In the News
Woodlands woman talks to the animals
Sonya Fitzpatrick shares pet psychic tales on satellite radio program
By BROOKE HATCHETT - Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Sonya Fitzpatrick is a familiar face to creatures of both the two- and four-legged varieties.
That is thanks in part to the popularity of her Animal Planet TV series, The Pet Psychic, where believers and skeptics alike watched as Fitzpatrick, a self-proclaimed animal communicator who says she can speak to animals via telepathic transmissions, chatted with everything from cats to camels and relayed messages from them to their owners.
The series aired for about a year starting in 2002, but besides her own show, she has frequented programs like Entertainment Tonight, Live with Regis and Kelly and The Ellen DeGeneres Show and performed pet readings for celebrities such as Tori Spelling and Debra Messing.
Despite her British accent, she has been a Texas girl since 1993, residing in a home in The Woodlands designed with her five canines and four cats in mind, though she also shares it with three frogs she said were rescued from suffocating in the fish tanks of Wal-Mart.
She rarely sees clients in person anymore, but continues to conduct readings through her Sirius Satellite Radio show and has a few new TV and literary projects in the works that keep her jumping.
Talking to animals
Fans of her show know the story. Fitzpatrick was born in central England and said that as a child she quickly discovered the ability to tap into the minds of animals.
"But I thought everyone talked to animals. You do when you're a child," she said.
Much to her surprise, few claimed this ability or thought it credible she had it, though the way it works is really quite simple, she said. Humans and animals project mental images and emotions constantly as they think and all one needs to do is tune in to them.
"It's like a telephone line really, that you can plug into," she said.
The messages are often fast and subtle, though what she gets from them also depends on her clients' — the furry and feathered ones that is — communicative aptitude, she said.
"Some animals are better communicators than others, just like some people. They're so much like us," she said.
One of the more memorable "better" communicators from The Pet Psychic was a resident alligator of Gatorland, an Orlando, Fla., zoo, that had some choice things to say. The reptile had not come out of the water to perform his scheduled tricks in about two months, much to the displeasure of his trainer. The park contacted Fitzpatrick, who quickly relayed what she said the gator told her.
"I said, 'well he's very annoyed. You're feeding him chicken. He wants beef,' " she said.
The diet was immediately changed to red meat, and just as quickly, the gator returned to its tricks, she said. The trainer was thrilled and cured of his initial skepticism toward Fitzpatrick, though not everyone is so quick to believe in telepathic connections with critters, she said. She knows she has skeptics out there, but doesn't let them get under her skin.
"I think it's good to be skeptical. It doesn't worry me one little bit because I've won over so many skeptics," she said.
Lost and found
She certainly did when it came to Helen Stroud. The Woodlands resident, who lives in the Grogan's Mill neighborhood, has been using Fitzpatrick's services for about 12 years and swears by the pet psychic's abilities.
"She's incredible. She's the real deal," she said.
Stroud said she first heard of the animal communicator after reading an article in 1993 that mentioned Fitzpatrick's unusual work. The story featured Fitzpatrick's corporate etiquette business, which she had with her daughter, Emma Kiper, of Conroe, when they first moved to the United States. In the article, Fitzpatrick reported that she had found Houston to be fertile ground for putting her British upbringing to work teaching etiquette but was also considering using her telepathic tie with animals as a business venture, though she previously had only showcased the ability to close friends.
Distressed over a lost cat, Stroud decided to seek out the pet psychic's help. She looked up Fitzpatrick's address and drove by her home hoping to see normalcy. She told Fitzpatrick later that, "I was thinking maybe you lived in a house like Hansel and Gretel, like the wicked witch or something."
Stroud decided the place looked sane and gave Fitzpatrick a call.
"Well, you have a large gray and white tabby cat with white on her chest," Fitzpatrick said.
Apparently the cat was quite the gossip. After Stroud confirmed she owned a gray and white tabby, Fitzpatrick proceeded to tell Stroud what the cat was sharing with her — details about her husband, daughter and other pets. Though the lost cat was never found, Stroud said Fitzpatrick told her the cat would show itself to Stroud's daughter.
She had forgotten, until one day her daughter came home and reported seeing the cat nearby the house. Stroud said when it comes to believing in something, the proof is in the pudding, and she is usually quite the skeptic.
"But I have to say here that I have never found her to be wrong at all," she said.
In another case, Stroud called Fitzpatrick in a frenzy because she could not find one of her cats, and she was about to leave for vacation. Fitzpatrick told her she felt the cat was somewhere in the house, but Stroud said no, she and the family had searched everywhere. But Fitzpatrick insisted, and "sure enough, he was locked up in my daughter's bedroom," Stroud said.
Fitzpatrick hasn't slowed down much since The Pet Psychic went off the air. Though she could not reveal much, she said she should be back on TV screens soon on a series coming out on HGTV.
She's also doing a weekly radio show called Animal Intuition on Sirius Satellite Radio. The call-in talk show was started in April and airs live on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Kiper, who acts as her mother's executive assistant, said 3,000-4,000 attempted calls are made during the two-hour show and its popularity exceeds that of one of Sirius Radio's more notorious talk show hosts.
"Mom gets more calls than Howard Stern," Kiper said.
Kiper handles the technical aspects of the show while Fitzpatrick counsels and advises pet-owning callers from an upstairs room at her home, with her own cats and dogs gathered round of course.
Fitzpatrick has also started promoting HealthGuard dog vitamins and has another book is in the works as well. Fitzpatrick said she sent off a manuscript to her publisher recently for a book that will contain stories about those she has helped comfort after their pets have died.
© Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle