I was fortunate that my family considered pet ownership to be an important part of life while I was growing up.
I grew up with a menagerie of furry, feathery, oinking, bleating, mooing, neighing, clucking, sniffing and otherwise delightful animal creatures. My family had a hobby farm. In other words, we-have-40-acres-let’s-give-the-kids-something-good-to-do-with-their-time!
And the good times we had.
Some of my best and most colorful memories are from my farm years…like the time my plucky mother wrestled the two goats into the shower to wash them up for a visit to the local nursing home…or when one of those same goats “relieved” herself on my sunbathing sister…
Our chickens had names like Scooter, Scratcher, Squirt, Jeepers, Creepers, Peepers, Hog, & Esmeralda. Jeepers, as the rooster, once showed down a raccoon that was terrorizing the hen house…and lived to strut up the driveway the next morning, crowing about it.
Did I mention chasing pigs through the woods, or the neighbor’s cow down the road? Or fresh born itty bitty baby goats nibbling on the fingers? Or my mom being called upon to help deliver the neighbor’s sheep because her hands were the right size (and she had the gumption to do it)? I’ll also never forget our family trail rides on our horses.
I digress a little. The point I want to make is that embracing pet ownership by inviting animals into your home is beneficial in a number of ways.
- … and immune boosters!
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, founder of the GAPS Diet Protocol for autism, lists animals as #7 in her Top Ten Influencers On Immunity list.
She has this to say about pets and the importance of pet ownership in particular:
Pets are wonderful: they provide an unconditional love for the whole family, and they provide stimulation for the immune system. The important thing is to have healthy pets, and in order to do that they must be fed properly. Dogs and cats have not been designed to eat grains or soy. Commercial pet foods are largely made out of grains and soy; that is why, thanks to the commercial foods, our dogs and cats get arthritis, autoimmune disease and cancer. On top of that they get skin problems, such as dermatitis and eczema, shedding allergy-causing dandruff. Feed your pets the way Nature has designed them to eat, and you will never need to worry about your pet’s health. Cats do best on raw meat with fat on it, raw milk, raw fish and raw liver. An occasional leftover of cooked meat and fish will do them no harm. Dogs do very well if you mix raw minced meat (with good amounts of fat) with some finely chopped raw carrot and live yoghurt. Raw eggs, raw milk and raw fish should also be a regular part of their diet. Cod liver oil and fish oil are very good for dogs, particularly in winter. Occasional cooked vegetables and meat, left over from your dinner, will also do your dog no harm. You will find that feeding your dog and cat that way will cost you less, than buying commercial pet food, and you will save a fortune on vet’s fees. Worm your dog or cat once every 6-8 months, and don’t worry about parasites: we all have them and no less than our dogs or cats.
Pet Ownership = Pleasure = Immune Health
Pet ownership is a simple way to bring much needed pleasure into our lives.
Chris Kresser has this to say about the effect of pleasure on our immune health:
“The chemicals released when we experience pleasure do more than counteract stress hormones and improve mood. They also:
- Improve immune function by producing an antibacterial peptide
- Enhance the killer instincts and abilities of various immune components, including B cells, T cells, NK cells, and immunoglobulins
- Enable certain immune cells to secrete their own endorphins as a way of improving their disease-fighting capacity
The persistent state of chronic stress in our lives makes the counter-balancing effects of pleasure even more important. This is especially true for anyone dealing with chronic illness or pain, which are both stressors on the body.”
It’s important to make a distinction between pleasure and distraction. Being distracted by movies and devices is not the kind of pleasure that supports our immune system. Pets also encourage us to play!
Stress causes illness and pleasure can prevent it. Chris Kresser
Pets Ownership = Immune Education = Immune Health
It seems that the earlier a child is exposed to pets, the better. Their immune system gets a valuable education, an “imprinting” if you will, that will help protect them from an overactive immune system (i.e. autoimmune, allergies, etc.) later in life. Pets keep us from being “too clean” and not having a properly stimulated immune system. According to a study done in Finland, dogs (as the animals of the study) in the first year of life may also have a protective part to play in reducing respiratory infections in children as well.
