Do Animals Take On Illness for People?
One of the topics I’m asked about frequently as an animal communicator is, “Do animals take on illness for people?”
A recent discussion in the Advanced Topics in Animal Communication class, part of the Animal Communication Professional Certification Program, inspired me to write this post.
The short answer to this question is yes. And the longer answer to this question is much more nuanced and complex.
Here’s the bottom line, in my experience:
This happens much less frequently than people are afraid it does.
This question often comes up in situations like these:
- an animal and human in the same family share a similar kind of illness
- an animal becomes inexplicably or suddenly ill
- treatment for an animal’s illness appears not to be working well
- an animal becomes ill at the same time as an ill person begins to heal
The Human-Centric Fallacy
I feel that there is a danger in approaching topics like this from a human-centric perspective.
There is a common idea in new-age circles that goes something like this:
“Animals take things on for people; if there is something going on with your animal, you should look at the things in your life that may be causing it.”
This kind of thinking is overly simplistic, naive, and misguided, and has the potential to create a lot of unnecessary hurt, pain, and guilt on the part of the human companion.
It is also a gross oversimplification that can really hurt people who fear that, in addition to being concerned about whatever it is that is going on with their animal friend, now are worried that somehow they are the cause of it as well.
Hidden within this idea is the assumption that animals are here for people, and that animals don’t have their own lives, purposes, and experiences, but are merely tools to help and support humans at any cost.
This kind of thinking does much more harm than good.
Newsflash for humans: It’s not all about us.
So, with that out of the way, here are some of the things I’ve learned about this topic in my years as a professional animal communicator.
Communicate with the Individual Animal
First, as with any situation, each animal is unique and individual, each human-animal relationship is unique, and each situation and illness is unique.
It’s important to begin first, before making any assumptions, with a direct communication with the animal.
Do not assume that there is mirroring or “taking on” without engaging in a direct, complete, and deep conversation with the animal about the situation.
Illness in animals can manifest for many, many reasons, just as in humans…or for no apparent reason at all. Genetic vulnerabilities, environment, lifestyle, nutrition, exposure to toxins or trauma…all can create illness. Sometimes illness happens when an animal is complete with their life and is ready to leave their physical experience. Sometimes illness just happens. We don’t always know, we can’t always know, and our animals can’t and don’t always know.
It’s a human thing to want to know “WHY”, to want to figure things out and understand them and pin them down and give reasons for them. While sometimes we can understand reasons for certain things, we have to allow for not knowing, for some things being in the realm of mystery.
So, that said, there are some things that I’ve learned in my years of practice as an animal communicator in conversations with many animals and their human companions, and I’ll summarize them here.
The 3 most common reasons that a human and a companion animal may share or mirror illnesses:
1. The human person and the animal share energetic and physical similarities or vulnerabilities.
In my experience, this is the most common, especially in human-animal relationships with an extremely close spiritual and emotional connection.
In my own animal family, for example, my Afghan hound Tashi and I share certain certain physical tendencies and sensitivities. I’m not “causing” this for her, and she is not “taking it on” for me; rather, we are two beings of different species with similar “wiring” and proclivities.
Animals and humans are often attracted to each other because they share similarities, far beyond the stereotypical “people who look like their dogs.”
In these kinds of situations, what helps one will often help the other. For example, Tashi and I both need to be sure we eat the right kinds of food for our bodies, get enough rest, have enough down time and quiet, and get enough of the right kinds of exercise. Sometimes animals and humans who are close will benefit from the same kinds of medical, herbal/holistic, or bodywork treatments.
This kind of manifestation of similar tendencies has more to do with “similar wiring”, “like attracts like”, and a deep soul relationship than any kind of a pathological “cause.”
2. The animal is aware of helping their human person with a difficult situation, transition, or illness.
Almost always in these cases, the animal will be aware of this and will communicate directly about it. Most often, when this happens, the problem or illness will go away in the person. This is an act of great awareness, service, and love, and it does happen. With clear communication and understanding, the human and the animal both can share and receive the immensity of this gift without the side effects of guilt and regret.
I’m thinking of a situation with an animal who was diagnosed with the same kind of cancer her person had. After the animal’s diagnosis, her human companion’s cancer went into permanent remission. The animal eventually died from her cancer, but returned/reincarnated into a new, healthy body to continue her relationship and life with her person.
In my experience, these kinds of cases, though they do happen, are rare.
Another example may be an animal who gets sick and dies at the time of a big transition for their person. In these cases, the timing of the animal’s death and the beginning of a new phase for the human are interrelated.
In my understanding, this has to do with the karmic/soul relationships between the human and animal, and also the simple fact that most species of companion animals have naturally shorter lifespans than a human lifespan.
Many times, the animal is aware that the timing of their leaving will directly impact or benefit their person’s life in some way.
3. The animal communicates that there is something that needs their human’s attention that is causing or amplifying the situation.
Usually, in these cases, the person is unaware or unwilling to look at or address something in their environment, relationships, lifestyle, health, etc. This can be something with the human themselves, or something about the situation that is directly impacting the animal that the human is not conscious of.
In these kinds of situations, something extreme will show up in the animal’s experience because the human person isn’t paying attention to it.
Which leads me to say: The people who are the most worried about this kind of “mirroring” or “taking on” are usually the people who are least likely to have it happen. If we are committed to our own spiritual path, do our best to stay awake, aware, and take responsibility for our lives, we are much less likely to need an animal teacher to do something more dramatic to wake us up.
Our Spiritual Journey
It is important to remember that all of us, human and other-than-human animals alike, have our own soul journeys, purposes, life lessons, experiences, and perspectives. Some of these may be understandable by us; some may not, or the meaning and understanding may evolve over time.
Sometimes our paths intersect with those who are closest to us, including our animal companions, in amazing, complex ways. Sometimes our journeys are individual, though we share a life and a home together. The variations are as infinite as individual beings and individual relationships.
Through clear and direct communication, we can address these intersections and overlaps in our physical experiences when it is possible to do so. And when it isn’t, we can tend to ourselves and our animal companions with kindness, compassion, best standards of care, and the knowledge that, while we may not always be able to understand the “whys”, we can trust the depth of our soul connections with each other and our precious, beautiful relationships that transcend the boundaries of time and space.