How an evening spent with a cat whisperer did more than just heal my cat

I was prepared to be sceptical when Zoe Henderson, an animal intuitive and healer for more than 40 years, arrived to talk to my cat.

Some believe animal intuitives can get to the bottom of any problem bothering your pet. Couresy Chris Winsor.
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I am 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.

This service was provided for the purpose of a review.

Ann Marie McQueen is the features editor at The National.