Hanford Veterinary Hospital Blog
All the Feels: The Emotions of Animals
Most pet owners will agree that their pets show feelings. Whether they are feelings of joy, sadness, grief, empathy, or shame, there are numerous accounts of animals and their feelings.
The emotions of animals is an area of study by animal behaviorists and other animal researchers, and has been the focus of movies and books for the past few decades. But does your pet actually feel emotions like anger, grief, and sadness?
The team at Hanford Veterinary Hospital are here to explore the emotional lives of animals.
Is It Just Our Perception, Or Do Pets Feel?
You probably have read many of your pet’s behaviors as an emotional fact, right? Take, for example, a wag. That means your pet is happy, would you agree? However, there are behaviors that a pet will display, like wagging, that can mean many things. Some dogs wag when they are about to fight or when they are fearful. So, it is not unusual that we presume a lot about how pets feel.
Because of this, many researchers have set out to determine the spectrum of emotions in animals, and what they found is that the average dog will have the same emotional intelligence as a 2 year old child. This is because basic emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, and happiness, don’t require a high level of cognitive functioning.
To determine feelings in animals, we must look past our bias.
Recent Studies in Animal Emotions
Even a few centuries ago, Charles Darwin supported the idea that animals experienced limited emotions, but also deep emotional behavior such as empathy. Studies in Africa with elephants have shown remarkably similar mourning emotions and rites as humans.
Over the past ten years, Professor Paul Hemsworth, the director of Melbourne University’s Animal Welfare Science Centre, led extensive research into the welfare of animals. His conclusion is that many animals experience complex emotions.
“I think most biologists will assume that when we talk about vertebrates, they have the ability to express emotions,” Hemsworth says.
Koko, the famous gorilla who mastered more than 200 American Sign Language signs, often alluded to feelings of love, sadness, embarrassment, and empathy.
The Emotions of Animals
It is clear that, even if animals don’t experience feelings in the exact way we do, they do feel. They form bonds, experience pleasure and pain, and exhibit uncanny emotions between species and, most certainly, with us. The research continues into animal behavior and emotions, and we find this incredibly hopeful in encouraging better treatment and care for our beloved creatures.
If we can answer any questions about your pet, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us!