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Do Animals Have Feelings?

Updated on August 1, 2014
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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.

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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.


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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.

Red Fox

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.

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Do animals have emotions

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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?

Similarities

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.

Differences

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.


Conclusion

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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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Too woot! Love ya, Audrey!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Back again to do more sharing for this wonderful hub!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Imtil!

    • imtii profile image

      Imtiaz Ahmed 3 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      midget38 the article was very interesting. So, I voted for interesting and I think that you are also interesting since you write interesting things. :P Sorry for being to much interesting. I will visit your other articles which are very interesting okay? :P Thank you :)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Rebecca!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Value able insights, Chinaimport!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Dianna!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Yes indeed, income guru.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Yes they are, Mackyl!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      And that is why we love doggies so, momsdoworkathome!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Lol! Hi to Nell, Travmaj!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Agreed, Devika!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Chitra!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing, Audrey!!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Oh, be sure that it says a whole lot, Ann!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Glad you like it Eddy!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      How interesting, especially the part about the fruit flies!

    • Chinaimport profile image

      Kamal Mohta 3 years ago from Guangzhou

      I think feelings are directly proportionate to the intelligence of an animal. The reptilians have may just basic instincts whereas evolved mammals are capable of displaying feelings.

      A household cat would not make any peaceful trade of tuna for something else with another cat while a Chimp may do so. Homo Sapiens, most evolved animals of all, can and does experience multiple feelings simultaneously.

      Many acts of love that we observe can be merely an act driven by survival instinct. For example, cats licking each other after a meal are simply removing food odor to prevent being tracked by a predator while they sleep.

      An interesting hub! Thanks for sharing.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I do believe animals have simple basic emotions and display them in their actions. I'm not too find of rats and fruit flies demonstrating their feelings but it's interesting to know they do. Great post and well done!

    • incomeguru profile image

      Oyewole Folarin 3 years ago from Lagos

      Animals do have feelings, at times one would notice two birds kissing. Of course they are loving, kind and caring.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      I have no doubt that animals have feelings. I see my own dogs emotions every single day. You've written a much-needed hub here. I hope everyone reads this and I will share to help the cause. Up, useful, awesome, interesting. Audrey

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Animals do have feelings but certain people who abuse animals don't look at animals as with any feelings. Pets you have tell you so and this is such an interesting hub.

    • momsdoworkathome profile image

      Katina Davenport 3 years ago from Michigan

      I have always believed that animals had feelings. My dog Joey loved me so much that when I was admitted into the hospital for high blood pressure after having my daughter in 2007 he wouldn't eat. When I returned home he jumped on me and immediately went to his bowl for something to eat. My family said he was so depressed, and everything he heard my name he would go to the door crying. He was a beagle. Sadly he is no longer living. I loved him so much.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Of course animals have feeling, as they cannot speak to us directly, it's up to us to interpret their ways, just as you have done in your hub. We probably have much to learn from them. And Nell sends a wag!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's an interesting question, really, because what we call feelings is really a matter of definition. I think you covered it all quite well....my vote...most definitely they have feelings.

    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 3 years ago from Philadelphia

      Very interesting as usual. If we take the time or should I say given the opportunity to observe an array of animals, we would quickly come to the conclusion that most animals are similar to human-beings in many ways, such as the manner in which they response to crisis, mating/courtship strategies, nurturing their young ones etc.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Yes, I do believe that animals have feelings! Although they can not smile like us, but they do show when they are happy. You shared some very interesting information about the animals.

      Thanks and voted up and shared on HH!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      My deceased husband had a pet crow as a kid. The crow would follow his grandmother as she was hanging up clothes on the clothesline and pull the clothespins off - she would look and all of her clothes would be on the ground!

      I've always thought animals have feelings. But you're right - they snap back quicker than we do. Perhaps we should all take a lesson from that. There is nothing more forgiving than a dog, except perhaps, Jesus, Himself. And He created them. Wonder if that says something?

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      I loved this pone Michelle and oh yes animals certainly do have feelings and as you have so rightly pointed out they do not play mind games either. I loved the story of the Hawk who balanced the stones on top of the door and then watch them falling on the keepers. Wonderful and voted up.

      Eddy.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Animals DO have feelings.