The seeds of an idea
As a certified reflexologist and animal lover, I became interested in how reflexology could be applied to our companion animals. The idea that reflexology applies to our pets has not been fully explored although the concept has always been acknowledged.
Many holistic animal health experts recommend reflexology. In The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care, for example, author C.J. Puotinen notes that hand and foot reflexology, widely used in humans, has application in dogs and cats, too, for there are important energy points on the paws. Paw massage is demonstrated on a cat in Dr Michael Fox’s book The Healing Touch.
In September 2002, I began to experiment on my two Burmese cats, Matisse and Morandi, when they were kittens and discovered that regular reflexology seemed beneficial for their overall health. I also worked on my friends’ cats and had my first dog client, a 17-year-old called Bumble. Bumble had a thyroid imbalance, incontinence and eyesight loss. Considering his age and health issues, he responded very positively to the work.
The Reflexology Chart
The next step was to accurately map out reflex points onto the paw. This involved transposing the shape of the body and anatomical locations almost directly onto the paw. This map is divided into six distinct areas:
- Toes or the Tips of the Paws
- Upper Paw Pad
- 3. Middle Paw Pad
- Mid-Lower Paw Pad
- Tops of the Paw
- Inner Edge of Paw and Lower Leg
This region represents all the points for the head, face and neck: for example, eyes, ears, teeth, sinuses, brain and pituitary gland.
This region represents every organ, structure or gland in the thoracic or chest cavity: for example, lungs, heart and diaphragm.
This region represents all the upper abdominal organs: for example, stomach and pancreas.
This region represents the urinary system (kidneys, ureters and bladder) and lower digestive tract (large intestines and rectum).
This region represents shoulders, the lymphatic system, milk teats and limbs.
This region represents the spine. This includes the spinal cord (and nerves that come off the spine), spinal vertebrae and muscles that attach to the spine. Reproductive points are also found on the lower leg.
Although I had always stroked Matisse and Morandi’s ears because of its soothing affect on them, during the course of my research I came across an ear acupuncture map in Diane Stein’s book The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs and Cats. From this discovery, I concluded that ear reflexology could also be successfully applied to our companion animals.
The ear map I developed is based on an inverted kitten passing out of the birth canal, similar to the human ear, which resembles a foetus in the womb. Therefore, the lower part of the body lies nearer to the tip of the ear and the upper half lies more toward the base of the ear.
The face contains important connections to parts of the body including acupuncture points, meridians (energy channels) and nerve endings. I decided to develop a mini-map, transposing the structure and organs of the body onto the face as well as taking into consideration the meridians that flow through the area.
I knew that, for humans, reflexology research studies have been conducted for numerous conditions. According to a survey of around 300 worldwide research studies available, the conditions most frequently treated with reflexology included stress, back, shoulder and neck tension, sinusitis, asthma, arthritis, digestive problems and reproductive conditions. Many of these research projects had a high success rate. I hypothesised that reflexology can help with the same sorts of conditions for cats and dogs.