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A pet psychic is a person who claims to communicate by psychic means with animals, either living or dead. The term psychic refers to the claimed ability to perceive information unavailable to the normal senses by what is claimed to be extrasensory perception. It is the opinion of scientific skeptics that people believe in such abilities due to cognitive biases and the use of various techniques by the practitioners, including intentional deception.
Pet psychics rely on different techniques when doing an animal "reading". These psychics allegedly communicate with animals and connect with an animal's spirit. 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 phone readings are sometimes done.
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.
Distinction from "pet whisperers"
Skeptical investigator Joe Nickell reported on this topic in the Skeptical Inquirer in 2002. He reportes 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."
Skeptic Robert Todd Carroll has described the claims of pet psychics as quackery. According to Carroll "the king of the animal quackers has to be Rupert Sheldrake, who thinks he's proved that some pets are psychic."
Skeptical investigator Benjamin Radford wrote about this topic in 2012 and said:
Even though thousands of people claim to be able to communicate with animals, there hasn't been a single scientific test proving their abilities. Professional pet psychics often sell books and teach seminars about their power, but don't prove that they can actually do what they claim.
Radford also outlined a simple 3-step test that would provide proof of this claimed ability, but predicted that pet psychics would always fail such a test. He also reported that "The problem of pet psychics taking advantage of grieving pet owners plagues people like Dr. Wally Sife, founder of The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing grief counseling for people who have lost beloved animals."
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- List of topics characterized as pseudoscience
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- Gracely, EJ. (1998) Why Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof Quackwatch.com
- New York Daily News. (2007) She Told Them Boy Was Dead. Crystal Ball Fails Psychic in MO. Kidnap
- Alcock, James. (2003). Give the Null Hypothesis a Chance: Reasons to Remain Doubtful about the Existence of Psi. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10: 29–50.
- Carroll, R (2011). The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-27242-7.
- McGillivray, D; E Adamson (2004). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pet Psychic Communication. Alpha Books. p. Back cover. ISBN 978-1-59257-214-4.
- Orey, C (2003). 202 Pets' Peeves: Cats and Dogs Speak Out on Pesky Human Behavior. Citadel. ISBN 0806524421.
- Nickell, Joe (November 2002). "Psychic Pets and Pet Psychics". Csicop.org. CFI. Archived from the original on 11 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- Stollznow, K. (2003) The Ballad of Jed (and the Pet Psychic).Skeptical Inquirer. 19.1.
- Radford, Ben (24 April 2012). "Are Pet Psychics Real?". culteducation.com. Cult Education Institute. Archived from the original on 11 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- Blocher, R, Poppy, C. (2012) Ross and Carrie Pet the Psychic: The Case of the Transgendered Dog. Oh No, Ross and Carrie!.