Feeding Your Pet Properly
I talk often about the GAPS Protocol. The GAPS Protocol is not just for people! Sometimes pets need to go on a healing diet, especially when they are developing the same chronic health conditions we are, from eating processed pet food and foods that are not natural to them. Here is an article about putting dogs on the GAPS Intro Diet:
And Linda Zurich has written several excellent articles about the real foods that pets should eat:
- Ideal Traditional Diet for Dogs and Cats
- How to Assemble a Raw Diet for Your Pet
- Dirty Secrets of the Pet Food Industry
So what does pet ownership look like at the Christner household?
After giving away our two-year-old chickens before winter, and losing our cat to a motorist, we have been on a temporary pet ownership hiatus. We are actually on the search for a family dog right now. (Any ideas?!) We also have plans to introduce more critters into our home in the next year. Chickens are so fun and there is nothing like collecting your own warm eggs, cats are valuable mousers in our rural location, and there are untold salamanders and frogs to have as temporary guests 🙂
What about you? What pets do you share your home with?
(1) Why you should stop feeding your dog dog food.
(2) Go outside!
(3) Beyond Paleo
(4) Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease
(5) Pet ownership and human health
(6) Respiratory Illness in the First Year of Life: Effect of Dog and Cat Contact
I hope cat owners who feed raw have properly addressed the issue of dietary fiber. I have read unhappy stories about cats whose bowels were destroyed because they weren’t getting anything to help push out waste. Normally, in the wild, hair or fur from a cat’s kills helps serve this purpose.
Question re: raw diet for an indoor pet cat. With our last cat we didn’t feed him commercial cat food but instead cooked chicken and chopped it up with some skin and fat, but not the bones. Sounds like raw is better. So that could be chicken or beef or fish or liver? Do you cut it into smaller pieces? Do you leave the bones in and skin on? Do you add other foods like veggies? And does it need to be the very best quality like we eat (from a grass fed farm) or can it be meats from the local grocery store? Thanks for the great post!
Please be careful of certain dogs around your pets.
A friend of my Daughters came over with his hunting dog..When she went out, the dog killed her pet Rabbit that she had for several years.
She did buy another Lope Ear Rabbit, and took it to Hawaii with her..
That Rabbit live for over 10 yrs..Was a wonderful friendly pet..
She certainly was more careful if anyone brought there dogs over. She also has a Brown Lab that never hurt the Rabbit.
I was raised on a farm and my husband and I raised our family on a farm so we are no strangers to pets! After relocating to florida we wanted to be able to travel so rather than get another dog and have to board it, we foster greyhounds until we find their forever homes and travel in between. They have AMAZING temperaments and are generally good with ppl as they are handled by different ppl during their racing careers. And NO, THEY DONT NEED A LOT OF SPACE TO RUN! After a few weeks of home life they simply mutate into couch potatoes. These guys really retire when they retire. We generally get them retired from the track for minor injuries or declining wins at about 3 and 4 years of age. Short sleek coats, well mannered, easy to train and used to small spaces (they have spent their life with approx 22 hours a day in a CRATE).
I second that Nicole. Retired Greyhounds are wonderful pets. I’ve done a lot of work with them over the years and love them. Personally I have Whippets, just a smaller version 🙂 I can fit more of them in my bed, lol!
Check out Brittanys as a breed. They are all around wonderful family dogs. Thanks for the interesting piece.
We slowly added to our collection over the years but it has been so much fun for my husband and I. We have 1 cat, 1 dog, 2 hens, 1 bearded dragon, 1 leopard gecko, and 1 ball python. We stay busy 🙂
Karen in Texas
Hallelujah! Yes, animals are so important to our health. I am fortunate to live on a hobby farm, where the sale of goat kids pays for the rest of the animals! My dogs are farm dogs and each has a job. One is the homebody who stays near the house when we are gone; one is the enforcer, who travels between pastures, looking for danger to the other animals; and the third is a terrier who dispatches all manner of rats and mice in the hay and fields.
The goats and donkeys provide pressure relief valves! Donkeys have interesting personalities!
Of Goats and Greens
Five cats here, but two were unintentional, but I could not let them be put down due to their owner’s unfortunate home foreclosure. (I still look for a home for that brother and sister, but nothing has turned up yet.) I don’t feed any of these cats grains or soy. Why, after all, would they eat that? Unfortunately I don’t have time to prep up a true raw home-made diet for them, although often when I can, I supplement with this.