Emotions in Animals


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After reading an interesting blog on whether or not animals could communicate with humans, I started to wonder if animals have emotions. I know they can feel things like hunger, obviously, but can they be happy or mad or sad? There are times when I can almost see the smile on my cats face, and others when I think she's glaring at me across the room, but am I just imagining these things?

New studies on rats are suggesting that I am not. In this particular case, when two rats were placed in a cage with one of them trapped in an uncomfortably small box, the free rat would ignore treats also placed in the cage to try and help the other one get out. Astonishingly, the free rat would save some of the treats as well for the other rat to eat once it was free. There was no reward for freeing the other rat, which leads researchers (and myself!) to believe that there is no other explanation other than feelings. The free rat feels bad for the caged rat, and gets relief from setting his or her companion free.

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Some scientific proof that animals are capable of emotions lies in their brains. As this article points out, human brains have spindle cells which are known to play a key roll in processing emotions. Scientists are now finding that these spindle cells are also present in the same regions of the brain in animals. These regions are responsible for empathy, intuition, and social skills. As of yet, researchers have only found them in whales, apes, and a few other animals, but who knows if they are in even more and yet to be discovered?

Many scientists are still in debate about this, but what about you? Do you think animals have emotions? Or are they just acting on instinct and not really feeling?

As for me, I'll choose to believe that my cat loves me as much as I love her.


1 Comment

I just saw a post on one of my favorite websites, reddit.com, that there was an Ape named Michael who could describe his sister getting shot. He knew how to sign, and expressed through broken words that his sister had "cut kneck" and "loud noise" and then proceeded to sign "tears". It's a really short clip , and is definitely worth a watch if animals having emotions is something that interests you. This example backs up the claim that spindle cells are found in apes, which brings up the question of where the next step in evolution lies. Something interesting to think about, not necessarily linked to your post directly, is the human hand in evolving certain species. We have taught apes to be able to communicate with us, so it is worth mentioning that we have greatly expedited an evolutionary process. What if, in the future, apes develop into a tribal culture much like our early ancestors? It's not completely out of the question.

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