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A pet psychic, or animal communicator is a person who claims to communicate psychically with animals. Some pet psychics claim to communicate with long-dead animals, while others can be characterized as animal communicators or animal psychologists.
The term psychic refers to an alleged ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through what is described as extrasensory perception. Skeptics of extrasensory perception attribute such putative powers to intentional trickery or self-delusion.
Pet psychics rely on different techniques when doing an animal reading. These psychics allegedly communicate with animals and connect with an animal's soul. Some claim the readings are done by communicating with their "electromagnetic energy" similar to reiki and/or therapeutic touch healing. Others claim the animal does not need to be alive or physically close to the psychic as noted with phone readings. Tarot cards recently have been designed specifically for pet readings by their owners.
A pet psychic is different from a pet whisperer like Cesar Millan or Monty Roberts who use body language and an understanding of animal psychology to communicate with the animal. In the early twentieth century, the Association for Research and Enlightenment began researching paranormal and psychic abilities in humans. The first animal communicators claimed they could communicate telepathically with animals living or dead.
The number of businesses offering pet psychic services has steadily increased, but the industry remains unregulated and scientifically unverified. The services offered include advice and counsel to clients.
Skeptical investigator Joe Nickell has written that cold reading can explain why so many pet psychics appear to communicate with animals. Pet psychics like Gerri Leigh and Animal Planet's Sonya Fitzpatrick work in front of audiences with the pets and owners present at the same time. Although appearing to be impressive, the conclusions and pronouncements are "validated" by the pet owners and not the pets themselves. Furthermore, linguistic professor Karen Stollznow tested a pet psychic with a cat named Jed. Not only was the psychic "completely inaccurate in her reading of Jed's age, place of birth, background, behavior, health, and my health ...", she was unable to tell that Jed was not her cat. Stollznow concluded that "language is human-species specific. We don't and can't 'know' what animals think."
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