Do Animals Have Feelings?
Rejected Fruit Flies Turn to Alcohol
Cloudy, my boisterous Westie, gambols with perpetual excitement when she sees me at the door. She sniffs vigorously at the bottom and thumps her ever-wagging tail endlessly.
This little dog simply adores children and other dogs. In a rare moment, a parent allowed Cloudy to lick her child all over his face.
These are touching scenes, but it is still hard to distinguish dog behaviors from human emotions. The question of whether animals have feelings is a difficult one to answer.
How Animals Display Their Emotions
Certainly, animals do display a wide range of emotions. They are reactive in a startling number of ways.
1. Tigers are vindictive.
The first animal showing that animals have an array of emotions is the roaring tiger. In 2007, a few ruffians at the San Francisco Zoo decided to taunt a female Siberian Tiger.
The offended cat stalked the boys as soon as they left. Pouncing through its enclosure and through a sea of obviously alarmed onlookers, it sought out the boys and gave them a piece of her mind.
2. An elephant never forgets.
Further, elephants never forget, at least not their dead. These highly intelligent creatures have the most elaborate group rituals of any group of animals.
3. Rats have a moral compass.
The next animal to display evidence of a moral compass is the rat. Disorganized and dirty, they are the total opposites of all that is positive.
Yet, they show signs of being guided by their morals. Researchers took two rats and enclosed one. They left his friend to gaze at him.
The free rat tried vainly to save his trapped friend, letting out wails of distress. The show of feeling is another reason not to support animal testing.
4. Birds are jealous.
Another creature with more complex emotions is the bluebird. The females, the friskier of the species, are known to fly off with other males ad their partners forage for food.
The cuckolded males, in a crudely written animal soap opera, will beat their offending female partners when they return.
5.. Fruit flies resolve their bitterness.
Bluebirds are not the only creatures that have problems with rejection. Fruitflies do, too.
Female fruit flies, highly sexual beings, have their share of suitors. However, they are seldom interested in a second round of sexual activity. Many males are turned away with a firm "no".
Researchers have discovered that the dejected male turns to, in another dramatic twist, alcohol. Watch the accompanying video to learn more.
6. Dolphins reciprocate.
Adding to the list of feeling creatures is the friendly dolphin. The legendary sea mammal is known to communicate its intentions.
A few have rescued friendly swimmers who fed them from nasty hammerhead sharks. Some even guide lost whales that have helped them before back to sea.
These creatures may be the progenitors of the "if-you--scratch-my-back-I-will-scratch-yours" ethic.
Inspiring evidence that animals have feelings
If you need more solid evidence that animals feel, here are a few creatures who show that they do. The residents of Hawk Creek, near Spokane are ready to share their feelings.
Desperado, the Harris Hawk
The first creature to show signs of emotion is Desperado, the Harris Hawk. This rascally bird of prey apparently has a sense of humor and enjoys playing pranks on his keepers.
When he first arrived to live at Hawk Creek, he balanced stones on the door that led to his enclosure, taking delight in their frustration at the stones falling on their heads.
When the keepers replaced the stones with soft sacks, he took to another game.
Next, meet Red Fox. These relatives behave in the way dogs do. They wag their tails and yes, bark, when they meet their friends.
Red Fox, a resident of Hawk Creek, has the same complex relationships with other foxes as humans do with each other. He chooses his friends and foes. His tail spins like a propeller when he sees his keepers. He barks, too, when requests for a tummy scratch are ignored.
Misu, the River Otter
Misu, another fellow resident, is a river otter with an attitude. She messes up her swimming area in an attempt to get her keeper's attention. She enjoys it when they clean it up and participates in the cleaning too.
She also knows how to ask for forgiveness, playing dumb to show her innocence.
Do animals have emotions
Comparing human and animal emotions
In short, animals have emotions that mirror our own, albeit with a few differences. How do human and animal emotions compare?
1. They have similar survival circuitry.
Animal and human brains have similar survival circuitry. Survival is closely linked with emotion. Like us, animals use emotions to live another day.
They show fear and run away from threats. They also display aggression when they are confronted.
Apart from that one similarity, animals have emotions, though they manifest them differently.
2. Their emotions are simple.
Animal emotions are more straightforward. They feel emotions such as anger, rejection or fear fully, without accompanying conditions.
A dog runs to the door to greet you, even if you may have scolded it the day before.
3. They do not have mixed emotions.
Animals do not have mixed feelings either. They are less likely to be confused by conflicting emotions. They either like or dislike a person or another animal, but do not have varying levels of love or hate.
Dogs react to their fellow canines in this way. They know the members of the pack they like and the ones they do not, seldom displaying in-between relationships.
4. Animal emotions are abrupt.
Lastly, animals have sudden, quick rushes of emotion. Aggression in dogs manifests quickly, but builds up in a much slower way in ourselves. We also tend to remember.
Two dogs who had a fight over a bone the day before are often great friends the next day.
Animals feel the way we do, though not in such a complex way.
I answer the question, not as a die-hard pet lover, but as a rational observer. Animals, with ways similar to our own, certainly do have strong, though simpler, feelings.
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