I don’t remember being especially fond of any of them. That changed when a cat named Pepper came into my life as an emotionally troubled young girl.

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Ten Great Reasons to Have a Pet

By Julia Williams

This morning I was sitting at my desk when my dear sweet Belle came in to ask for some love. Of my three cats, she’s the one who most enjoys having hugs and kisses lavished upon her, and I was happy to comply. As I held her close, I told her that I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it. It’s the truth.

There are so many great reasons to have a pet, I knew I could easily come up with ten. Naturally, this list barely scratches the surface of all the many reasons people love their pets.

1.  Pets make wonderful, loving companions for people of all ages. They don’t criticize our faults, our looks, or the things we lack. Pets are good listeners, and they’re always happy to see us and greet us when we come home. Single people with pets can live by themselves without feeling lonely or alone. Everyone benefits from the special unconditional love of a pet, but teenagers, the elderly, the anti-social, and people with disabilities are especially helped through difficult times when they have a pet by their side.

2. Pets amuse us with their silly antics. Pets are natural born comedians, and they make us laugh every day. They provide countless hours of entertainment, and alleviate boredom like no video game or TV program ever could.

3. Pets protect us and our home from intruders. Dogs are good low-tech home security systems, but cats can be too. My current felines alert me to visitors by making a mad dash into the bedroom. Many years ago, my cat Binky sat on my dresser facing the window and growled nonstop. When I looked outside, I saw the Peeping Tom who’d been annoying the neighborhood.

I feel a bit smug when I hear about people with “rodent” problems, because homes with cats don’t have them. That is, unless you have a cat like my Rocky, who once brought in a rat and turned his back, whereupon it scampered behind my stove. This did require human intervention, but still – cats are great for dispatching rodents.

4. A pet might save your life one day. Stories abound of pets that wake their owners to alert them of a fire in the house. I’ve also read about a cat that saved its human family from carbon monoxide poisoning, and a dog who performed a canine version of the Heimlich maneuver on his choking owner. An accidental discovery of a dog that could “smell” cancer on his owners leg has led to scientists training them to detect various types of cancer cells, with remarkable accuracy.

5. Having a pet can improve both your mental and physical health. Pets help people overcome depression, anxiety, pessimism, melancholy, mood swings, shyness, rebelliousness and loneliness. These amazing animal healers can lower our blood pressure and pulse rate, calm frazzled nerves, reduce the effects of stress on our bodies, and help us live longer, healthier lives.

6. Pets make great lap warmers and bed warmers on cold winter nights. Who needs an electric blanket when you have a furry form heating up your bed naturally?

7. Pets can help you find friends and partners. You might meet “Mr. Right” at the dog park, in the vet’s waiting room, or on your daily walk around the neighborhood. While Fido plays with his four-legged friends at the dog park, you can socialize with other owners.

8. Pets are great workout partners. Walking or running with a dog, and playing games with our pets provides the beneficial exercise we all need. With the hectic lifestyle so many of us lead, it makes sense to incorporate the family pet into our workout regime. Besides the daily walk, there are many things you can do to get fit with Fido. For starters, you can take a Doga class together, which is basically yoga for dogs and their owners, and read this article for other fun ways your pooch can help you lose your paunch.

9. Caring for pets can teach children valuable life skills like patience, consistency, goal setting, perseverance, leadership and communication. Encouraging children to take an active role in the care of their pet helps them learn about responsible pet ownership too.

10. Pets can inspire us be better human beings. Like Jack Nicholson said to Helen Hunt in the movie As Good as It Gets, “You make me want to be a better man,” pets can encourage important qualities such as compassion, playfulness, nurturing and kindness.

Readers, now it’s your turn – are there other special reasons why you love having a pet? Tell me why having a pet brings you great joy!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Animals as Healers

By Julia Williams

Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” but given the proven healing power of pets, I think all animals qualify for the title. Any human who’s ever shared a close bond with an animal has undoubtedly witnessed their natural healing abilities firsthand. Be it physical, mental or emotional healing, our pets can greatly improve our lives.

There have been many reports in recent years of these remarkable healing agents — of dogs who can “smell” cancer before any medical diagnosis has been made; dogs who can alert their owners to seizures before they happen; horses who help handicapped riders develop balance, strength, and confidence.

Cats and dogs are frequently used as “therapy animals” for seniors in nursing homes because they provide love and attention to those who might be feeling lonely, sad or forgotten. Many prisons now have dog training programs, which gives the inmates a sense of purpose, and helps them deal with the depression, anxiety and tension caused by their incarceration.

The Many Health Benefits of Pets

These natural healers with wagging tails and furry coats enhance our lives in so many ways, whether we are conscious of it or not. The peaceful purring of a cat or the friendly nuzzle from a canine can calm our frazzled nerves. Stroking their soft fur is therapeutic for both body and soul; it can lower blood pressure and reduce stress, while helping us to open our hearts to love. Walking the dog and playing games with our pets provides beneficial exercise for our bodies; it also lifts our spirits, and provides a much-needed respite from the stress and strain of busy lives.

Pets can improve the quality of our life and positively influence us in so many ways. They inspire optimistic thoughts in those who are disheartened, and gently remind us how important it is to nurture not only ourselves, but others. In his book, The Healing Power of Pets, Dr. Marty Becker writes, “Our beloved pets are life vitamins fortifying us against invisible threats: like seat belts cradling against life’s crashes; like alarm systems giving us a sense of security. Taken together, the healing power of pets is powerful medicine indeed.”

Our pets also seem to have an uncanny ability to recognize when we are suffering, whether it’s with a physical ailment or emotional distress. They also seem able to know exactly where we hurt and may concentrate their healing attention to that part of the body.

I’ll never forget one particular healing experience I had with my own three cats. I was incapacitated by a stomach flu so brutal that at times I almost wanted death to release me from my pain. I somehow managed to fall asleep, and when I awoke the first thing I saw was Annabelle. She wasn’t lying down nor was she asleep; she was sitting on my pillow, gazing at me intently. Mickey and Rocky were lying close to my body, one on each side. Now, these cats almost never sleep on my bed during the day, yet here they were, and I keenly felt that they were keeping watch over me. I smiled at Bella weakly through my pain; I knew then that I would fight to live, if for no other reason than to be with these earth-bound angels for one more day.

It’s not just our family pets who have this innate healing ability, either –virtually any animal can serve as a healer to human beings. Both wild and domesticated animals can sense changes in the human body and the mind. People who have encounters with wild animals –such as dolphins and manatees –have experienced amazing, life-changing healing. Watching the silly antics of a wild squirrel in the park can provide gentle healing through laughter. Observing the industrious nature of ants and bees can heal through inspiration. And seeing a butterfly or hummingbird float gracefully through the garden can remind us to slow down, relax and enjoy the simple pleasures life brings.

Animals truly are the most remarkable healers, and they ask so little of us in return. I am honored by their presence in my world, because I know they make it a much better place to be.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.